With grocery stores closed, the work of the West Side market is more important than ever

Garfield Park Neighborhood Market, a farmers market run by the Garfield Park Community Council inside the Hatchery food business incubator, 135 N. Kedzie Ave., was awarded a $1,000 private grant to help market its offers.

Angela Taylor, who runs the market, said spreading the word is more important than ever since the West Garfield Park Aldi location, 3835 W. Madison St., closed in early October 2021 and the Save-A-Lot at 420 S. Pulaski Road. was closed by the city on February 8 due to a rat infestation.

The grant came from Compeer Financial, a Minnesota-based cooperative lender that provides loans to farmers in the Midwest. The Farmers Market Grants program is one of 10 grant programs the co-op has in place as part of its mission to give back to communities.

The grant program was launched three years ago. This year, they gave a total of $76,000 in grants to 80 farmers’ markets in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Karen Schieler, senior giving specialist at Compeer, said many of their member-owners wanted to do something to support farmers’ markets, and they felt the grant program was a good way to encourage people to come together. and to have a more direct idea of ​​where their food comes from.

The Garfield Park Neighborhood Market was launched in 2012 on the vacant land on which the Hatchery would eventually be built. It was an outgrowth of the Garfield Park Garden Network, a collaboration between West and East Garfield Park Community Gardens, Green Spaces and Urban Farms.

While Aldi and Save-A-Lot locations were open in West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park had no grocery stores.

Members of the garden network wanted to have a place where they could sell what they grew while making it easier for local residents to buy fresh produce. The construction of the hatchery gave the market permanent indoor space for the first time, although the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to scale back plans.

Taylor said that while they hoped to open an indoor market this winter, vaccination rates in Garfield Park postcodes are lagging behind city averages, causing her to delay its launch until ‘in April. She said attendees must wear masks and hand sanitizers will be available everywhere.

Compeer is one of several loan cooperatives that are part of the Farm Credit System, a government-sponsored corporation established by Congress in 1916 to provide loans to farmers. Schieler explained that, each year, Compeer sets aside 1% of his income and puts it into the Rural America Fund, which funds a variety of programs, including grants, that support “agricultural defense and development.” , agricultural education, cooperative initiatives, community development and enrichment campaigns; and youth engagement.

The Farmers Market Grant program supports the goal of community enrichment and helps many farmers who get their loans, she added.

“Farmers markets are essential to their business model,” Schieler said. “That’s mainly where they sell their products. So we’re making this investment, not just on behalf of our customers, but knowing what markets can do for communities, rural communities in particular, where they provide that sense of community, giving people reasons to come together. .

Of the seven Chicago Farmers’ Markets that won the grant this year, the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market is the only market that serves majority-black communities.

“We believe we need to continue to rely on community outreach, to inform community residents, especially in these times,” Taylor said. “It’s a shame that in the middle of winter we don’t have a grocery store. My heart breaks.”

The grant would primarily be used to advertise on the billboard at the northeast corner of Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue, as well as to print flyers, magnets and other information for people to take with them. . They also plan to increase their presence by setting up pop-up tables at other events, similar to what they did at the Austin Town Hall Park Farmer’s Market last summer.

Taylor said they won’t start planning exactly where and when these pop-ups will occur until they know what kind of crop they have to work with.

“I think we’ve seen how farmers’ markets are stepping up to serve areas that might not have traditional grocery stores,” Schieler said. ” A lot of time, [it happens] in a way that requires very little maintenance and doesn’t have a lot of overhead. Farmers markets can certainly solve this problem, while adding to the general atmosphere, [creating a space] where people can congregate outdoors.

For more information on the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market, visit https://www.gpcommunitycouncil.org/programs/neighborhood-market

For more information on Compeer Financial Fund for Rural America grants, visit https://www.compeer.com/investing-in-rural-communities/giving-back/grants

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