HOW & WHEN DID THE MARKET START?
With the assistance of an active group of volunteers, the Experimental Station launched the 61st Street Farmers Market in May 2008 with the following goals in mind:
To create an oasis in the local 'food desert' by providing residents throughout the Woodlawn neighborhood and the surrounding areas with the opportunity to buy fresh, regionally grown farm products that are nutritious and affordable, and that specifically cater to the culinary needs of Southside Chicago's diverse population;
To provide a direct marketing opportunity for producers of Midwestern, regionally grown agricultural and other farm-related products;
To reflect the diverse demographic composition of the local community by seeking to recruit regional agricultural producers and vendors of African-American descent;
To create a place to educate consumers about health and nutrition, including how food is grown, produced, or prepared;
To provide a community activity that celebrates the vitality and diversity of Chicago's south side;
To make fresh, affordable produce available to seniors and to people using LINK and the Farmers Market Senior Nutrition program.
WHAT IS THE EXPERIMENTAL STATION?
The Experimental Station a 501(c)3 non-profit working to build independent cultural infrastructure in the Woodlawn neighborhood by creating programs, supporting fledgling initiatives, offering technical and other resources to significant and necessary projects, and nurturing small businesses. Experimental Station has been active since 2006.
WHEN IS THE MARKET?
The Market is open from 9am to 2pm every Saturday from mid-May through October. November through April the Market moves indoors and takes place once a month after December.
WHERE IS THE MARKET?
The outdoor market is located on 61st Street, just east of Dorchester Avenue. Indoors, the Market moves inside the Experimental Station at 6100 S. Blackstone Avenue. Entry is through the red door on Blackstone Avenue.
DOES THE MARKET ACCEPT LINK, DEBIT AND CREDIT CARDS?
Absolutely! The 61st Street Farmers Market has earned a national reputation as the most progressive market in Illinois, and has become the explicit model for farmers markets located in underserved neighborhoods statewide. We record the highest sales to low-income customers in the state, due in large part to our Double Value Coupon Program—through which we match food stamp purchases up to $25 per cardholder per market day—as well as our ability to offer Credit/Debit services to our customers (we charge $2 per transaction for Credit/Debit). Under this system, Market customers can purchase an alternative currency to spend at the Market by using their credit/debit/LINK cards. Market currencies are good throughout the entire year - expiring at the final market in December.
ARE ALL OF THE VENDORS AT THE MARKET CERTIFIED ORGANIC?
While all of our vendors are small growers, producers, and artisans from the Midwestern Foodshed, not all of them are certified organic. The Market strongly supports and encourages sustainable agricultural and business practices and does not allow vendors to sell GMOs. We encourage you to ask each vendor about their agricultural practices as part of our goal of transparency of growing methods.
CAN MY BUSINESS OR COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION HAVE A TABLE AT THE MARKET?
The 61st Street Farmers Market offers opportunities for organizations that provide education in the areas of food, gardening, sustainable lifestyle habits, environmental or food activism, and nutrition to appear at the market as a Market School provider. Interested organizations can email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information, website, and description of your provided interactive curriculum/program. Once approved, you will be provided a link for an online schedule showing current availability.
IS THERE MUSIC AT THE MARKET?
We would like to bring more local acoustic performers to our market on a regular basis. Performances will begin after our Chef Demonstrations (approximately 11/11:30am) and go until 1/1:30pm. Performers are unable to be paid at this time, but tip jars and promotional materials are encouraged. If you are interested in performing at the Market please first view our 2018 music guidelines to determine if our guidelines work for you and email wendy@experimentalstation with your contact information, sample of music, and date availability. Once approved, you will be provided a link for an online schedule showing current availability.
CAN I VOLUNTEER AT THE MARKET?
Yes please! We have several at-market opportunities for set-up, information tent, and sustainability associate volunteer roles. You can view the descriptions for each role here on our Volunteer Opportunities Page. Volunteers are asked to fill out a volunteer information form, available at our information tent and attend one short orientation, offered quarterly. Once trained, volunteers can sign up via an open schedule on Google Docs to let us know if you are coming that week to volunteer. Do you see a way you want to make the Market even better? Let us know and we will see if we can support your effort.
HOW IS THE MARKET SUPPORTED?
The Market seeks to encourage small farmers and agricultural producers to participate in the Market by keeping participation fees as low as possible. These fees are supplemented by additional support from sponsorships, the sale of advertising and promotional opportunities, grants, donations, and community fundraising efforts. You can support us through making a monetary donation or purchasing our shirts, aprons, and cookbook—Eating Through Seasons: The 61st Street Farmers Market Collection of Seasonal Recipes.