A Fresh Experience at Farmers Market+

Crystal Lake’s famous Farmers Market+ at The Dole is back for another summer season, and although it promises to be the best season yet, it won’t necessarily be bigger. A Sunday mainstay since its inception in 2021, Farmers Market+ is getting an upgrade that promises to improve this year’s guest experience.

Longtime fans can look for a new food court setting around the circular lawn, complete with picnic tables and live music on the Ringling Stage. Food options are now concentrated in one place, so there’s even more room for farmers, vendors and shoppers around the circular drive.

“Our new layout should improve the traffic flow inside the market and in our parking areas while encouraging locals to walk instead of drive,” says Jay LeCoque, board president of The Dole.
Parking on The Dole’s lawn now costs $5, though handicap parking is free. Proceeds help to maintain the grounds.

Meanwhile, there’s free parking aplenty at South Elementary School, Lundahl Middle School and Main Beach, all located a stone’s throw from the market.

“People who have been coming since the market’s inception will recognize an event that’s more like the early days of Farmers Market+ that made so many people vote us the Best Farmers Market in Illinois,” adds LeCoque.

The fun at Farmers Market+ runs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through October. True to its name, the market and its vendors deliver everything from fresh produce and meat to honey, baked goods, local art and children’s activities on the grounds of the Dole Mansion. There’s also an assortment of food trucks and vendors, live music, and a bar that offers custom bloody mary cocktails and other drinks. Admission is always free.

“One of the things we get the most feedback about is that our market has a different vibe from other farmers markets,” says Sharon LeCoque, pro bono interim executive director at The Dole and market co-founder. “There’s a positive energy you can feel in the air. People like to come to relax, listen to live music on the lawn, and have lunch with family or friends after shopping.”

In 2021, the LeCoques launched Farmers Market+ with Linda Wozniak, Director of Farmers Market+, inspired by the idea of hosting a market at the historic property. Jay brought it to the rest of The Dole’s board in the midst of the pandemic, emphasizing how a market could gather people outdoors, sell high-quality local food, and support the historic grounds at The Dole.

“It was important for the local community to have a place to go,” says Jay. “The Dole was saved by the local community from demolition in 2002 and the Lakeside Legacy Foundation, a 501(c)(3), was created to preserve and protect the property for community use. We felt an obligation to do something unique and a way to also support The Dole during COVID, when The Dole could not host the annual Lakeside Festival that year.”

Farmers Market+ was twice named Illinois’ top farmers market by the American Farmland Trust. It’s twice earned Best Farmers Market in the “Best of the Fox” awards.

Sharon and Linda, along with 35 volunteers, many from Service League of Crystal Lake, keep the weekly market running. A portion of proceeds from the market support the Service League. In fact, all of the $50,000 the Service League has received since 2021 has gone to local families in need.

“We are putting the money right back into the community,” says Sharon. “We are on this planet to help each other. That’s what being part of a community is all about.”

A share of the proceeds also supports the ongoing preservation of the 1865 mansion and its programming.

“The Dole is self-funded, so all of the events we are doing – including the farmers market, Lakeside Festival, NMP’s 4th Friday Art Event at The Dole, and many events for local nonprofits in the area – help us to keep The Dole running,” says Sharon. “This ensures it’s be here 100 years from now.”

The Dole is located at 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake. Farmers Market+ runs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through October.