This post originally ran in Macaroni Kid.
Labor Day typically marks the unofficial "end" of summer. But farmers markets are still going strong! Many of them—including the Uptown Farmers Market—run through the end of October with farmers and vendors bringing loads of fabulous fall produce and other locally prepared products directly to us as consumers.
While farmers markets present excellent opportunities to introduce kids to food values, they are also hubs for community connections between neighbors, businesses, nonprofits, and even musicians. As we all work to reestablish social gatherings while staying safe, bringing families together at farmers markets is a great way to showcase the diversity and richness of our communities.
Knowing Who Grows Your Food
Many of our typical grocery store shopping experiences are of the “in and out” variety—get what you need, check out, and head home. In contrast, farmers markets offer a deeper experience than just picking up some delicious food (although that is wonderful in itself!).
You can meet and get to know the farmers and producers that grow and prepare the food for sale. So you know where it came from—and who these amazing people are and what they value. Like Andrew from Andrew’s Heirlooms or Stephanie of Los Rodriguez Farm!
Neighbors Meeting Neighbors
Farmers markets have a social vibe that encourages shoppers to stop and chat. At the Uptown Farmers Market, we often host musicians and have also partnered with Uptown United to host a “sidewalk social” each week with beer and wine available for purchase. So many people bring their dogs to shop with them that we even created a social media series called Pups of Uptown.
In short, farmers markets are more than just opportunities to get food—they are vibrant community gathering places to meet up with neighbors, make connections, and enjoy an outdoor social experience.
All Are Welcome
Farmers markets can and should be inclusive of the communities where they are located, making everyone feel welcome and appreciated. For instance, through the Link Up Illinois program, farmers markets and co-ops are able to offer Link cardholders a dollar-for-dollar match on Link purchases to be used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
We at the Uptown Farmers Market also offer a “community corner” where each week nonprofits or other partner organizations can set up informational tables to publicize their services and offer fun activities for people to learn more. Diversity of vendors is also key—we feature several BIPOC-owned businesses and entrepreneurs each week.
As a new cooperatively-owned grocery store coming to Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, we at Chicago Market launched the Uptown Farmers Market in 2021 to showcase the kinds of community connections that we want to build through our year-round, full-service grocery store.
The value of transparency and knowing where your food comes from; the value of providing a grocery shopping experience that is more than just transactional; the value of everyone in our communities having a sense of belonging—these are all at the core of farmers markets and the unique store we’re building at Chicago Market.
Come by and see us at the Uptown Farmers Market on Wednesdays this fall—or check out the City of Chicago’s farmers market directory for others near you.
You’ll be glad you did!
For more information about the Uptown Farmers Market, visit our webpage or join us every Wednesday (through Nov. 2nd) from 2:30–7:00pm at Wilson & Broadway in Chicago. Learn more about Chicago Market here: https://www.chicagomarket.coop. Or email us at [email protected].