The Farmer’s Market on Wheels brings a farm platform to seniors in Garfield Park in Chicago

For years, green thumb West Siders have been trying to turn food deserts into oases of fresh produce by growing their own cuisine in community gardens that can be sold at nearby farmers markets.

Now, they go the extra mile to make sure it reaches residents who struggle to make a trip to the market by bringing produce to them – the farmers market on wheels.

The focus is on reaching seniors in East and West Garfield Park neighborhoods, many of whom receive benefits, such as Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons, but live in areas where markets may be scarce.

Coupons are only useful if they can be used, said Angela Taylor, who leads the mobile market project from Garfield Park Community Council, noting that “if they don’t have access to the farmers’ market, do they actually get the benefits?”

Farmers on wheels wait for the Garfield Park Community Council on Tuesday at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden in Garfield Park.

Farmers on wheels wait for the Garfield Park Community Council on Tuesday at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden in Garfield Park.

Anthony Vasquez/Sun Times

On Friday, it kicked off the market on wheels with its first delivery start-up, moving produce from a cold storage facility to Anathoth Gardens, an independent living facility for seniors.

“Wheels” is a low-speed electric vehicle — a street-legal golf cart — that can carry hundreds of pounds, travel about 20 miles per hour and can travel about 20 miles on a full charge, which Taylor said she could recharge via a regular wall socket. It was made available by the Elmhurst-based, eco-friendly mobile farm carrier project, which supplies these vehicles to urban farms.

The total cost of the car was $16,500, according to Bob Kobach, founder of the organization. Kopach said this was the first car he supplied to an organization in Chicago and the money was provided by Mike and Linda Mussallem, who also funded the organization’s first pavilion last year in their hometown of Gary, Indiana.

Taylor said she plans to use the wagon for deliveries to Anathoth Gardens with produce twice a month and aims to get to four more big homes before winter.

This week, residents can expect tomatoes, peppers, herbs, kale and cabbage, all of which are grown in the Council’s Community Garden Network, which supplies the farmers market every two months.

Produce grows Tuesday inside planter boxes at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the West Side, a community garden that contributes to the Garfield Park Community Council Farmers Market on Wheels.

Produce grows Tuesday inside planter boxes at the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the West Side, a community garden that contributes to the Garfield Park Community Council Farmers Market on Wheels.

Anthony Vasquez/Sun Times

For the 42 residents of Anathoth Parks, Resident Services Coordinator Curtis Harris expects the mobile suite to be a success. When Taylor has brought produce to the building before, he said, it has been so well received, that more than half of the residents have turned up to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Harris said residents have struggled to get fresh produce, especially after Aldi’s location in West Garfield Park Closed.

They closed it down a year ago, so [the seniors] They should travel all the way to Oak Park,” where residents who take the bus can get to Joel Osko, Harris said.

Taylor, who helped the council establish its network of gardens and farmers’ market a decade ago, hopes the new venture will help revolutionize access to food in the community. She remembered that when she was a girl, the police distributed milk, eggs and food products in the neighborhood on Saturdays.

“Mothers were waiting because they couldn’t get to the groceries much,” said the 62-year-old.

She hopes to be able to recreate that experience again.

“I have a vision for a summer’s day,…sell everything and then I can go back, refill the wagon and drive somewhere else.”

Sam Taylor, left, Nonna Ethington, and Angela Taylor, right, stand with Farmers Market on Wheels Tuesday, a golf cart dedicated to produce produce, at Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the west side.

Sam Taylor (from left), Nonna Ethington and Angela Taylor pose with the Farmers Market on Wheels Tuesday, a golf cart dedicated to produce produce, at Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden on the West Side.

Anthony Vasquez/Sun Times

Michael Luria is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times Via Report on Americaa non-profit journalistic program that aims to enhance the newspaper’s coverage of communities on the southern and western sides.

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