Chicago Market, a community co-op

Chicago Market will change the way you shop for groceries. We’re building a community around local, sustainable food. Not an Owner of our food co-op yet?

Five Questions with Jacqueline Hannah

Jacqueline Hannah is currently the Food Co-op Development Specialist for the Food Co-op Initiative, a non-profit foundation that helps start-up co-ops. She served as general manager of Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana, Ill., from 2006 until last spring, leading the co-op through two expansions to make it the fastest-growing retail food co-op in the country. She has been donating her time and expertise to Chicago Market for more than a year. Here’s an edited version of a recent conversation with her:

With so many grocery choices, is there still a place for co-ops today?
The reason natural foods are easily accessible today is because of the co-ops that fought for them. Those companies got involved because of demand, they were not committed to making the food system better for our world. The food system continues to consolidate. The things we were fighting against in the beginning are getting worse. Co-ops are the economic empowerment of communities and people.

I’m already a Chicago Market Owner. What else can I do to help the co-op move forward?
People underestimate the power they have. You’ve invested in a local business you believe in. Talk to other people about why you did it. Facebook is actually really powerful. Put Chicago Market as your profile picture. Bring it up over coffee with your neighborhood friends. Invite Chicago Market to your book group. The most-powerful thing you can do is talk about it.

How does Chicago Market stand out amongst other start-up co-ops?
Chicago Market is very unusual because we don’t have a lot of start-ups in urban areas. Chicago Market is the first one that’s going to scale to the size of its market...with a large and amazing store. Also, Chicago Market has a phenomenally experienced, professional Board organizing team.

What challenges does Chicago Market face in the year ahead?
It’s a tough city for real estate, but you’ve got awesome people working for you. Send those ideas to the Board if you see real-estate options out there. There’s so much going on in Chicago. So, how to get the word out? That’s another place we need Owners brainstorming to penetrate through all this information.

What are Chicago Market’s strengths?
The can-do attitude we have in Chicago is not everywhere. If we believe in something, we will get it done. It takes five years, on average, for a co-op to go from an idea to an operating store. That’s normal for any company. You guys are moving along at a nice, brisk pace on your timeline. It’s hard to stay committed and involved. But patience now will have decades and decades of impact on local farms and a food system will be changed for generations.

Meet Linn Austin

Linn grew up the land of Dala painted horses, maypoles and midsommar — Andersonville? Nope, the province of Dalarna, Sweden — which, according to its website gets "first dibs on imagery that is considered more Swedish than ABBA and IKEA combined."

Linn Austin

She became enamored of travel, language and experiencing other cultures at an early age. She studied French in Aix En Provence, Montpelier and Nice. Then Italian in Parma, where she also studied conservation and cultural heritage, with a focus on the arts. She pursued Latin and Art History in Stockholm.

Meanwhile, Linn’s other passion became the quest for great food. And how could it be otherwise? "I lived for three years in the capital of food, in Italy!" she says. "Every weekend we went to a little village where they were celebrating a ham or a cheese or something."

When she finished her studies in Stockholm, Linn began work as a professional conference organizer, which let her continue her international travels. Eventually she found the Talberg Foundation, a think tank whose mission revolved around one question "How on earth can we live together?" She spent eight years building programs that brought world leaders together with grassroots organizers, artists, scientists and educators to tackle big global issues in a relaxed environment. "I loved it," she says. "We mixed people of different ages, nationalities, backgrounds together and used music, poetry and nature walks to open them up to creative discussions and to each other."

By the time Linn found Chicago Market last year, she had moved here with her two young sons and her American husband, to follow a new job opportunity for him and to be closer to his family for awhile. She’s loved getting to know the city. "Lake Michigan! So many things to do! And people here are very friendly and easy to get to know, compared to Europe," she says. "And so much diversity. I love that there are 37 different languages spoken by the kids in our school, Nettlehorst. My kids are growing up in an international environment, right here in Chicago."

And of course, there’s the food. "I love all the restaurants and trying new flavors," says Linn. "But also I’d been reading about food systems and food policy and production systems. I’m really interested in buying organic and local for my family. I heard some of the other moms talking at school about the co-op and I knew I wanted to get involved."

Linn became an Owner last spring, and then jumped right in as a volunteer this fall as Chicago Market was planning our first "Co-op Pop-Up" market for Thanksgiving. She quickly became the project’s leader, planning and setting up the event space, lining up farmers and other vendors, working through all the details and keeping everyone on task to make things run smoothly.

As will happen in November in Chicago, though, Mother Nature threw her a giant curveball — in the form of the season’s first snowstorm, with the worst-possible timing. Early the morning of the event, she was getting messages from farmers who were snowed in and couldn’t get their trucks onto the road to Chicago. She was unfazed — true to her confident and optimistic nature, Linn simply put the call out to other volunteers: "Who knows of other farmers in our community who are in town today and can bring their products to the market? How can we help them transport the goods?"

By the time we opened our doors, we had a room full of fresh produce, thanks to the hard work of Linn, the farmers and our other volunteers. More than 150 folks fought their own battle with the snow, came to shop, had a great time — and supported local farmers and donated carloads of food to local food bank Care for Real, our event partner. Linn herself bought one of Meadow Haven Farm’s organically raised birds for her first experience cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and she proclaims it "the best turkey, ever!"

Outside of Chicago Market? Linn’s exploring Chicago, enjoying her kids and volunteering at school. Her book recommendation for us: "Third Plate, by Dan Barber. It’s about the future of food."

We’re declaring Linn "the best teammate, ever!" and we’re thrilled she’s part of Chicago Market’s amazing volunteer community. If you’d like to join us, email [email protected].

Chicago Market Launches Businesses as Owners

Chicago Market is kicking off 2016 with a new initiative, designed to grow our ownership base while supporting local businesses. Businesses can now become Owners of the co-op.

They’ll have all the same rights and rewards as individual, household Owners. A designated business representative will hold voting rights for the co-op. Plus, Chicago Market will promote our Owner businesses via social media and through a new directory of local-business supporters.

Cantina 1910

We’re delighted that Cantina 1910, a new Mexican restaurant in Andersonville (that’s co-owned by Chicago Market Board member Mike Sullivan) has signed on to become our first Owner business.

Supporting Chicago Market is an easy way to improve the local foodshed by giving farmers a reliable, large-scale venue in which to sell their goods, Sullivan says. Plus, it will be a boon to consumers:

"As a restaurant that focuses on sourcing its ingredients from within 200 miles of Chicago all year round, Cantina 1910’s mission and vision align perfectly with those of Chicago Market," Sullivan says. "We want Chicagoans to be able to enjoy the amazing products the farmers and other suppliers we call neighbors provide not just in our restaurants, but on their family dinner tables as well."

To sign up your business as an Owner,
contact Kelly at [email protected] today.

Announcing New Board Members

Chicago Market filled two vacant Board seats recently, and we're seeking someone to fill a third opening. The seats were previously held by Greg Berlowitz (who left the Board when he was hired to focus on Chicago Market’s funding) and Daniel Farris and Liat Shannon, who left for personal reasons. We miss those three, but we are delighted to welcome our new Board members:

Esther Dairiam

We’re lucky to have small-business owner Esther Dairiam on the Board. Esther is the founder and owner of Read It & Eat, Chicago’s culinary bookstore. In previous jobs, she has worked to improve customer service to build business.

Jen Vest

Jen Vest brings her marketing expertise to the Board. She is currently an account director for Trisect, where she works to design market plans that build brands. See her compelling blog post below about the many #reasons2own Chicago Market.

So Many #Reasons2own
Chicago Homegrown Cookbook

Owners who signed up during our recent #getto80 campaign could choose from a variety of prizes, including a copy of Board Member Heather Lalley’s farm-to-table book, "The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook."

Didn’t get the book? Here’s a winter-warming recipe, courtesy of Chef Paul Kahan, that appears in Heather’s book:

Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Wax Beans and Marcona Almonds

Serves 4

5 cups water
3 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons sugar
2 1-pound pork tenderloins (locally raised, if possible)
3/4 cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B from a local purveyor such as Burton’s Maplewood Farms)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 Fresno chili
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound stemmed wax beans, cut in half
1/4 cup Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves

Make a brine by combining the water, salt and sugar. Rinse the pork and pat dry. Place pork in the brine and use a plate to keep it submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or up to two days. A couple of hours before cooking, remove the pork from the brine. Rub and massage the meat as you rinse it under cold water. Dry between towels and refrigerate until about 15 minutes before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a blender, combine the syrup, vinegar and chili to make a glaze. (Remove chili seeds, if you prefer less heat.)

Rub the tenderloin with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sear in an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and flip the tenderloins. Add butter to the hot pan and let it melt. Add the maple glaze to the pan before the butter browns. With a large spoon, baste the pork with the glaze for up to 5 minutes, turning the meat so it doesn’t burn. Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes, out of the pan.

While the meat is resting, blanch the wax beans in boiling water. Shock them in ice water. Remove and pat dry. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat until just smoking. Add the almonds, rosemary and wax beans. Turn heat to medium, until beans are heated through.

Carve meat into thick slices and serve with beans and almonds.