A Winter Produce Market Pops Up In Maywood, Looks To Come Back

Sunday, February 18, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Dozens of Maywood residents, and even some people from other towns, flowed in and out of the village’s Multipurpose Building, 200 S. 5th Ave., in Maywood, on Feb. 17, for a first-of-its-kind winter pop-up produce market.

Shoppers perused the makeshift bazaar, which featured greens, snap peas, carrots, tomatoes, apples, bananas, grapes, mangoes and other fresh produce.

The event was sponsored by Maywood trustee Isiah Brandon, who invited Forty Acres Fresh Market — the organization behind the produce market — to sell its baskets of fresh goods.

Elizabeth Abunaw, the market’s founder and operator, said that the focus of the market is to provide “fresh, affordable produce in under-served communities.”

The goal, she said, is to open a permanent low-cost produce market in Chicago’s West Side Austin community within a year, and possibly more.

“Phase one of that goal is operating pop-up markets where we sell a full selection of fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price,” she said in an email.

Saturday’s market in Maywood was the result of a connection Brandon made with Maywood native and healthy foods guru Regina Thomas Dillard, who introduced the trustee to Abunaw.

Dillard, a raw food/vegan chef, instructor, and wellness advocate — is also the author of FEED: Living Food Recipes to be Made and Eaten with Love, a wellness cookbook published last year.

Dillard offered free samples of a vegetable wrap during the market, which went on from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Winter produce market pic_Cooking demo

Regina Thomas Dillard offered free samples of a vegetable wrap during Saturday’s market. | VFP

“I think its very much important that we work beyond the barriers that are in our community,” Brandon said. “As elected officials, we are charged and challenged with bringing in more resources for our residents. Access to quality produce is a challenge here in the community, so I saw an opportunity after talking with Regina.”

Since 2016, when Aldi left the village, Maywood has been without a full-service, national chain grocery store. The Maywood Multicultural Farmers Market, started in 2007 and closed down in 2012. The year before, Maywood Market, an independent full-service grocery store that had been in business for less than two years, also closed its doors.

Saturday’s produce market is in line with a range of small, micro-scale alternatives to national and independent, brick-and-mortar food providers. The small initiatives have popped up to fill the void in an area that is widely perceived to be a food desert.

The most visible local initiative is the Proviso Partners Giving Garden, a small lot on Madison St. in Maywood, right across the street from Proviso East High School and adjacent ReUse Depot. 

Last summer, the garden’s full-time gardener, Christopher Epps, 36, grew several thousand pounds of produce, including carrots, egg plants, bell peppers, collard greens, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, tomato, rhubarb, basil, cilantro, dill — all of it grown organically on a sliver of land that’s roughly the size of someone’s backyard.

In the summer, high school students sell the produce at a farm stand set up along Madison Street. What isn’t sold is given away to local soup kitchens and individual residents.

Abunaw’s winter produce market, like the Giving Garden, has received rave reviews from local residents looking for healthy, fresh produce at affordable prices.

Winter produce market_woman shopping

Loretta Kirksey, a Maywood resident, shops for fresh produce during Saturday’s winter produce market. | VFP 

“I think this is a great idea — the fresher the better,” said Maywood resident Loretta Kirksey. “I think Maywood should continue to do something like this for the community. I love this. It’s great.”

Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., who did his own shopping, said that the market fills a void both locally and nationwide.

“This fills more than a void in the community, it feels a void across the nation in terms of people having access to nice, wholesome food to live on,” Norfleet said. “People are interested in getting nice, wholesome food at very reasonable prices.”

Brandon and Abunaw said that they had initially only planned the market as a one-off event, but before the day was over, the two were talking about making the market a regular, perhaps monthly, occurrence.

For more info on Forty Acres Fresh Market, click here. VFP 

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