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Farm-to-You Local Food

November 12, 2020 @ 3:00 pm 4:00 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the local food supply chain, presenting what could have been a dire situation for producers. But making a virtue of necessity, many Chicago-area farmers have pivoted to new ways of delivering local products straight to consumers — and companies that buy directly from farms to sell to consumers, eliminating the middleman, are playing a crucial role.

Naturally Chicago is pleased to present Farm-to-You: Delivering on the Promise of Local Food — part of our Navigating the New Normal webinar series. The webinar, which is free to attend (click the button below to register), will provide insights about the fast-shifting market for local food, and allow the farmers and businesses to connect with consumers in advance of the Thanksgiving and December holidays.

The expert panelists on Farm-to-You highlight a variety of models:

Mandy Moody, Interim Executive Director, Chicago’s Green City Market: Green City Market, widely regarded as Chicago’s premier farmers market, lost the end of its winter indoor season and the beginning of the spring outdoor season to COVID shutdowns. But the Market quickly pivoted, first by providing space on its website for farmers to promote their e-commerce options, then by taking orders via the What’sGood app and aggregating product from vendors for home delivery to or pickup by consumers.

Hayden Holbert, Owner/Manager, Avrom Farm (Ripon, Wisconsin): A Green City Market vendor, Avrom Farm started the year with a small e-commerce practice for its pasture-raised pork and produce. It came in very handy when the pandemic hit, creating uncertainty about the rest of the 2020 market season. Avrom Farm not only amped up its home delivery option in the Chicago area, but also partnered with other producers, turning its e-commerce site into a mini-market and aggregating product orders for delivery.

Tracey Vowell, Founder and Principal, Three Sisters Garden (Kankakee, Illinois): In her earlier role as executive chef for Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, Tracey was responsible for buying delicious food from Chicago region farmers. Eventually, she decided to become one of them herself, and her Three Sisters Garden became a Green City Market mainstay. When COVID hit, she shifted her direct-to-consumer business to home delivery, with free delivery with purchases as low as $20. Tracey and Three Sisters Garden also participated this year in the Restaurant Reboot Project by the Lee Initiative and Thumbelina CSA, a Community Supported Agriculture collaboration featuring six women-owned farms and food businesses.

Irv Cernauskas, Co-Owner, Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks (Niles, Illinois): Since 2006, Irv Cernauskas and wife Shelly Herman has been innovating in buying products directly from Chicago region farmers and delivering orders to consumers. With the pandemic raising consumers’ concerns about health, wellness and food security, and with many local farmers needing a direct-to-customer outlet after losing a big chunk of their restaurant trade to the crisis, Fresh Picks is playing an even bigger role in the farm-to-consumer sector.

Matt Wechsler, Founder, Village Farmstand (Evanston, Illinois): Matt is a film maker who connected with the local farm community while creating the beautiful 2016 documentary Sustainable. He deeply felt farmers’ worries about their loss of business, particularly from the sharp decline in orders from restaurants after the pandemic took hold, so he partnered with Marty Travis of central Illinois’ Spence Farm — the central figure in the Sustainable film — to create Village Farmstand, which takes orders from consumers and aggregates products from a number of farms for pickup at its storefront in suburban Evanston.

The event will be moderated by Bob Benenson, Communications Manager for Naturally Chicago and FamilyFarmed (a longtime farmers market regular whose wife grew up on a farm), and Anna Crofts, Program Coordinator for FamilyFarmed’s Market Development and Farmer Training Program, who formerly worked on a farm.

You will have the opportunity to pre-submit a question when you register for the webinar. Please join us for this opportunity to better know your farmers and your food.