By: Michael Kuperman 

Approaching their 20th Anniversary, Green City Market has grown to become one of Chicago’s most influential food systems.  While sporting the city’s most robust farmers market might be their claim to fame, Green City Market provides much more for the local Chicago community than just fresh produce.

Started in 1998, by late founder Abby Mandel, Green City Market’s main priority has always been to serve the community. What began as a start up with just nine farmers, on the crosswalk next to the Chicago Theatre, has grown to become a year-round farmers market that can serve up to 10,000 shoppers on any given Saturday morning.

While most are familiar with the Lincoln Park and West Loop locations, 2017 has seen the introduction of Green City Market’s newest location in Wrigleyville. Not quite as large as Lincoln Park’s 53 vendor market, the new Wrigleyville location offers Cubs fans and community members alike a modest taste of local produce and prepared foods.

Never ones to shy away from showcasing local farmers, Green City Market is known for hosting a variety of events. July 20th marks the 17th annual Chef BBQ; located at the Lincoln Park Market location, the event features a who’s who of Chicago’s top restaurants and beverage purveyors. Guests will be treated to tastings created by restaurants such as: Frontera Grill, Girl & The Goat/ Duck Duck Goat, Publican, Honey Butter Fried Chicken and many more, not to mention beverages from the likes of Revolution Brewing, Goose Island and Lagunitas. Guests will be able to interact with chefs and beverage purveyors all while enjoying food and drinks crafted with locally sourced produce as well as heritage meats.

Events like Chef BBQ or Mint Creek Farm Dinner do more than just showcase local Chefs and farmers, but showcase local communities. Events like these, as well as Night Out in the Parks bring Chicago communities together. Whether it be chefs, artists, activists or just neighbors; events like these showcase Green City Market’s most important commitment, to that of their community.

Fundraising from these events allows Green City Market to maintain its non-profit status while also expanding its community outreach programs. One such program is Link Matching, which offers to match LINK or SNAP card users up to $15 per card, with another program being Produce Box which brings fresh produce to the Bronzeville community, a community that hasn’t had fresh produce in over two family generations.

Programs aimed to educate are also a part of this commitment. Local chefs can be seen giving free Chef Demonstrations weekly at the markets, inspiring guests on how to utilize the fresh produce or meat they may have just purchased. Educating the next generation is also something Green City Market is committed to. This can be seen in programs like Club Sprouts, a program that allows children the opportunity to taste a different in-season market item each week, and also programs like Field Trips, which offers children of all ages hands-on gardening activities at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Edible Garden, as well as interactive guided Green City Market Tours.

What started from a desire to bring fresh, local produce to Chicago communities has since grown into something much larger. Green City Market not only connects Chicagoans to family farms across the Midwest, but to each other. Whether it’s the Chef BBQ or Link Matching Program, Green City Market provides a much needed service to the city of Chicago, that of community ambassador. Approaching almost 20 years of business, Green City Market has not forgotten that great food is nothing if you don’t have a great community to share it with.

Photos provided by Green City Market.