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Green City Market: Why Farmers and Customers Come Back

By Dana Nostro and Tanya Amiedi

Posted: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013

The Green City Market is a year-round, sustainable, farmers market that offers a variety of produce to local Chicago residents and chefs.

Products such as soups, jams, meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and breads are made by farmers and then distributed at the market.

Upon walking into Green City Market there is a rainbow of colors. Outside, the wind mixes the different smells of the crops and flowers together. The scents of basil, thyme, grass, rosemary, and flowers combine together to create a heavenly natural smell.

“It is a great business opportunity, for exposure and working with a group of such high quality people,” said Matthew Dallman, citing one of his many reasons for working at the Green City Market.

Dallman, of Jake’s Country Meats, is just one of numerous vendors that spend their Saturday mornings, year round, selling sustainable and environmentally friendly products to the people of Chicago. A family farm in Cassopolis, Mich., Jake’s Country Meats specializes in pork raised naturally and without antibiotics or hormones. The two- hour drive Dallman makes every Saturday to bring the farm’s meat to Chicago shows just how motivated and elated farmer’s are to be apart of Green City Market.

“We travel a total of at least four hours to Chicago and back,” Dallman said.  “We also deliver and have certain chefs that order from us every week.”

In 1998 the Green City Market made its first appearance with only nine vendors founded by Abby Mandel. Now in 2013 there are over 50 vendors that travel any where between 2 miles and 300 miles to come to this specific market. On Saturdays there is anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 people who attend the farmers market.

“We have been here eight to ten years,” said Timm Ifft, owner of TJ’s Pastured Free Range Poultry in Piper City, Ill. “We are 100 miles, an hour and forty five minutes, with no traffic. Our regular Saturday morning in the summer time starts at 2:30 in the morning, then it’s three or four in the afternoon till we get home, and then we have our duties that we have to take care of when we get home.”

The market runs from May 4 to Oct. 26 on Wednesdays and Saturdays 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Starting Nov. 2, the market then moved indoors to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and runs every Saturday until Dec. 14. From January to April the market will run every other Saturday in the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

“Green City Market is amongst the best known markets in Chicago,” Dallman explained.  “I view this as an opportunity for exposure to different farmers and chefs.”

Vendors interviewed said there is a strong sense of unity, hard work and appreciation for bettering the eating habits of Chicagoans. Chicago’s only sustainable year-round farmer’s market also works to connect local farmers with some of Chicago’s top chefs, bringing fresh, organic food to restaurants around the Chicagoland area.

“There is a healthy business with restaurants that we build at Green City Market,” said Mike Langley from Seedling farm.

Seedling is another family-run farm that features products, such as ciders and fruits, year-round. Langley travels 125 miles from South Haven, Mich. to sell his produce at the Green City Market.  The 100 year-old farms products can be found at both Green City Market’s locations, one on the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Dr. in the summer and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in the winter.

“The apple cider is $3,” Langlui said to a customer. “Grab a cup and we’ll take your money.” He concluded with a playful laugh.

Over the past 14 seasons, Green City Market drives not only vendors, but chefs to the market. Unlike other farmer’s markets, Green City Market is the first to require participating farmers to be certified by a third party agency. This insures buyers that the quality of the products is environmentally friendly and completely organic.

“We connect chefs to local growers,” said Erin Riley-Strong, the Communications and Marketing Coordinator of Green City Market.  “What also makes us unique is that we are year-round, and we require a third party certification in order for farmers to participate.”

Anne Kostroski is the baker and owner of Crumb Bakery which has an assortment of breads made with organic flour from Illinois, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. Kostroski said she preferred this market over other Chicago farmers markets due to the high quality of calibar.

“The guidelines vendors have to follow is what drove me to participate in Green City Market,” Kostroski said. “Products that we sell must be sourced six days before selling, which means we cannot sell products such as chocolate, coffee and olive oil.”

Green City Market is one example of many local organizations that works to keep organic produce easily accessible. Because more people are choosing organic produce, there has been an increase in organic business. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, organic sales account for over three percent of total food sales, though organic products account for a much larger share in some categories, like produce and dairy.

“The Green City Market started from the bottom up,” Riley-Strong said.  “All credit should be given to Abby Mandel to founded Green City Market who started the farmers market in a back alley in the Loop.”

Not only does Green City Market offer a wide variety of produce, but they also offer volunteer opportunities.  The market encourages fans and customers to reach out and help contribute in anyway possible.  Applications to volunteer are located on the Green City Market webpage under “Support the Market.”

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Interactive Map: Green City Market farmer’s locations

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