Green City Market, Chicago
In 1998, nine local farmers gathered to sell their produce in a crosswalk near the Chicago Theatre. Today, dozens of farmers and producers make Green City Market the thriving enterprise that acclaimed chef Alice Waters has called "the best sustainable market in the country."
To sell at Green City, farmers must meet the market's standards for sustainable practices, such as reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and treating animals humanely. Prepared food vendors must be local, small-scale "food artisans," and are expected to obtain their signature ingredients from Green City farmers whenever possible. Case in point: When Chicago confectioner Flora Lazar makes the French-classic sweets she sells at the market, she uses honey from Michigan beekeepers and fruits from Michigan and Indiana farmers — all of them Green City vendors.
One of Lazar's suppliers is Peter Klein of Seedling Enterprises in South Haven, Mich. Klein was a Chicago wage slave and avid farmers market shopper "until one day, my favorite fruit vendors told me they were retiring," he recalls. After months of thinking "No way, that's crazy," Klein quit his job and bought the 81-acre orchard and farm. In the seven years since, he has expanded his farmers market product lines to include hard cider, sorbets and custom-blended smoothies as well as fresh tree fruits and berries.
Among his own favorites at Green City: "Growing Power sunflower sprouts — world's best snack! Nordic Creamery butter — the first time my kids tasted it, they vowed never to eat any other butter again. Genesis Farm carrots — bigger, tastier and more colorful. And Nichols Farm Italian garlic — what all the other garlics wish they were!"
For the summer season (early May through late October), the rain-or-shine market is held two mornings a week outdoors, in Lincoln Park near the shore of Lake Michigan. For two weeks in September, the market sponsors a Locavore Challenge that includes chefs preparing dishes from "mystery baskets" of local food ingredients, and area restaurants offering special prix fixe locavore menus. For the winter season, the market moves a few blocks north on the lakefront to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, opening on select Saturdays in a heated tent on the grounds in November and December, then inside the museum January through April.
At the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (about 1790 N. Clark St., Chicago IL 60614)
Wednesdays and Saturdays: 7 a.m.-1 pm. May 4 through October 29.
Check the website for the Saturdays November-April when the market location is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr. in Lincoln Park.
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