Students produce market
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent July 19, 2012 2:14PM
Flossine Phillips (far right) and Nella Childress (second from right) shop for vegetables during the Gary Freedom School farmers market at the Concord Village Community Center in Gary on Saturday, July 7, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
If you go
The Gary Freedom School farmers market is open from 9 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturday monthly in front of the Concord Village Community Center, 5001 W. 19th Ave., Gary. Although geared toward Concord Village residents, the public also is welcome.
For more information, call 938-3318 or visit www.indiegogo.com/garyfreedomschool.
Updated: August 21, 2012 6:21AM
A group of young Gary residents is showing the community how productive they can be — figuratively and literally.
They have developed a farmers market near Concord Village on Gary’s west side. They staff the tables twice monthly and will sell their own homegrown produce in the near future.
“Students have planted three raised beds of tomatoes and peppers that will be available at the market in August,” said Val Carr, project director for the Gary Freedom School. “We also purchase fruit from an indoor farmers market in Merrillville. This is where the bulk of our produce comes from.”
During the recent opening day of the market, plump tomatoes were neatly arranged near a large basket of turnips. Yams and green beans added to the offerings.
Apples and bananas, along with peaches and other fruit had their own table. Various other items were available under a large white tent keeping the student volunteers cool during the 90-plus degree day.
All proceeds go to Concord Village for community programs. “The Concord Village Association is trying to raise money to purchase another basketball rim,” Carr added. “They have a full basketball court with only one rim.”
The Gary Freedom School is working directly with the president of the Concord Village Association, Regina Gaines. They also partnered with Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church and Ivy Tech’s Educational Talent Search program, in which some GFS students participate.
“I was excited to do this with the children, it’s something we’ve never done before,” Gaines said. “With the state of today’s economy, we want to bring some relief to our community. We also want to promote healthy eating, and fresh is always better.”
The morning’s first customer Terald Gaines filled his bags with items for his evening dinner and also did some shopping for his sister.
“Store prices are very high, so this farmers market is very beneficial for the area,” he said. “What a great idea — and it’s time for us to take control of what we eat. We don’t realize how important fresh produce is.”
The idea for a market of this type came from both the students and the staff.
“Each year, the GFS selects a project that addresses a social justice problem in the immediate community,” Carr said. “This project addresses three biggies: one, Concord Village is in a food desert area of Gary, according to the Department of Agriculture website; two, the market will replace community kids who buy candy at the community center; and three, the market will regain a sense of community, where residents will do more than just purchase fruit.”
For the past five years, the Legacy Foundation has funded the Gary Freedom School, but was unable to help this year. The financial bind didn’t deter Carr and the students from moving forward with the project.
“We are depending on community and online support,” Carr said. “We have launched a huge online campaign through IndieGoGo.com. We have also reached back to past supporters and have raised about $1,800 so far since June 25. Our original budget was $14,000. We’ve scaled it down to $6,500.”