Yes. Christmas. Sobering, isn’t it? Only three months away. To be honest, I’m not much for the frenzy and overspending of the current holiday culture. So I choose to go green and local for the modest number of gifts I buy. For the past several years, I’ve purchased most of these treasures at the farmer’s market, where I know the artists and craftspeople personally and where I make sure they get 100 percent of my money.

If you want to avoid malls, nerve-grating holiday tunes piped incessantly through stereo speakers and the feeling that you are buying just one more factory-made trinket with “made in China” stamped on its underside, check out your local farmer’s market and come back to the true meaning of Christmas—gifts made and given from one heart to another.

My friend Debbie Ward, the owner and driving force behind Silver Tablet Marketing (and very talented photographer who has shared her work here), spent last Saturday with me checking out gift ideas that will really say Christmas. Here are a few ideas we’d like to share:

Market T-shirt on modelLet’s begin with the obvious—a market T-shirt! What better way to show hometown pride and market support than giving one of these beauties? Proceeds benefit the market, of course. See if this is an option at your market.

Lisa Brinker of Wild Creek Gardens

 

Lisa's Dried flowersIn addition to the glorious array of fresh and dried flowers Lisa Brinker grows and sells at the market each week, she makes one-of-a-kind, sun-printed silk and bamboo scarves, totes and little pouches. According to Lisa, sun printing or heliographic painting is done with a special type of acrylic paint and very special process. Lisa explains: “First I gather my plants and press them a few hours until they are flat. I also create cardstock shapes to enhance my designs. I paint the fabric after it is cut out or, in the case of scarves, after they are ironed to freezer paper for stability. I take them outside on a sunny, calm day and lay the pressed plants and shapes on the fabric. The sun does the printing!”

Scarves blowing in wind

Scarves provide a sea of color in the wind. Photo by Debbie Ward.

 

Lisa’s scarves and bags are modestly priced, lovely to behold, soft to touch and oh-so shippable to that long-distance relative or friend for whom you want to send a special holiday hello. They won’t get another gift like this one, and Lisa will give you a little card that explains her process. Your gift recipient is sure to realize how special this gift truly is.Lisa's pouches with sunprint designs

 

John Boss Pottery

John Boss chimes and vase

Photo by Debbie Ward.

John Boss is a local potter, whose creations defy description. Both highly functional and breathtakingly beautiful, his pottery pieces are touched by John’s own signature style. Your gift will be unmistakably John Boss, allowing you to give not only a practical piece of pottery that someone will use and cherish for years but also a distinctive work of art. His bowls and mugs have been the go-to wedding gift in our family for a long time. And, if you need to ship this delicate pottery, John is right there to help you pack it so that it arrives pristine. To view more of John’s work, visit his Pinterest page.

John Boss mugs

Photo by Debbie Ward.

Iris Hill Farm and Apiary and Lane’s End Bees

Jam jars

For your holiday table or someone on your gift list. Photo by Debbie Ward.

Besides fresh eggs and produce, Iris Hill Farm and Apiary, located in Glen Carbon, Illinois, offers a wide assortment of honey and distinctive homemade fruit preserves. Exotic flavors include Lavender & Lemon Jelly and Pineapple & Mango Preserves with dried chilies. They share table space with Lane’s End Bees, where you can find handmade soaps, beautifully crafted and as fragrant as a summer meadow.

handmade soaps

Oatmeal and lavender combine for a spa-like experience. Photo by Debbie Ward.

What a wonderful combination for gift giving—flowers, honey and fruits for the table and the bath! Just throw in a set of organic cotton napkins and a natural luffa. You’ve hit the mark on original and personal and… green.

 

 

 

Think inside the (CSA) box!

Perhaps the very best, not to mention the most original, keeps-on-giving, gift you can give is a membership to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. If you know someone who lives near you who’s been trying to eat healthier, to use a wider variety of vegetables, access locally unprocessed food items and switch to grass-fed meats and organic, free-range eggs, a CSA subscription may be the perfect gift.

In my neck of the woods, there are two that come immediately to mind—my own CSA farmer, Bruce Haas at Daydream Farms in Greenville, Illinois and Biver Farms, run by Keith Biver, located just outside town here in Edwardsville. Make a quick stop by their tables and ask how their respective CSA’s work. Not coming to my market? Check out LocalHarvest.org to find a CSA near you.

Then, be extra helpful and include a carefully selected cookbook or magazine subscription to help the recipient get started on a healthier way of life. I just read about a new book called Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food, in which author Megan Kimble joins a CSA in order to improve her wellness and vows to eat unprocessed foods for at least one year. I got word of this new book in Delicious Living Magazine, a free publication at my local health food store, Green Earth Grocer. Delicious Living also has an awesome website and great social media connections that will keep you up-to-date on organic choices, great recipes and green living. But they keep their paper copies free and available in small, independently owned health food stores because they believe in those pioneers of the green world, and they want you to feel the same by shopping at yours.

Of course, you can always send them here to Green Gal of the Midwest for cooking ideas. Just a thought.

Susan and me at her market table.

Susan and me at her market table.

Are you worn out from all that shopping? My farmer’s market has you covered. Stop by Tamarango Bakery, a market booth run by my friend Susan. Hands down, Susan’s New York crumb cake, blueberry muffins, apricot-almond short bread and best-ever, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are the most delicious pastries I’ve ever tasted. Then there’s my husband’s personal favorite: chocolate Guinness cake—yeah, real Guinness. The perfect pick-me-up to what will probably be the most relaxing, fun holiday shopping trip you’ve ever had.

And really, I’ve only scratched the surface. I’ll be including more ideas next week. What gifts have you discovered at your farmer’s market? Let’s hear your ideas for a stress-free holiday shopping spree.

baked goods

Yummy choices at Tamarango Bakery.