Gina Lettiere of Loyola University Farmer’s Market

Gina Lettiere. Credit: Loyola University

Gina Lettiere is a staff member of Loyola University’s Center for Urban Environmental Research & Policy (CUERP) and helps manage the University’s Farmer’s Market. The market is held each Monday from 3pm – 7pm near the Loyola Red Line stop at 6556 N Sheridan and features local food vendors. We asked Gina FIVE QUESTIONS about the market and her role with the event:

1) How did the Loyola University Farmer’s Market get started?
The market originally developed out of a class two years ago. The class, Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) which is managed by Loyola’s Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP). STEP is an interdisciplinary, problem-solving course in which students from all disciplines investigate an environmental issue and take on ways to create solutions. In 2009 STEP explored food systems – the impact of industrialized agriculture on the economy, society, and the environment. One of the group projects in STEP Food Systems was to layout a plan to hold a farmers market. The plan included developing a mission, criteria for vendors, marketing, etc. The mission of the market is to support local growers and producers, support a local food economy and connecting people to the growers, the land and celebrating community.  Overall the market was driven by students with guidance from staff. And after two years of students working on the plan, the market was launched on June 6th.

2) Has the market been a success?
A success in many ways starting with the market actually taking place to having community support. It is a small market with nine vendors and increasing the number of customers continues to be a focus. As a new market, much work continues in promoting the market to build the customer base. We have regulars that come in every week which is inspiring and new comers exploring the market. A work in progress.

3) How were vendors selected?
Two main criteria when selecting the vendors:
1. Have to grow or produce what they sell. Some markets I have learned that some vendors purchase produce from wholesalers and then sell at a market. The Loyola Farmers’ Market growers – grow what they sell at the market, harvest produce generally the day of the market and can tell customers all about their agricultural practices. The remaining Loyola market vendors process, bake or roast their products themselves.  Therefore each vendor at our market is a local, independent business.
2. Local – from the midwest. So growers and producers are from IL, MI and WI.

These are the main criteria for the vendors.

4) How did you get involved and what is your specific role with the market?
My role began originally as a mentor to the student group in STEP Food systems working on this project.  And as I became more involved in the planning and due to my true passion in environmental work, it was a natural fit for me to support the market in a management capacity. I recognize the importance to raise awareness about eating locally and seasonally. And an amazing student helps manage the market as well with very enthusiastic volunteers!

5) Do you plan to expand the market next year?
Yes – we plan to expand the market next year. Our thoughts to expand will involve trying to secure an artesian baker that supplies loaves of bread and rolls, a local pasta maker and plan monthly special activities such as general bicycle tune-ups.  We will also work on having a system in place to accept the LINK card and credit cards should this not take place for this season.