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Farmers market opens in North Chicago; ‘This is real progress’ – Chicago Tribune

A year ago, North Chicago was a food desert without a grocery store or farmers market. Now the city has both, as George’s Fresh Market opened in October and customers bought fresh produce picked Friday night or Saturday at the opening of the farmers market Sunday.

“This is fabulous,” Charlene Greene of Waukegan said. “I’ve never tasted anything so fresh,” she added referring to the produce picked less than 36 hours before. “I’ve never tried organic before, so it will be interesting to see what it’s like.”

The North Chicago Farmers Market opened Sunday in Vision Park on Lewis Avenue with vendors selling freshly picked corn, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and more — some of it very local — and it will nearly double in size this weekend.

Maryam Wood, who farms in Wadsworth, said she is a consultant to the market organizers. She harvested some of the produce late Friday and Saturday. For items like corn, which is not ready for picking in Northern Illinois, a field trip was necessary.

“It comes from southern Indiana,” Wood said, “I have a cousin who farms there. I meet him halfway, and we transfer the corn and other vegetables to my vehicle.”

Michael Brankin, a North Chicago resident who organized the market, said between 400 and 500 people visited the booths Sunday. It will be open each Sunday from noon to 4 pm through Oct. 16

There were 10 vendors at the initial market selling fresh produce, coffee, plants, popcorn, grilled food made at the booth and handmade crafts. Brankin said this Sunday there will be eight additional booths offering baked goods, honey, pizza, candy and crystal.

“This is really going to get moving as the word spreads,” Brankin said. “There has been a lot of word-of-mouth. We’ll be even bigger next year.”

North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham, Jr., said the addition of both the grocery store last fall the farmers market Sunday gives residents two good reasons to shop locally and support businesses based in the city.

“This is real progress,” Rockingham said. “It’s great to have a farmers market in North Chicago. We need to have healthy food for people to buy here. This gives us more local shopping in North Chicago.”

Anita McCrory of North Chicago said she has attended farmers markets in Mundelein and Libertyville and is glad to have one in her hometown. Along with the fresh produce and other products, it gives her a sense of community.

“I love it,” McCrory said. “I see more people I know here. It’s a place for the community to get together.”

Sylvia England, a Waukegan resident who has her own community garden across the street from her home, said she was happy to have the opportunity to buy fresh produce. She took the opportunity to buy some.

“Fresh is what I need,” England said. “I don’t eat meat. There is no place in Waukegan to get it. This is much better than going to the store.”

When Brankin first got the idea of ​​creating a farmers market in the area, he planned to do it in downtown Waukegan. Working with Josh Beadle, the executive director of Waukegan Main Street, they started working with city officials in the winter but were unable to mesh their plans with the existing ordinance for public events.

Beadle said he is working with the city to find a way to develop an ordinance which will work for an event which is held on the same day each week for more than four months in the spring, summer and fall.

Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor said she hopes to see a farmers market in Waukegan next year. She was disappointed efforts of the city and organizers did not come to fruition because bringing “fresh food from local and regional growers” ​​can provide “an attractive new amenity for downtown.”

“We must look forward now,” Taylor said in an email. “We will spend the coming months working with the organizers to ensure the farmers market is up and running in spring, 2023. It is of utmost importance to me and everyone at City Hall that we will find a way to make this work.”

Brankin said he hopes to operate a market next year in both Waukegan and North Chicago.

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