Outdoor Fresh

By+Shelly M. Kurz

If you’ve ever strolled leisurely through the colorful, fragrant and mouth-watering rows of an open-air farmers market, you know there’s something so simple, yet so magically fulfilling, about seeing mounds and mounds of fresh produce, loaves of baked breads and pastries, fresh cut flowers and artistic creations being sold by exactly the people who grew, baked or crafted them. Today, there’s a new resurgence towards going back to some good old-fashioned ways of doing things and fresh, organic open-air markets, along with the people who shop them, are reaping the rewards.

More than just offering the obvious health benefits associated with fresh and often certified organic produce and other homegrown items, these markets are also doing good things for the local economies. Instead of featuring products from unknown growers that are shipped in from somewhere else around the country, they directly support the farmers and artisans who live and work right in the community. And in today’s socially conscious society, it’s nice to be able to buy those plump red tomatoes, sweet ears of corn, juicy peaches, crispy apples and other delicious items from the people who actually grew them. What better way to learn about the food you’re eating, the kind of soil and fertilizer that was used, when it was picked and if it’s certified organic than by going straight to the farmer who grew it.

In addition to some old favorites that have been around for a long time, this year has seen its share of new outdoor markets popping up in neighborhoods all around Michiana.

Skip’s Open-Air European Farmers Market

Located just about 3 miles north of the town of New Buffalo, on the corner of Red Arrow Highway and Lakeshore Road, Skip’s Open-Air European Farmers Market offers a true outdoor shopping and eating experience. Combining classic American culture with a touch of European flair creates a fun market event that will linger on in your mind long after you’ve left with your goodies. And most likely, it will bring you back time and again, especially since this market is constantly changing, adding new and different vendors each weekend for greater variety and taste.

When you come to Skip’s Open-Air Market, you’ll want to come hungry. In addition to many local farmers with the freshest picked fruit and vegetables in the area, you also find breads, pastries, cheeses, jams and salsas. Each weekend, a local winery is on hand to share information about their wines and provide samples for tasting. And what would a market adjacent to Skip’s Restaurant be without some of the exceptional food you find there? “Each weekend, we fire up the grill and serve such items as hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, pulled pork and prime rib sandwiches,” says Rhonda Sobecki who, along with her husband Bret, own Skip’s Restaurant and organize the market.

There really is something for everyone here. Along with plenty of edible goodies, there are a variety of local artisans who showcase such products as paintings, jewelry, quilted clothing, hand-carved bowls, lawn décor, fresh cut floral arrangements and a lavish variety of prairie grasses. The market is open from 9am until 2pm every Saturday and Sunday through October 3rd.

The South Bend Farmer’s Market

If you’ve lived in this area for any length of time at all, you’ve probably spent a few Saturday mornings at the South Bend Farmer’s Market. It’s been a part of this community since 1924 and today it’s one of the largest indoor markets in the Midwest. If, for some odd reason, you’ve never been here, you owe it to yourself to experience a little piece of history that’s still going strong after 85 years. “We have something here that’s unique. Years ago, this is how people operated and we still have it today. It’s a real asset to this community,” says Gene Hiatt, president of the market and third generation farmer with Hiatt’s fresh chickens, eggs and cheeses.

Even though this market is open year round, don’t think for a minute that it’s always the same. “The market changes every day, every season,” says Ann Kuharic Kimmell, secretary, board member and third generation market family. “Fall brings unique pumpkins, mums, corn stalks and a lot of other decorating items, along with fresh crispy apples. During the holidays, we have baked goods, candies, popcorn, specialty coffees and so much more, like our wreaths. My brother and I make them here in our stall all day long. You can’t get wreaths like that anywhere else but the Farmer’s Market!”

The Farmer’s Market Café is another favorite gathering place for market goers. Most everything is made from scratch with fresh seasonal produce, meats and cheeses that come directly from the farmers here.

With over 70 vendors, you really owe it to yourself to visit the South Bend Farmer’s Market. It’s easy to find right along the St. Joe River at the corner of Sample Street and Northside Boulevard. The market is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7am until 2pm, Saturdays from 7am until 3pm and Fridays (May-September) from 7am until 2pm.

Toscana Park Organic Food Market

For those of you who aren’t able to make it to Italy this fall, you can still enjoy a relaxing stroll along the beautifully designed piazza as you shop the Toscana Park Organic Food Market. “I had this idea three years ago when I started the piazza,” says Jerry Macri, owner of Toscana Park and Villa Macri Ristorante. “In Italy, it’s used for so many things and the organic market is something I felt this town didn’t have enough of.”
The market boasts a savory selection of certified organic vegetables and fruits that change as the season does. But it’s not just the produce that’s organic at this market. Hugs from Heaven displays a variety of organic baby clothes, blankets and toys. The Olive Branch showcases a tasty sampling of organic olive oils and vinegars while Nutrition Works specializes in natural whole food supplements and organic food choices. “Organic is such a big deal now but we’ve known about if for a long time. We always try to buy organic from local growers for our restaurant,” adds Jerry.

The Toscana Park Organic Food Market happens every Thursday, July through October, from noon until 7pm. You will find it conveniently located off Gumwood Road, a half mile north of State Road 23 in the Toscana Park shopping plaza.

Don’t miss these other fresh markets around Michiana:

Mishawaka’s Downtown
Organic Market, Mishawaka, IN
Open 9am-2pm the first Saturday of every month July through October.
September Date moves to the 12th.
Location: Kamm Island, behind the 100 Center.

Niles Bensidoun French Market
Niles, MI
Open 9am-2pm Thursdays and Saturdays from May 21 through October 3.
Location: On the corner of Front and Main Streets in downtown Niles.

St. Joe Farmers Market, St. Joseph, MI
Open 9am-2pm every Saturday from
mid-June through mid-October.
Location: Lake Bluff Park.

American Countryside Farmers Market, Elkhart, IN
Open 9am-5pm Thur through Sat year round
9am-5pm Wed through Sat May
through Labor Day.
Breakfast is served at 8am year round.
Location: South side of the U.S. 20 Bypass
at the corner of SR 19 and CR 26.


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