On select Tuesday evenings this summer, neighbors in Darbo-Worthington have fostered community relations around food.
Food carts, that is. Neighbors have converged at Worthington Park for Carts for Community. Those who had previously not interacted shared the same space and ate the same food.
Owner of Shu Shu Designs and community member Jenny Green hopes to continue this bonding, taking it a step further by rallying others to help establish a farmers' market in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood. The neighborhood is known for other local food, producing Off the Block Salsa through community organizer and Mentoring Positives founder Will Green.
Jenny Green, no relation to Will Green, has decided to make the farmers' market a long-term goal. The community organizer has first set her sights on doing a test run of sorts with a pop-up market sometime in the last days of summer, or early fall, as an experiment to gauge neighborhood interest.
What do you do for a career?
I run an independent graphic design studio. We do branding, web, communications, reports and pretty much everything you can think of. It’s called Shu Shu Design, and I’ve been doing that for 15 years. I had a partner early on, and I’ve worked with sub-contractors, but it’s just me for the most part.
Does your business fit into the community planning work you’re undertaking?
Well I’ve always had clients who were progressive over the years, and who were doing work that benefits the community or the city. In general, making things better for people. That’s valuable to me, and I think the longer I’m working and living it becomes more important to me to align my values with my work and my free time.
How long have you lived in the Worthington Park neighborhood?
I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 13 years.
When did you first embark on the plan to have a farmers' market in the neighborhood?
It happened really quickly. I started working on it this last fall because I went to a city planning meeting. They were talking about the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood plan, and they were talking about having some funding from the community development block grant to do some project. One of their questions at the meeting was just, “What do you guys want?” Just off the top of my head I thought, well what if we could actually find the space for a farmers' market? At the time, I didn’t know how difficult it might be. There is a lot about the process I was not aware of, but I’ve learned so much.
What are some of the things you’ve learned so far and what are the logistics to the process?
You need to find your own vendors, and you need to either be your own or have a physical agent that is going to manage the money for you. There are also a lot of city permits and things that you need to get; generally there are a lot of logistical details. I’ve learned a lot meeting so many people that are supportive and teaching me what has worked in this neighborhood and hasn’t worked in the past. I have learned what it seems like people in the neighborhood want and need.
I’m not thinking of it as a farmers' market anymore at this stage. What we want is something small to experiment with for this summer. I’m thinking of it as another way to build community, because I’ve seen from the Carts for Community events on Tuesdays this summer how great it is when people in the Darbo-Worthington and surrounding area come out and enjoy something together in a shared space. There are people spending time together at those events and have been neighbors for a long time but had never hung out together before.
How important is it for this project that neighbors are united and involved?
Being able to work together and organize as a neighborhood is how we’re going to build a collective voice around what happens in this neighborhood in the future. It’s the only way we’re going to keep from being destroyed by a system that is designed to perpetuate the status quo; and everybody knows that that’s not working for us, for most people. The very first piece of working together is getting to know each other, but regardless of what kind of market you’re trying to do, the hardest part is finding vendors.
Why is it important to bring a market to the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood?
People say that this neighborhood is a food desert, and it is. We’re lacking shops, there’s not a single restaurant that is not fast food within our neighborhood boundaries, but I also think it’s an opportunity desert. To me what we need is people working toward becoming their own entrepreneurs.
We don’t have a job training program or anything, but we can come together and create a space where we can figure things out together. We need more local entrepreneurial initiative, because that’s something we’re capable of. Right now it sounds like an idealistic vision of what this could contribute to and become, but the reality is we’re just going to have to try. There are so many things we can still do, and we need it to be built by the people from this community.
Who are some people you’ve been working with so far?
There are a lot of people who are trying to build something “by the neighborhood." Joe Mingle is so awesome he’s been working on this stuff for a long time in the neighborhood. I’m still new to this. He and the east side committee have kind of agreed to take me under their wing while I’m working on rallying the neighborhood for meetings.
Is there a location you have in mind for the pop-up market or the farmers' market if you succeed?
We definitely want it in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood. That’s was the primary goal from the beginning and that’s not going to change. The city owns a piece of property next to the pedestrian bridge that goes over East Washington, and right next to that is the Salvation Army parking lot. We’ve had conversations about letting us set up there but I have not received confirmation yet, so a lot of the part of the organizing is still in progress. We’ve also thought about Worthington Park itself but we would need to fund the permits, and right now we’re running short on time for a summer/fall market.
When would you like the market launched ideally?
We’re trying to do things quickly so we can get our one event in before the season ends and follow along that momentum from the carts events on Tuesday. There’s also the Darbo neighborhood Peace Walk & Block Party on Aug. 24, so we want to shoot for early to mid-September before the weather starts changing. What’s going to decide the location is whatever is most affordable and simplest we can do right now.
If you’re able to get a pop-up market going this summer, what will be the next step?
It will depend on the people who are involved. We’ve thrown around the idea of having a winter market, but ideally we would take that time to find a market manager, and putting a farmers' market in rotation next season. If we’re able to get to that point, we would want a market manager from the neighborhood. We’re having a meeting on Monday, July 31, and the location will be announced on the Darbo-Worthington Facebook page.