It’s high summer in Chicago, which means beaches, barbecues, sunscreen, and overworked AC units. For food geeks, it means an awesome abundance of the best that our local farms and gardens have to offer. Cucumbers and tomatoes are about to be spilling off of the vines, corn will flood markets in giant bins, and fresh onions with green stalks still attached are already showing up on menus everywhere.
Going to the farmer’s market is a great summer activity — and helps keep farmers in business, so get yourself out of bed and go buy — but the best way to appreciate the summer bounty is to attend a farm dinner. Drive out to a local farm, take a tour, wander the fields, and eat food picked that day. And if the dinner happens to be sponsored by a local brewery, so much the better.
This is hardly a comprehensive list, and if you happen to love a farm or farmer that you see at a market, it’s worth asking if they host events.
Radical Root Farm
Radical Root Farm is a small family operation in Libertyville that sells a ton of varieties of organic vegetables and fruits at their on-site farmstand (open Thursday through Saturday each week). They also regularly team up with Sauce & Bread Kitchen for farm dinners; the most recent in June focused on strawberries. Dinners are BYOB and take place in their gorgeous old barn, complete with vintage place settings, great conversation, and a super chill vibe. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the next dinner.
Mint Creek Farm
Located on 220 acres in Stelle, Illinois, Mint Creek Farm is a fixture at farmer’s markets all over town, beloved for delicious, grass-fed meat and eggs. They raise lamb, cows, pigs, goats, ducks, chickens, and turkeys, and host a schedule of great dinners throughout the year. The next one is on July 20, featuring Letherbee spirits and Middle Brow Beer. If that’s too soon, another is coming up in September. Dinners always feature farm tours, and you can even camp at the farm or stay at a nearby bed and breakfast.
Slagel Family Farm
Another of Chicago’s best meat farms is Slagel Family Farm, a fixture on menus all over town. Their beef is legendarily good, but they raise a veritable zoo of animals on their Fairbury, Illinois farm. Unlike many farmers, they also process their own meats, which means they almost always have a huge variety of different cuts on hand. Slagel farm dinners include both a farm tour and a butchering demo for those who want to learn more about how the sausage gets made — literally. The next one on July 20 features chefs from Bad Hunter (newly re-opened) and Café Cancale.