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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Filtering by Tag: farmers market

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.

Putting teeth into a Food Plan for Chicago

Cassandra West

An Austin resident prepares to plant vegetable in her community garden plot. /Seeding Chicago
An Austin resident prepares to plant vegetable in her community garden plot. /Seeding Chicago

More than 350 people from all over Chicago have spent the last 12 months working to draft a healthy food plan for the city. The plan is intended to guide public and private efforts to build a healthier food culture in Chicago.

The Chicago Departments of Housing and Economic Development, Public Health, and Family and Support Services, in collaboration with the Mayor's Office and diverse organizations and individuals across Chicago have supported the planning process. The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children is helping facilitate the process.

Anyone interested in creating a healthier food environment in Chicago is invited to attend the Final Planning Workshop Thursday, July 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. at UBS Tower, One North Wacker Drive. This workshop is intended to present the draft food plan and discuss implementation strategies. RSVP to M Snodgrass or 312-573-7799.

In the meantime, if you’re really serious about eating healthy, here’s a plan of action you can implement NOW: Buy fresh, local food. Support local farmers’ markets. Find your nearest one here. Eat produce that’s in season. Cook at home more. Plant a vegetable garden. Don’t have a patch of land? Grow vegetables in containers. Lettuce, fresh herbs and nutritionally rich kale, spinach and chard can be grown in pots.

Locally grown, locally produced foods taking hold

Cassandra West

Take a look around and perhaps you’ve noticed a trend we’ve been following recently: the growth of locally produced specialty foods and drinks. Increasingly, local foods entrepreneurs are moving beyond selling produce fresh from the garden or farm. Many are now turning locally grown produce into condiments, teas, seasonings, herbal tinctures, bath and body care lotions and salts.

The boutique food products haven’t exactly knocked the Lipton and Heinz brands off supermarket shelves yet, but they’re catching on. You’re still more likely to find them, though, at farmers’ markets and small natural foods stores like Real Naked Foods in Wicker Park, which opened this past spring. And, Oak Park-based Family Farmed is giving a boost by constantly promoting the production and distribution of locally grown and produced food.

We've taking to checking out local foods, purchasing ones that appeal to our tastes — and sometimes just pure curiosity. This summer we picked up a jar of a wonderfully delicious and tangy pickled okra at the Oak Park Farmers Market. And, yes, we liked it a lot.

But it was the Family Farmed Expo that truly opened our eyes to what’s happening in this growing segment of food production. While strolling through FF’s vendor fair at this past spring, Seeding Chicago chatted with many of the vendors who were selling products. (Imagine actually talking with a food producer. You’d be lucky if someone from Heinz even took a call your call.)

We didn’t leave the Expo empty handed. We took home some incredible kombucha (fermented tea) made by Nessalla in Madison, Wis.; a chunky and bold cranberry catsup from The Scrumptious Pantry; a tongue-tingling poblano sauce by Co-Op Sauce, a nonprofit that supports a youth art center and community arts initiatives in Chicago’s Humboldt Park Neighborhood; a package of no-cholesterol spinach tortilla wraps from La Mexicana Tortilleria, Inc., in Chicago, and some out-of-this-world specialty blended teas by SenTEAmental Moods Teas, located here in Chicago.

Lori, the owner of SenTEAmental makes some of the most creative blends anywhere. She's even blended smooth, decadent tea made with sweet potatoes, vanilla, almonds, sunflower, jasmine and calendula petals called Southern Comfort.

You don’t have to take our word for it. Check out the video above and hear directly from this new breed of food producers. And, if you have a favorite local food you’d like to tell us about, Email us here.


Will Allen on the urban farm revolution

Cassandra West

CHICAGO — Even if you know only a little about urban agriculture, you’ve probably heard of Will Allen, the nation’s foremost local food movement leader and advocate. Allen, who founded the Milwaukee-based urban farm and education center Growing Power Inc., was in Chicago at Fourth Presbyterian Church Thursday (June 24) evening to talk about his good food movement, which is “really about social justice,” he says.

Allen's presentation, titled “The Urban Farm Revolution: Growing Power and the Importance of Sustainable Local Food Production,” was an overview of Growing Power’s work since 1995 as a not-for-profit training center that focuses on urban agriculture methods and building community food security systems. He also talked about his organization’s work in Chicago, specifically a community outreach project and collaboration with Fourth Church called Chicago Lights Urban Farm.

Growing Power helped establish the urban farm (444 W. Chicago Ave.), which this year expanded to become an urban farm with year-round food production. The farm provides access to affordable organic produce and nutrition education and promotes economic development.

“All should have access to safe, affordable, nutritious food at all times,” Allen said before presenting a slideshow on Growing Power’s numerous projects in Milwaukee and around the world. He said his mission and vision are to bring people together, and “one of the best ways to bring people together is around food…that’s when wonderful things happen.”

Allen is an innovator in composting, vermicomposting (using worms to refine and fertilize compost) and aquaponics (growing fish and food plants in a closed system). Perhaps his strongest message Thursday was the importance of rethinking how and where food is grown. Straight-faced and serious, he declared that food can grow on asphalt. Several of his slides showed images of vegetable-laden soil mounds that Growing Power has installed on top of hard-surface urban lots.

Of the food we consume, 99 percent of it is “shipped in,” Allen said. “If we had local food production, we’d create a lot of jobs.” That’s really the social justice component of what Allen calls the good food movement.

Donnell Williams

Community organizer Donnell Williams, who came out to meet and hear Allen, told Seeding Chicago he wants to change how residents in his Roseland neighborhood access healthy food. He and others are starting a farmers market along with a local church. But his chief concern is to end food deserts and seek ways to bring in food-related jobs that can help "sustain the community," he said.

Philadelphia urban farm grows roots in old industrial neighborhood

Cassandra West

PHILADELPHIA — Farming in the city isn’t always a viable business model, those who attempt it will admit. Sometimes, though, an urban farmer gets it right—growing not only good, fresh food but building strong community ties along the way. That’s what Greensgrow Farm has done since opening a dozen years ago in one of this city's oldest industrial neighborhoods.

Greensgrow started as a wholesale supplier of hydroponically grown salad greens to restaurants and as it has evolved “we’ve gone with the flow,” says Mary Steton Corboy, chief farm hand and co-founder. The original idea, she adds, grew from asking, “How can you grow on land deemed unusable and have a market for what it is you [are] selling?”

Greensgrow took root on an EPA brownfield site, where a former galvanized steel plant once stood, proving that abandoned industrial land can be reclaimed and turned into a productive, thriving enterprise. Today the verdant three-acre urban farm includes a retail nursery, farmers’ market and a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Vegetables are grown in a 6,000-square-feet heated greenhouse and in raised beds with “French drains” and irrigation lines, and recently a green roof was added to the farm’s compost toilet.

“What we’re trying to do is test the viability of urban agriculture and the concept,” Corboy told members of a tour group in town for the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders Forum, June 15-18. Part of the tour included lunch made from food produced at the farm — zucchini, squash, arugula, mixed greens, kale and strawberries.

Bringing agriculture to an old industrial area populated with a high dropout rate and unemployment hasn’t been a walk in the park. When Greensgrow first arrived in the neighbor locals call Fishtown, it had “no interaction with people in the community,” Corboy said. “Then we started selling flowers and that opened the door to the community,” with people stopping by to ask questions about Greensgrow’s food.

As the community connection strengthened, Greensgrow reached out more to its neighbors, educating them about food and giving them a voice in food production issues— what gets grown, whether or not pesticides, antibiotics or hormones are used in production.

More recently, the farm started a low-income CSA, Corboy said. Participants, who must be eligible for food stamps, can use their stamps to pay for their CSA share. “The point with this low-income CSA is that we recognize completely who our market is, and we want to have deeper roots in our community. We want to get the people around us who really need the access to know that they have the access.”

A cooking class and trips to farmers’ markets will be offered along with a CSA share, said Corboy, who is also a chef. “Our goal is that every single thing that is cooked in the cooking class has to be something that can be purchased in our Zip Code.”

Learn more about Greensgrow.

USDA Report: Local Food Markets Growing, Effects on Health Still Unclear

Cassandra West

By Susan Richardson Farmers markets and other  direct sales of produce to consumers account for a small, but growing, share of U.S. agricultural production, according to a new report by the Economic Research Service, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  "For smaller farms, direct marketing to consumers accounts for a higher percentage of their sales than for larger farms," according to the report.    But researchers are still unclear what impact the healthier food options are having on improved nutrition in communities.  The report, titled Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues," also finds that there is insufficient research to determine the effect of locally grown food on energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions.  

Key findings of the report include

  • Federal, state, and local government programs increasingly support local food systems.
  • Production of locally marketed food is more likely to occur on small farms located in or near metropolitan counties. 
  • The number of farmers’ markets rose to 5,274 in 2009, up from 2,756 in 1998 and 1,755 in 1994, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
  • There are  few studies on the impact of local food markets on economic development, health, or environmental quality. But research suggests that expanding local food systems can increase employment and income in communities.

Shabazz Food Hub connects farms and cities

Cassandra West

A young volunteer at Shabazz Food Hub Market Days By Susan Richardson The smell of mustard greens sautéed in olive oil with garlic fills the air in an auditorium at Betty Shabazz International Charter School in Chicago.  People browse and buy produce and seedlings on a Saturday afternoon. It is Market Day at the Shabazz Food Hub.

Twice a month, hub members come to pick up preordered produce; others shop for greens, millet, papaya, sunflower seeds and other healthy foods.  And vendors sell items including homemade bean pies and organic juices, completing the menu.

The food hub is a project of the charter school and Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living, an eco-campus and farm in Pembroke Township that seeks to restore the link between African-Americans and their agrarian past, encourage collective economics and promote health and locally grown food.  Based in the historically black farming community about an hour from Chicago, the Center  sponsors training sessions for students and others, teaching them about composting and growing their own food and the politics and history of food production and distribution.

Shabazz Food Hub is one of two food centers in Chicago sponsored by Black Oaks.  The other is run through the office of Dr. Jifunza Wright Carter, who, with her husband, Fred Carter, founded the Center.

“Ideally we want to have hubs that sort of dot the city and in different areas where there is not access to the food,” said Mike Strode, coordinator of the Shabazz Food Hub and parent of a daughter at the charter school.

U.S. consumers are growing more aware of the ills of processed foods and the dangers of a global food delivery system that ships vegetables, fruits and meat thousands of miles from their point of origin.  Transporting the food across the globe threatens the environment and also raises food security issues in an age of terrorism and volatile political conflicts.

In African-American communities, access to healthy food has become a public health, social justice and economic rights issue.  Studies show the link between access to healthy food and food-related illness. Blacks suffer from diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure at higher rates than whites, yet are least likely to have a quality grocer in their neighborhoods.

Research from Policy Link, an advocacy organization that works for food justice, reports that 8 percent of African -Americans live in a census tract with a supermarket, compared to 31 percent of whites.  A report by Policy Link and the Food Trust recommends developing retail outlets such as farmers’ markets, coops, farm stands, mobile vendors, and other community-supported agriculture programs to help address health disparities and encourage economic development.

At the Shabazz Charter School students are served vegetarian meals and food has long been a part of the educational process, said Strode.  Launched in November 2009,  the hub makes it easier for parents and the surrounding community to embrace a healthier diet. In addition, the Shabazz Food Hub connects with the school’s African-centered principles, in particular the concept of ujamaa, or collective economics, and the teachings of Maat. The principles are reflected among the volunteers at the Hub, who refer to each other as Baba (for men) and Mama (for women), terms that denote respect, and, most important,  community.

Market Day also includes cooking demonstrations that emphasize healthy preparation of healthy food.  Like millet with cinnamon, nutmeg and butter, and a new way to prepare chard, with natural peanut butter melted and tossed with tomato and onions.  Strode said the market and the demonstrations encourage people to try “foods they are not familiar with.”  And show  them how good healthy food can taste.

Coming Up: Seeding Chicago's visit to Black Oaks Center and interviews with Fred Carter and Dr. Jifunza Wright Carter.

Financing Local Food: 'Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is'

Cassandra West

By Susan Richardson From support for supermarkets in neighborhoods with more liquor stores than healthy food choices to efforts to increase the number of USDA certified organic poultry processors, philanthropic organizations are increasingly taking part in a growing movement for sustainable agriculture and access to healthy food. 

 “This is a time of convergence,” said Karen Lehman, director of Fresh Taste, a Chicago-based collaborative supported by area foundations that encourages diverse local agriculture and healthy eating in Illinois. 

Last week, Lehman moderated a panel on food finance at the PRI Makers  National Conference in Chicago, a group of foundations and other funders that provide low-interest loans and other creative financing for charitable purposes.

Though food finance is still an unknown for most foundations, the panel discussion, titled “Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Local Food Finance,” underscored the rising profile of food issues in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.  Panelists shared experiences in financing local food initiatives, discussed the importance of building the capacity of organizations to execute food-related projects and emphasized the need to grow efforts in communities of color, where food financing can potentially have a great impact on public health and economic development.

News coverage about food recalls, First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to combat childhood obesity, and the spread of community gardens as a tool for both revitalizing neighborhoods and building community have all increased public awareness about what Americans eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced.  At the PRI session, almost everyone raised their hand when asked if they had seen the documentary Food, Inc., which skewers the food manufacturing industry. 

But today’s tipping point in terms of food awareness is the result of years of labor by grass-root organizations to bring public health, environmental, social justice, and economic development concerns together around the food delivery system. “These issues are in the spotlight as never before,” according to the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, which is holding its annual conference in Philadelphia June 15-18.  “Efforts over the past decades helped sow the ground from which today’s opportunities have grown. But what next?”

 Under the theme of “Shaking it Up, Making It Last: A Real Food System for All,” the conference will explore issues including cross-disciplinary efforts to build community health through urban agriculture; the challenges of making healthy food accessible to everyone; financing local food initiatives, and changing the certification system for domestic agriculture.  In addition, participants will tour various project sites in and around Philadelphia, including food-producing farms and a community garden built on abandoned inner-city lots.  

A keynote speaker will be Jeremy Nowak, founder and CEO of The Reinvestment Fund, which was instrumental in financing the first grocer in West Philadelphia in years.  The Fund worked on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a model for the Obama administration’s $400 million National Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which could provide support for grocery stores, farmers markets and other efforts to provide healthy food in underserved communities. In February, the First Lady visited a North Philadelphia grocery store supported by the state’s fresh food financing initiative in conjunction with the launch of her campaign against childhood obesity. 

The focus of the Sustainable Agriculture Funders conference is to tap into the momentum around food issues to create a national food system that better serves public health.

For more information about the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, visit

'Greenest Market' coming

Cassandra West

glenwood market logoBilling itself as Chicago's "greenest" market, the new Glenwood Sunday Market in Rogers Park opens June 6 at 9 a.m., with a ribbon cutting at 8:30. Food produced by 11 farmers will be offered. All the farmers are and either certified organic or transitioning to organic and come from within 200 radius of Zip Code 60626, the market's website says. Other food vendors will be sourcing sustainably according to strict market guidelines. The market will fill the entire street on Glenwood Avenue between Morse Avenue and Lunt, at the base of the 'L', making it a "Green Stop on the Red Line," organizers say.

Glenwood Sunday Market is located at the intersection of Glenwood & Morse Avenue (1400W-6900N) in Rogers Park. It will operate every Sunday 9 a.m. -1 p.m. June 6 through Oct. 17. Visit its website for more information.

Wholesome Wave Foundation funds 'Link Bucks' at Farmers Markets

Cassandra West

farmers markets produce LINK card users will get more beans for their bucks at Chicago Farmers Markets this season thanks to a grant from the Wholesome Wave Foundation to fund a Double Value Coupon Program. Experimental Station and the City of Chicago announced last week a program to accept Link (food stamps) at five city-run farmers markets starting May 13, 2010 at Daley Plaza. The Wholesome Wave grant will fund $5 in “Link Bucks” to match up to five dollars of LINK purchases per cardholder per market day at the Lincoln Square (Tuesdays), South Shore (Wednesday), Daley Plaza (Thursday), Division Street (Saturday), and Beverly (Sunday) farmers markets, a press release issued Tuesday says. When a shopper makes a LINK purchase at one of five participating farmers markets, the shopper will receive up to five extra dollars (“LINK Bucks”) to purchase more nutritious, local food. The “LINK Bucks” are valid at any of the five markets for the entire season (expiring October 30, 2010) and do not need to be redeemed the same day.

Experimental Station is a not-for-profit incubator of innovative cultural, educational, and environmental projects and small-scale enterprises. It was established in 2002 in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

The mission of Wholesome Wave Foundation Charitable Ventures Inc. is to nourish neighborhoods by supporting increased production and access to healthy, fresh and affordable locally grown food for the well-being of all. Wholesome Wave is based in Westport, CT.

Lincoln Park Farmers Market opens May 15

Cassandra West

farmers marketThe revamped Lincoln Park Farmers Market starts Sat., May 15 and continues every Saturday from 7am-1pm until Oct. 30 at the Lincoln Park High School parking lot (Armitage & Orchard).

The new layout of the market puts vendors on the east half of the parking lot, allowing for patrons to enter and park through the west entrance.

For updates or more information, visit

Here are the vendors scheduled for the market: Dotson's Farm--Lynwood IL Ellis Family Farms--Benton Harbor,MI Farm Fresh Foodstuffs (NEW! Meats, Pasta and Cheese)--Naperville, IL Froehlich's Finest Fruits and Vegetable--Berrien Center, MI Garden Offerings--Huntley, IL Highrise Baking Company--Highland Park, IL Hoffman's Greenhouses-- Mundelein, IL K.V. Stover and Sons LLC--Berrien Springs, MI La Provence Inc. (NEW! Baked Goods)--Chicago Lyons Fruit Farm--South Haven, MI M.A. Madsen Farms--St. Anne, IL Mick Klug Farms--St. Joseph, MI Nichols Farm and Orchard Inc.--Marengo, IL Noffke Family Farms--Coloma, MI River Valley Ranch-- Burlington, WI Smits Farms--Chicago Heights, IL Spencer Foods, Inc. (NEW! Cooking Brats on site)--Chicago Stamper Cheese Co.--Chicago The Cookie Jar (NEW! Baked goods including gluten free)--Chicago The Flower Garden--St. Anne, IL Twin Garden Farms (Sweet Corn starting in July)--Harvard, IL

5 Chicago Farmers Markets to accept EBT/LINK this season

Cassandra West

Five Chicago Farmers Markets have been authorized to accept EBT/LINK cards when the selling season kicks off on May 13, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events announced this week. EBT/LINK service will be available on these days: Tuesdays at Lincoln Square; Wednesdays at South Shore in the ShoreBank parking lot; Thursdays on Daley Plaza; Saturdays at Division Street; and Sundays at the Beverly market.

The Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT/LINK card, is the identification card for participants in the Federal Snap Benefits Food Stamp Program and is offered throughout Illinois to those who qualify. The backs of the cards have a magnetic strip that users swipe through an EBT/LINK machine much like a debit card.

The Mayor’s Office of Special Events is partnering with Experimental Station, a non-profit organization, to administer the program on site. Experimental Station operates the 61st Street Farmers Market.

“Experimental Station is pleased to offer this practical solution to making City of Chicago farmers markets accessible to more Chicagoans. We believe that people who shop at farmers markets not only develop a stronger connection to their food and to the producers of their food, but to one another,” says Connie Spreen, Experimental Station Executive Director.

Expanding EBT/LINK service to farmers markets also allows card users greater access to fresh produce and healthy foods, said Chris Raguso, acting commission in the city’s Department of Community Development.

Chicago Farmers Markets – 19 throughout the city-- offer fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, plants, baked goods and more. The season officially begins May 13 on Daley Plaza. For more information, call 312-744-3316 or visit

Click here for the 2010 list of Chicago Farmers Markets.

May 1 is deadline for farmers market listings on state dept of agriculture website

Cassandra West

farmers marketTo have your farmers market be included and updated on the Illinois Department of Agriculture's website, contact Delayne Reeves by May 1st. See details below. This information is important for government agencies (local, federal, state) to have an accurate count of farmers markets and where they are located. Decisions about funding, etc., will be made on this information. This is like a "Farmers Market Census" -- everyone needs to be counted!

Information submitted will be shared with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other groups soon after the May 1st deadline. Also, details on the IDOA website will be hidden from public viewing after that deadline unless the information has been updated during 2010.

If you are a new market or need your username and password e-mailed to you, contact

Chicago residents can view a list of local farmers markets and the 2010 rules and regulations governing growers and food producers by clicking here. Chicago's Farmers Markets bring more than 70 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers to over 20 neighborhoods throughout the City of Chicago. Markets are held Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday around the city.

Delayne Reeves Marketing Representative Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Marketing and Promotions Mailing Address: State Fairgrounds, P. O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794-9281

Shipping Address: 801 E. Sangamon Ave. Springfield, IL 62702 217-524-9129 217-524-5960 fax