by James Griffin, Staff Writer
It was a brisk 3 a.m. when they were taken from the place they grew up and thrown in the back of a truck traveling from Michigan to Illinois in a matter of hours, unsure of who they would be sold to. Set out on display, they waited until someone (anyone) would come and purchase them. Bright red through and through, they sat while potential customers picked them up and checked for firmness. Unable to move, they waited — this is when they are most vulnerable. Eventually all of the tomatoes would be gone.
For the last four years Weiss Memorial Hospital (4646 N. Marine Dr.) has hosted a farmers market located on the southeast corner of their parking lot. Weiss Hospital asks individual farmers to come out every Thursday from 7 a.m. till 1 p.m. and sell their products. This market is not a part of the City of Chicago’s Farmers Market, making it harder to find but also a diamond in the rough.
Starting from the beginning of June until the end of October, the market is held outside. At the end of October, the weather can get too harsh to stay outside, so many choose to move inside the hospital’s foyer and sell what they can grow until June rolls around again, making this a year-round market.
Pork products, freshly baked goods and organic vegetables are neatly arranged in the separate tents. Tent titles include Beijo de Chocolat, D & R Gardens & Orchids, Rooftop Garden Weiss Hospital, Uptown Brownie, Vintage Jewerly and Goodies and La La Latina Simply Bath & Body, among others.
Rhonda Dingus and her husband Phil have come from Michigan to sell tomatoes, apples, grapes, jams, jellies and cucumbers, among other fruits and vegetables, for the past four years. Dingus stated she likes this Weiss Farmers Market because it’s very accessible. Rhonda describes this market as a “Weiss Memorial pet project.”
Rhonda asserted that apples are her favorite thing to sell right now because “it shows we are progressing through the year and we get to the fall, which means some of the hardest part of the season is finally coming to a productive state. All the fruits of our labors are really at the end.” She went on to talk about other items on her tables: “You’re looking at tomatoes that were picked yesterday (at 3 a.m.).”
Also, their grapes had a tangy skin that burst and gave way to a sweet juicy center. Freshness is a standard at this and all the other stands.
Bess Schanker was running a tent selling eggs and vegetables. Usually her son Jude Schanker and his business partner Will Cool would be running the tent, but sometimes they need help with their non-profit organization named Loud Great Produce Squad (LGPS). Partnering with Weiss Hospital, LGPS runs a rooftop garden on the Weiss parking garage. Currently, they have a chicken coop with 20 chickens, bee hives to make honey, tomatoes, kale and other herbs, and Schanker says space for gardening is available to rent for individuals and organizations.
As a member of the Uptown community this market provides easy access to fresh, colorful, vibrant and succulent produce and meats. This market is definitely worth spending a few minutes to check out for some extremely fresh food.