Farmers market on-wheels brings the farm stand to seniors in Chicago's Garfield Park

Farmers market on-wheels brings the farm stand to seniors in Chicago’s Garfield Park

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For years, green-handed West Siders have been trying to turn food deserts into oases for fresh produce by growing their own food in community gardens that can be sold at neighborhood farmers’ markets.

Now, they’re going the extra mile to make sure it reaches residents struggling to make a trip to the market by bringing produce to them — a farmers’ market on wheels.

The focus is to reach seniors in the East and West Garfield Park neighborhoods, many of whom receive benefits, such as Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers, but live in areas where markets may be scarce. .

Angela Taylor, who heads the Garfield Park Community Council’s mobile market project, said coupons are only useful if they can be used, noting that “if they can’t get to a farmers’ market, then do they really get the benefits? “

The Garfield Park Community Council Farmers Market on Wheels awaits Tuesday at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden in Garfield Park.

The Garfield Park Community Council Farmers Market on Wheels awaits Tuesday at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden in Garfield Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

On Friday, the market on wheels will embark on its first delivery, transporting produce from a cold storage facility to Anathoth Gardens, an independent living facility for seniors.

The “wheels” are a low-speed electric vehicle, essentially a street-legal golf cart, that can carry hundreds of pounds, go about 20 mph, and can travel about 20 miles on a full charge, which Taylor said can recharge through a regular wall outlet It was provided by the Elmhurst-based Eco-Friendly Mobile Farm Stand Project, which supplies such vehicles to urban farms.

The total cost of the vehicle was $16,500, according to Bob Kopach, who founded the organization. Kopach said this is the first vehicle it has supplied to an organization in Chicago and that the funding was provided by Mike and Linda Mussallem, who also financed the organization’s first booth last year in their hometown of Gary, Indiana.

Taylor said she plans to use the cart to drive through Anathoth Gardens with produce twice a month and aims to reach four more nursing homes before winter.

This week, residents can expect tomatoes, peppers, herbs, collard greens and collard greens, all grown in the council’s network of community gardens, the same ones that supply its bi-monthly farmers’ market.

Produce grows Tuesday inside window boxes at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the West Side, one of the community gardens contributing to the Garfield Park Community Council Farmers Market on Wheels.

Produce grows Tuesday inside window boxes at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the West Side, one of the community gardens contributing to the Garfield Park Community Council Farmers Market on Wheels.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

For the 42 residents of Anathoth Gardens, Resident Services Coordinator Curtis Harris hopes the mobile booth will be a success. When Taylor has brought produce into the building before, it has been well received, with more than half of residents showing up to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables, he said.

Harris said residents have had trouble getting fresh produce, particularly after the Aldi location in West Garfield Park closed.

“They closed it a year ago, so [the seniors] I have to travel to Oak Park,” where residents who take the bus can get to a Jewel-Osco, Harris said.

Taylor, who helped the council establish its network of gardens and farmers markets a decade ago, hopes the new venture will help revolutionize access to food in the community. She remembered the police delivering milk, eggs and produce in the neighborhood on Saturdays when she was a child.

“Moms were waiting because a lot of times they couldn’t go to the grocery stores,” the 62-year-old said.

She hopes to recreate that experience again.

“I have a vision of a summer day, of…selling everything and then being able to drive back, reload the cart and drive somewhere else.”

Sam Taylor, left, Nona Ethington, and Angela Taylor, right, stand with their Farmers Market on Wheels Tuesday, a custom golf cart for distributing produce, at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the West Side .

Sam Taylor (from left), Nona Ethington and Angela Taylor stand with their Farmers Market on Wheels Tuesday, a custom golf cart for distributing produce, at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the West Side.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Michael Loria is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for Americaa nonprofit journalism program that aims to bolster the newspaper’s coverage of communities on the South and West Sides.



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