Lake Forest’s Elawa Farm embraces roots with farm-to-table market

The courtyard at Elawa Farm buzzes with activity on market day, as volunteers and staff hustle to stock the shelves with fresh-picked produce, herbs, flowers and just-baked treats.

The market, located in the historic farm’s former wagon shed, this year has taken on the ambiance of a farm-side Provencal boutique.

“The look and feel of the market has been updated and meant to match the rest of the farm complex in terms of its aesthetics and décor,” Market Manager Lisa Lyon said.

The interior of the red-brick and frame shed is arranged carefully and decorated in white and black to highlight the colorful flower bouquets, vegetables arranged on a central table and pints of berries and cherries lined up on a free-standing shelf.

Locally sourced pantry items, many Elawa’s own private label, fill the pantry wall, including oil, vinegar, salts, jams, jellies and cookbooks — items customers need to prepare Elawa’s vegetables in a true farm-to-table format.

“That’s what we’re about, making that totally fresh kind of straight-from-the-garden kind of feel,” Lyon said. “We’re giving people some choices and some nice products to accomplish that. It’s what customers think is so special.”

Elawa-prepared munchables, including granola and just-baked quiche or pizza, cookies, scones, breads and muffins, are made daily by Elawa Chef Mary McMahon.

A cooler contains salads McMahon made with ingredients plucked from the market, like a kale salad featuring Elawa-grown greens, fresh raspberries and a homemade vinaigrette. Dressings and hummus made in the Elawa kitchen are also available.

Cheeses from Ludwig Farmstead Creamery, one of the only certified humane creameries in Illinois, and eggs from Loony Acres in Woodstock, Ill., complete the market.

“There are low food miles associated with a lot of our products, which is what we strive for,” Lyon said.

McMahon, wearing her white chef’s coat, checks in the market throughout the day.

“I’m usually out here a couple of times at the opening to make sure everything’s set,” McMahon said. “Through the course of the day, I’ll check back just to see how the product is moving.”

McMahon has embraced the farm-to-table movement since she started as an executive pastry chef 26 years ago.

“I think it’s just an important piece of what we do as chefs: to honor and have relationships with the farmers,” she said.

Elawa Farm in Lake Forest is the only working farm-to-table former gentleman’s farm on the North Shore to offer locally grown, organically farmed produce.

McMahon considers Elawa’s market to be about more than offering items that are grown and made locally.

“It’s preserving the history of the property and the spirit of Elawa,” she said.

Over the course of the summer, Elawa will offer a wide range of locally grown, organically-farmed produce including kale, radishes, lettuce mixes, Swiss chard, garlic, shallots, tomatoes, potatoes and patty pan squash. Throughout the summer, one-of-a-kind bouquets are also available, including peonies, snapdragons, yarrow, and daisies.

The market, located at 1401 Middlefork Drive, is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Elawa Farm was established in 1917 by Elsa and A. Watson Armour as their weekend country estate.

Today, Elawa is owned by the City of Lake Forest and is managed by the Elawa Farm Foundation. It offers a variety of educational programming and opportunities for volunteering in the garden, market and kitchen.

For information, go to www.elawafarm.org.

• To view a video, go to lakeforest.suntimes.com.

Farm-to-Table Garden Market Where: Elawa Farm, 1401 Middlefork Drive, Lake Forest When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Friday, Saturday Details: www.elawafarm.org

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