Our favorite thing about the Plant Chicago Farmers Market is our wonderful vendors! Patchwork Farms has been growing delicious produce at The Plant for nearly four years, and we are so excited to welcome them as a new-to-our-outdoor-season vendor this summer. This post is part of our 2017 #AskAMarketFarmer initiative, in partnership with Green City Market and the 61st Street Farmers Market. Photos provided by Patchwork Farms.
Katie Williams started Patchwork Farms. She was working on a rural farm and noticed that all the food grown there was packed up and shipped into the city. It seemed strange that the food grown there fed the farmers but not the community, and she had the idea to utilize vacant land in the city to grow food for her neighbors and community.
Katie and Elise have been farming for just under 10 years Brittney has been working on her parent’s organic farm since high school, and Meredith has been working in the sustainable agriculture world for the past 4 years.
I think all of us are farming because we see problems with our nation’s food system. We are all seeking to provide food with the most nutrition possible for the people in our community without a heavy reliance on fossil fuels. We believe that local food is a model that makes sense, and we want it to work for everyone, so we work very hard to make it affordable.
Favorite Thing About The Job:
Katie really likes doing the hard labor like shoveling (laughs), Elise loves growing herbs and diagnosing pest problems, Brittney loves soil blocking and cultivation and I really like harvest, grant writing and marketing. But I think we all have one thing in common; we really enjoy the science behind farming; soil science, cultivation, weed identification, etc.
Farming is actually a very intuitive, creative profession. We are faced with so many problems; pests, soil health, weather, business, crop rotation, harvest, etc. and that really gives us a chance to only be limited by our imaginations. We try to go into all these problems with an open mind and find unique but practical solutions to those problems. I really love how farming always moves me to think in new and different ways.
Greatest Challenge As A Farmer:
Quite honestly it’s choosing your individual self over the farm. We all work LONG hours usually 50+ hours a week, but that’s because the farm always demands more from us. The hardest part is to set personal boundaries and put our own needs above the needs of the farm. For example, this year we decided not to go to any Sunday Farmers Markets so that we all could have one weekend day off. But to be honest, it was a very very difficult decision for us to make.
On Sustainability And Local Circular Economy:
To me sustainability means being conscious of inputs and outputs and longevity of products and materials over convenience. Our farm has tried really hard to become less dependent on plastic. We also tend to take the time to find things used and we take the time to share a lot of resources with other farms in a fair and equal way.
We also remediate vacant land on Chicago’s south and west sides; neighborhoods that are economically deprived and environmentally distressed, providing space in the community for outdoor gatherings, native pollinator habitat, and food crops. We also actually just got a grant to build a large scale vermicompost (worm compost) system. We are partnering with Nature’s Little Recyclers and Healthy Soil Compost to have food scraps composted at our farm so we can build healthy soil and divert a waste stream.
Importance Of Farmers Markets:
There’s the obvious chance for folks to learn about food and where it comes from and to build that relationship between the producer and the community. But to me the SNAP double dollar program is one of the most important things! If you haven’t heard of it, certain farmers markets [including Plant Chicago’s] match a person’s food stamp contribution at the market. This way local, fresh, nutritious food is more affordable and accessible to everyone.