As a perk to our valued customers, we offer on-site farmer's markets events. These fun events have been a big hit at campuses and businesses across the Chicago area. If you are a current client and are interested in hosting such an event, please contact us.
Farm fresh produce and support for people with disabilities will intertwine when Rush University Medical Center hosts a farmer’s market on Thursday, June 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside the south entrance of Rush’s Atrium Building, 1620 W. Harrison St. (just west of Ashland Ave.). Crops from an urban farm tended by people with autism and other disabilities will be among the produce available, and the market’s sponsors will donate the first $500 of sales from to Rush’s Autism Assessment, Research and Treatment Services (AARTS) Center.
The 13,000 square foot Growing Solutions Farm, located in the Illinois Medical District on Chicago’s West Side, provides vocational training and workforce development for young adults with autism and other disabilities. Established last year, the farm is a program of the Julie and Michael Tracy Family Foundation in Glen View, which also is a supporter of Rush’s AARTS Center. The Tracys’ 21-year-old son John, who has autism and has received treatment at Rush, is among the more than 30 people who work at Growing Solutions.
“We are beyond excited at this opportunity,” Julie Tracy says. “People that are benefitting from the AARTS Center now are participating in a farming operation that’s selling food to Rush staff.”
Rush’s AARTS Center serves patients from pre-school age through their 20s, providing thorough assessments of their capabilities, needs and physical and mental health, and offering a combination of advanced medical and psychological treatments. An AARTS Center social worker has provided vocational coaching for the people working on the Growing Solutions Farm, who include residents of a nearby group home for people with autism that the Tracy Foundation opened in June.
The farmer’s market will be operated and is being sponsored by T. Castro Produce, a wholesale produce distribution company in southwest Chicago, which is owned by people with disabilities. Co-owners Tom Castro and his nephew, Tom Prinske, both are legally blind from a disease that runs in their family.
An advocate for people with disabilities, Prinske felt compelled by his personal experiences to make the contribution to the AARTS Center. “You can have a disability and do positive things. You can work, you can run a business, you can be effective, you can cause change,” he says. “People with disabilities need to be given a chance, and if this program helps them, I want to participate in it.”
Rush is nationally recognized as a leader in providing access and employment and educational opportunities to people with disabilities, and hosting the farmer’s market further extends this commitment. “It is another opportunity to reach out to the disability community and say Rush is here in the middle of the West Side and want to help,” says Paula Brown, “This time, we can help with creating jobs for people with disability.”
Although it’s early in Illinois’ growing season, the Growing Solutions Farm already has yielded chard, kale and kitchen herbs that will be for sale at the Rush farmer’s market. The market also will offer a full range of fruits and vegetables from asparagus to zucchini provided by Castro’s suppliers across the country.
“It’s as fresh it could be, the quality is beautiful, and it is extremely inexpensive,” Prinske says. “You’re going to have a great experience here.”