Residents rally around the Bronzeville Community Market

Every Sunday since June, South Chicago residents, small business owners and farmers have been converging on the Bronzeville Community Market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and hawk wares.

The market is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. The last weekend for the season is Oct. 26, organizers say.

The market on the 4400 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue is a non-profit venture sponsored by the Quad Communities Development Corp. The non-profit leaders are also in partnership with the city and corporate sponsors.

Organizers say the public market in the Fourth Ward provides fresh, healthy food at reasonable prices, helps entrepreneurs to start small businesses and gives the community a safe, vibrant public gathering place.

Coordinator Zuri Thompson is on hand to offer support to vendors, speak with shoppers and oversee the operations.

"There is a farmer's market culture and movement across the country promoting organic and home grown foods," Thompson says. Thompson says the public's emphasis on energy conservation and "going green" are evidence of a change in consumer awareness.

On a recent bright Sunday under the cover of tents, market visitors found booths of products from small or home-based farmers from downstate Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. The bounty includes includes tomatoes, varieties of squash, peppers, peas, eggplants, apples and watermelon.

They also make available natural food products, including Gramp's Gourmet Pickles, Sea Tea Mental Moods, Madeline's Bakeshop and Lou's Gourmet Sweets.

Nearby banquet tables provide space to eat and rest, and for local musicians to perform. The atmosphere is relaxed, with people browsing, mingling, eating and loading their bags with purchases.

Thompson says the market is beginning to attract repeat customers. "The community response has been great," she says.

Thompson said the goal for next year will be to provide more nutrition education for area residents.