Chicago’s Green City Market Grows With Demand

Interactive Map: Green City Market location.

By Jane Intrieri and Alan Piatek

Farmers with the finest and freshest organic foods have been lining up at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park for more than 10 years. The market began with nine farmers and since then has expanded to more than 60.

Located on the South end of Lincoln Park, every Wednesday and Saturday mornings, Green City Market is the only year round farmer’s market in Chicago. During the winter months the farmers and their food can be found indoors at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, up the street from the outdoor location.

Green City Market works as a non-profit organization supported by tens of thousands of consumers. Local farmers are sought out to sell certified-organic produce, meats, cheeses, flowers and baked goods.

Each farmer goes through an application process and certification to ensure that all food sold at the Market is fully organic, that the farm animals are treated humanely, and that the soil and wildlife habitats are preserved.

With increasing knowledge of the harmful effects of pesticides over farming land, and meat raised with chemicals and hormones, people everywhere are beginning to have stronger convictions about eating certified-organic food.

The Market promotes local organic farming. Their motto, “Know your food… Know your Farmer,” reflects the vision of Green City Market and its main goal, to provide Chicagoans with locally produced, fresh, and organic food.

Vendors come from farms in and around Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. The Market also has a handful of urban vendors from Chicago.

Green City Market is geared towards educating adults and children alike about the importance of knowing where and how their food was grown. Teamed up with the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Market teaches an Edible Garden program to show children how to eat and live healthily.

Sustainability is another focus at the Green City Market. The importance of preserving the land the farmers grow their crops on is of high priority to save the land for future use.

Executive Director Lyle Green said, “Green City Market farmers take care of the land for future generations, and their growing practices make our Market an important food and environmental enterprise.”

With the economy recovering from the recent recession and mass amounts of farmers finding themselves unable to support their farms, it is easy to wonder if Green City Market and its farmers are facing hard times as well.

According to Mark Psilos, the market’s farm-to-chef forager, the recession has had little effect on business for the farmers.

“We have more farmers coming to the market. I see more of them succeeding than I have in the past,” Psilos said. He  is in charge of seeking out farms and connecting them with local restaurants to increase the amount of locally grown food used by Chicago chefs.

The local farmers agree that their business has not been thwarted by the recession.

Smit’s Farms of Chicago Heights says their farm has also been growing. They recently built two brand-new greenhouses on their land to expand business.

Shopping at the Market is busy. Chef demonstrations, fresh crepes and fruit smoothies, and educational workshops draw crowds of customers.

As the Market opens at seven in the morning, many chefs shop for fresh ingredients to use in their restaurants. One well-known Chicago chef, Rick Bayless can often be found at the Green City Market performing demonstrations and dishing out recipes.

On Wednesday mornings students from local culinary schools such as Kendall College and the Art Institute visit the Market.

“It’s very fun to come here and see people supporting a good cause. As students we know the food we’re buying here is grown the right way, that it’s safe to eat, and that we’re supporting the local farmers,” says Ashley Cohen from Kendall College.

From a start in a small alley near the Chicago Theatre to an acre of land in Lincoln Park, the Green City Market strives to support local business and to educate everyone about the importance of knowing where your food comes from.

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