MORRIS – About the middle of May each year, small tents start popping up in the parking lot at the corner of Chapin and Division streets, across from the Morris Municipal Services Facility. No one is really sure how long it’s been happening, with estimates ranging from 15 to 20 years.
“We’ve been coming for 10 years, but it started well before us,” said Rob Chaplin of Morris. He and his wife, Nicole, sell jams, jellies, butters and pies in their stall.
The Chaplins said there wasn’t an organization behind the event, other than some people posting on Facebook the when and where for their own stall. Sometimes, someone won’t come for a week or two, but someone else will take their place, Rob Chaplin said.
“As the gardens come in, we get more and more vendors,” he said.
Ron Hibler of Minooka opens a stall each week with the intention of donating what he makes to Grundy County Hospice. He said much of what he has comes from his own garden, but others will come from greenhouses or friends who have corn or melons they either grow or gather on travels.
“We like to volunteer,” he said. “It’s so good to volunteer.”
He said that sometimes, when customers find out he’s donating to hospice rather than taking the money himself, they’ll throw in extra. Instead of a dollar, they’ll give $10.
He talked with Dave Bus of Sugar Grove and they discussed the different ways to prepare kohlrabi – raw in a salad or with a little salt, or steaming them.
He lamented that on Saturday his stall was a little thin, but the rains had kept him out of the garden.
“Next week, I’ll be loaded,” Hibler said. He’s expecting zucchini, cucumber and a variety of different onions in the next few weeks.
Two families shared one stall farther down. Jozefa Murzanska sold vegetables from her garden and items she knitted and crocheted herself. She was there with members of the Ziel family.
“We’re like family here,” Julie Ziel said adding that the Ziels sat next to Murzanska one Saturday and they’ve been working together ever since. “We help each other out.”
Murzanska said she starts by growing vegetables inside. This year, she started 200 tomato plants.
“I put in a seed and grow them in my kitchen,” she said.
Murzanska said she’s been coming to the market for 14 or 15 years, and suspects it’s been going on for about the same time. She said she’s gotten to know her customers. When they miss a weekend or she misses a weekend, they miss each other.
“If I don’t come for weeks, I miss everybody,” she said.
Although the market doesn’t require city permits, anyone selling prepared food needs the proper permits from the county health department.
Mike Watchinski, who has operated a booth for M&M Specialties Bakery for two years, said police do occasionally stop by.
“They only come to buy something,” he said.
The market goes until sometime in October. Jane Tesdall who runs a stall with her husband, Jim, said things pick up when the summer vegetables – namely corn – start coming in next few weeks.
“We enjoy the spirit of a farmers market,” Tesdall said. “You meet interesting people.”