Projects | Village Farm Stand Opens Its Doors
Despite the pandemic wreaking havoc on businesses in the restaurant and farming industries, Village Farmstand is beating the odds by offering grass-fed beef and locally grown and sourced vegetables in a safe and convenient way for the residents of Evanston and beyond. With the help of Bailey Edward designers to ensure the storefront was accessible, safe, and met code requirements, Village Farmstand was able to open their doors this summer, offering a glimmer of hope for Illinois farmers and fresh produce for its neighbors.
The founder, Matt Wechsler, is a documentary filmmaker who has focused on bringing attention to factory farming’s negative impact on the environment. In 2016, he and his wife Annie released the film Sustainable which followed central Illinois farmers’ efforts to develop more sustainable practices. The farmers interviewed had switched from growing staple crops such as corn and wheat, grown primarily for commercial animal feeding, to organic produce instead. Annie, who previously worked as a producer on celebrity chef Rick Bayless’ TV show Mexico: One Plate at a Time, had experience working with this network of over 50 farmers that provided produce to multiple well-known restaurants in Chicago such as Publican Quality Meats.
The idea for the Village Farmstand was born when Wechsler and his partners needed to pivot during the economic downturn that happened due to the pandemic. Restaurants stopped purchasing bulk orders of produce and farmers needed to find a way to sell their excess inventory. The Village Farmstand serves as an outlet for other small farms facing similar issues. Instead of supplying to restaurants, the Farmstand sells directly to consumers, by removing the burden of ordering and sorting for the farmers it works with.
Selecting foods that are sustainably farmed and providing larger profit margins for farmers sets the Village Farmstand apart from its competitors. Food is sourced only from farms that use regenerative farming practices such as increasing biodiversity, soil health, carbon reduction, and nutrient density of the soil. Every item can be traced back to its source and the farms from which it sources its produce from are within a 150-mile radius of Chicago. The Village Farmstand is committed to ensuring that farmers receive 60% of money from purchases instead of the 23% they typically receive from larger grocery chains. Additionally, online orders can be placed anytime and picked up Thursday through Sunday in addition to same day curbside pickup.
As a neighbor of Bailey Edward’s Associate Architect Damon Wilson, Matt came to him for help with assessing the building to be used as their storefront. Bailey Edward staff went on the walkthrough of the building, which was previously a bakery, to examine the existing infrastructure, look for any code issues, sanitary issues, and areas where food storage areas should be located. Further along in the design process our architects and engineers helped Matt develop space layouts for equipment, provided drawing sets for permits and assisted with any permit questions.
Once the pandemic fades, Matt hopes that the Village Farmstand will expand and start to carry more grab-and-go items such as coffee, bread, and pastries. The goal is to transition the store from a place where customers come in and pick up orders to a space where customers can come in and browse a larger selection of goods.
We hope the Village Farmstand is successful in its goal of providing sustainably-sourced, high-quality, local produce to the citizens of Chicagoland’s Metro area. Be sure to visit their website to see all the Farmstand’s new and current grocery offerings.