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Back of the Yards Farmers Market Debuts at The Plant

By Casey Cora | September 11, 2013 6:53am
 Vendors show off their produce and baked goods at the Back of the Yards Farmers Market.
Back of the Yards Farmers Market
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BACK OF THE YARDS — It doesn't get any more local than this.

A good portion of the colorful produce for sale at the brand new Back of the Yards Farmers Market was grown just steps away in an outdoor garden run by The Plant, an innovative sustainable food production facility.

The market — a first for the neighborhood — made its debut last week after about six months of legwork. It's scheduled to run 9 a.m.-3 p.m. every Friday through Nov. 1.

"It says something about a community to have a farmers' market," said Roger Sosa, commercial development director with the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council.

Sosa's group began scouting locations and talking with City Hall about how to run the market and eventually settled on a stretch of 46th Street outside The Plant, home to several food companies including a bakery, kombucha brewery, aquaponic farm and robust outdoor gardens.

Sosa eventually settled on the location because the mission of the Plant dovetails with the need to bring more healthy, fresh options to the neighborhood.

"We've been watching The Plant for a while. They're bringing businesses to the area that are certainly different than what we've seen in the past," Sosa said. "We took the time to find the right space and that's where The Plant came back into the fold. ... Their farmers were ready to start putting stuff out there for sale."

At the market's debut, The Plant's outdoor garden manager Kate Purvis was manning a booth where a bounty of tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, cucumbers and more were offered.

The Plant's offerings also include big bottles of frosty Arize Kombucha, fresh-baked bread and treats from Peerless Bread & Jam and a mix of aquaponically grown greens, which retail for $1 per bag. All are produced in the Plant's 93,000-square-foot building, a former meatpacking plant.

Also vending at the market are Testa Produce, the nearby wholesale food distributor, a vendor selling produce from L & R Farms, George Washington Carver Farms, Lunderman Farms and a suburban bakery.

More vendors are expected to come aboard as other markets across the city wind down for the season, organizers said.

Friday's debut, which organizers called a "soft launch," only drew a handful of customers. But they're hoping word will continue to spread throughout the neighborhood — starting with a senior citizens bus program that's expected to bring a couple dozen new shoppers.

"Now that we've got the vendors, we'll find them some customers," Sosa said.