Know your food, know your farmer

August 15, 2011 (CHICAGO)

"Our tag line is: know your food, know your farmer and what we want to do is share with market customers and the public all our farmers' stories in order to create an appreciation for what they're doing," Dana Benigno, the director of Green City Market, said.

Tamera and Pat Mark are certified organic farmers who sell their produce at Green City Market in Lincoln Park. The Mark family has been on the Iron Creek Farm in La Porte, Ind., for more than 100 years. When the land gets passed on, their children will not only be inheriting 30 acres of land but also a way of farming.

"We are a certified organic farm. We are a full-fledged organic farm; there's no room for compromise for that. And we are a family farm, and when they come to our stand, everything is from our farm. And it does support our family, and it's local," Tamera said.

The Marks do not use pesticides, fertilizers or any other chemical for planting, weeding or harvesting.

"When we started farming together, we made a choice that we didn't want to raise a family or to expose ourselves to harmful chemicals...Farms can be a toxic place and we wanted it to be a haven, some place we were proud of," Tamera said.

Using chemicals has become standard practice for conventional farms, according to the Marks.

"Nowadays, it seems like a little bit does good, a lot is better when they do their chemicals, but none of it is really that safe," Pat said.

For the couple, farming organically is a family business that creates family bonds.

"We wanted a lifestyle that would keep us all together as a family. We wanted to preserve that family history and preserve that land for future generations," Tamera said.

The Marks bought Iron Creek Farm from Pat's father, who bought the farm from his mother.

"This is my whole life, farming, growing vegetables, feeding other people. That was my goal originally, to grow produce and be able to sell it directly to people," Pat said.

As the local food movement has grown, so has the demand for farmers markets. Chicago has 20 farmers markets.

"I think you'll see more and more of them...because people want them. We want a place to connect, we want to buy the freshest produce, we want to buy direct from the farmer so we know we have that fresh picked taste of that tomato or greens that were cut the day before or the night before in your salads," Benigno said.

The Marks sell tomatoes, eggplants, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and more at Green City Market Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. They also have stands at farmers markets in Oak Park, Evanston, Andersonville and Wicker Park.

About Green City Market
Green City Market was founded in 1998 by chef and author Abby Mandel, who was inspired by the sustainable farmers markets in Europe.

What began as a startup with nine local farmers next to the Chicago Theatre has grown to become one of Chicago's largest green farmers market with about 60 vendors. They set up by the Lincoln Park Zoo at 1790 N. Clark St.

List of Green City Market Vendors.

All vendors at Green City Market have to be certified green by a third party such as USDA Certified Organic, Certified Naturally Grown, and American Grassfed Association.

Benigno said that what sets this market apart from others is the education component. Green City Market offers chef demonstrations where local chefs use locally produced seasonal ingredients from the market. It also has the Savor the Seasons Tasting series that promotes in-season produce and fruits. Plus, Green City Market has an edible garden at the Lincoln Park Zoo where kids and adults can get a hands-on gardening education.

For a full list of Green City Market programs and events, visit their calendar at

The outdoor market is open from May 4, to Oct. 29. The market moves indoor from November until April at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's eco-lot.

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