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Chicago's South Shore gets a farmers market


Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Chicago's South Shore gets a farmers market

Cassandra West

Farmers market
South Shore Farmers Market
South Shore Farmers Market

With the Chicago skyline as a backdrop and the lakeshore at its doorstep, the city’s newest outdoor produce stand—South Shore Farmers Market at Rainbow Beach Park—opens on Sunday, June 23.

South Shore Farmers Market joins other city-run farmers markets that provide urban residents easy access to fresh and locally harvested produce. The market is a collaboration between the Ashe Park and Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Councils.

“We’re definitely a food desert and everybody’s looking for a place to get fresh food,” says Marion Brown, a South Shore resident and member of the Rainbow Park Advisory Council who co-chairs the team behind the market.

The South Shore market will bring the number of city-run South Side farmers markets to three, although city officials tend to count the Bridgeport farmers market among its “South Side” operations. The other South Side farmers markets are in Pullman (Wednesdays, 111th and Cottage Grove) and Beverly (Sundays, 95th and Longwood).

Chicago’s official farmers market season kicked off on May 16 and runs through the end of October.

Unlike most farmers markets in the city that get their produce from Michigan and Indiana farmers, the South Shore Farmers Market will source its vegetables from urban farmers and even container gardeners, Brown says.

It will be located on Chicago Park District property and operated by the City of Chicago. Hours of operation are 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays through Aug. 25. Depending on how well the market is received, it may extend it season beyond that date, Brown says.

Market planners are trying to keep vendor fees reasonable. They’ve started a market collective that allows smaller growers to pool their resources to reduce the expense of participating in the market and reduce the amount of produce needed to sell, Qae-Dah Muhammad, vendor manager, says. The weekly fee to sell at the market is $15 and all vendors must have insurance.

Primarily an agricultural market, South Shore Farmers Market also will offer products by local bakers and specialty food producers; live plant, flowers and herb growers, plus food-related products and services. The market plans to work with local food pantries and encourage its vendors to donate any unsold products that would otherwise spoil.

With this market, customers can expect more than fresh produce and healthier fare than is generally available to Southeast Chicago residents. The group that envisioned the market wants to educate the community about healthy food, cooking/eating, food production and growing edible gardens. They also want to bring attention to one their community’s underutilized resources: city parks.