Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tribune: Three new farmers markets to open

Englewood's Growing Home opened a farm stand last year.
Photo by Juan Francisco Hernandez.

New farmers markets will increase access to fresh produce this summer in Englewood, Woodlawn and the Quad Communities, according to a page-one story in this morning's Chicago Tribune. Each of the markets was envisioned by the communities during their quality-of-life planning processes back in 2005 and each will play a specific role that goes beyond improved food access.

The Woodlawn market at the Experimental Station, 61st and Blackstone, will boost that location as a nucleus of community life. There's already a youth bicycling program there, an artists' studio, a community garden and a very successful youth violin program at Carnegie School next door. Arvin Strange of NCP/Woodlawn says the market will increase activity there on Saturday mornings, when 30 youngsters and their parents come for violin training. That market starts May 17. The Experimental Station will hold a fundraiser for the market on April 4.

In Quad Communities, the market is part of the Cottage Grove Restoration Initiative and will be a hybrid market that sells prepared food, antiques and music, plus fresh produce like bananas and citrus that aren't grown on a local farm, but aren't widely available in nearby stores. Again, bringing people out and building community life is at least as important as the produce. That market runs Sundays at 4400 S. Cottage Grove starting June 1. A recent survey by Quad Communities Development Corporation found "overwhelming" support for a local farmers market.

The Englewood market will run Thursdays at 6452 S. Ashland starting June 19. The twist here is that some of the produce will come from the two-year-old urban farm run nearby by Growing Home, which uses farming and related work to provide training and job opportunities for hard-to-employ individuals. A leader on this effort is Orrin Williams of Growing Home, who was named a "community hero," at last week's Getting It Done conference.

All the markets will also use Electronic Benefit Transfer machines so that residents can use their LINK (food stamp) cards, a program that was pioneered last year at the Logan Square farmers market.

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