Forest Park micro-farm debated at village council

Calderone warns lease might set unwelcome precedent

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By Jean Lotus

Editor

The fate of Forest Park's micro-farm Purple Leaf Farms was debated at Village Hall Monday as market gardener Jessica Rinks submitted a request to renew her half-acre micro-plot at the Altenheim property for the 2013 growing season. Rinks wanted to begin planting as close to April 1 as possible, she said in the plan.

The village council did not vote on the new proposal, which asks for an additional 100 square feet and permission to market some of the harvest outside of Forest Park at the Hines VA Farmers Market and another market in Elmwood Park. But the council debated the minifarm's future so that a new agreement could be crafted, or not, for this year.

Both proposals met with resistance from Mayor Anthony Calderone and commissioners Mark Hosty and Tom Mannix.

Mannix pointed out that he voted against the proposal last year. He didn't like a flat fee of $100 for water usage and that taking produce out of the village was "a different mission than it was last year."

Hosty objected to the carving up of the village-owned parcel when, "I believe Altenheim should be packaged and marketed for sale." He complained that renting slivers of the property would make it less attractive to a buyer who wanted the entire parcel such as YMCA or Fenwick. "I'm sure they would love to rent the property for minimal amounts."

This caused Public Property Commissioner Chris Harris to respond that no action was to be taken on the property until the village's comprehensive plan was complete. "The mayor agreed to that," Harris noted.

"I never agreed to that," Hosty said.

"There's a comprehensive plan that's underway and I don't think we're actively marketing that property right now," Harris said.

Calderone asserted that expanding the scope and sale locations of the farm's harvest output outside of Forest Park put the village in a position of leasing public land for a commercial enterprise.

"I acquiesced last year but I think this proposal needs a little fine tuning," Calderone said. "I thought it was kind of a cool thing to do," he said, but added the proposal might open the door to other people who might want to start using village parkways or "raising chickens on public property."

"We have a responsibility to walk cautiously as we move forward," Calderone said.

Contact:
Email: jlotus@forestparkreview.com Twitter: @FP_Review

Reader Comments

34 Comments - Add Your Comment

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taxpayer  

Posted: April 15th, 2013 2:57 PM

Yes, Calderone, let's walk cautiously! Wouldn't want anything useful happening on the land that the village owns. After all it's better to let it just sit there unused. Geez, don't know who is more annoying, him or Hosty or Mannix. 3 way tie!

Gina Thomas from Forest Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 7:39 PM

Can I just say that no matter how this turns out, I'm so happy about the outpouring of support and kind words Jessica seems to have gotten from this? I know she made some personal and financial sacrifices for this farm...to do something she loved and to try to help grow our farmers market. The work that goes into preparing food for market is NO JOKE! I hope she's feeling the love and admiration from everyone!

Amelia's from Forest Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 2:39 PM

We live in Forest Park and operate Amelia's on Harrison and Circle. We bought lots of produce from Purple Leaf Farms, and we hope to buy more this year! Jessica is doing this village a service.... Greg

Sharon Daly from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 12:04 PM

@jessica. thelocalbeet.com is a fun name and reminded me of a typo you had in your request to the village...while referring to a water/hose leak you spelled it 'leek." love it :)

Come On! from Forest Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 10:43 AM

Come on Mayor Calderone! You were right last year! This was and still is "kind of a cool thing." Actually, it is very cool! You are just making yourself look bad standing with Hosty and Mannix on this issue! Please get a clue and be a leader. You were an entrepeneur once weren't you? These micro- and urban farms are happening and maverick now. This could be win-win.

Good idea?  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 10:41 AM

Selling produce to some of the local restaurants sounds like an awesome idea.

Michelle W. from Forest Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 10:40 AM

I think participation in the Hines VA market would be charming. If I were in the village I'd green light it then put out a Constant Contact about the awesomeness. People like to hear about partnerships between villages and between organizations. It allows one entity to leverage their strengths by combining forces. My two cents from the non-profit side of the public sector world.

Jessica Rinks  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 10:27 AM

Oops, here is the correct link to the Hines VA market story. http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2009/08/19/bringing-the-farm-to-a-va-hospital/

Jessica Rinks  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 10:24 AM

Regarding the Hines VA Hospital market- Yes this was a market I was excited to participate in this year for the first time in addition to the FP market . Its so close to FP and its not just any 'ole market, its about serving the veterans and those who care for them.. bringing some cheer and excitement to a place that could at times need some cheering up I'd imagine. Here's a great article from 2009 about the Hines market. http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2009/08/19/bringing-the-farm-to-a-va-hospit

Hines VA irony  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 9:18 AM

In the proposal, one of the outside markets mentioned is at Hines VA Hospital. I take their comments to mean the Mayor and Mannix are against relatives picking up some fresh locally produced flowers for the Vets in the hospital. If that weren't ironic enough, (and I know it's not completely analogous) a couple agenda items previously these two voted to ratify the contract for the village to provide fire suppression services to Hines ?" you know, public fire trucks for use outside the village.

Gina Thomas from Forest Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 8:11 AM

@Daniel - I think the difference with the tents for the parade is that the revenue from these businesses stays in FP. I wish Jessica could get contracts with local restaurants/stores. She would probably PREFER to source all this stuff in Forest Park but at the same time it doesn't make sense for the food to go to waste and also, she has to earn enough money to pay her mortgage, I'm assuming. She wants to farm. For the love of the game. I admire her for it because I couldn't do it.

Sharon Daly from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 6:32 AM

Not in my backyard, no, but I do have a parcel that is not presently in use that Jessica is welcome to use. Straight south exposure but doubt it's the size needed. Delightful of you to offer it.

Cookaloo from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 11:52 PM

@sharon, can't they use your backyard for a micro farm and then there is no issue.

Typical behavior  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 9:21 PM

Not surprised with their antics. Divert attention from any real issues in the village and focus on something small that they can bully with ease.

Sharon Daly from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 8:29 PM

Jeez. Of all the slip-slidy things this village govt gets involved with - a vegetable garden at the Altenheim is the danger? 'Chickens on the parkway?' What next - 'dogs and cats living together! In coach houses?!?' http://youtu.be/O3ZOKDmorj0

Alarmed  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 7:15 PM

@ Daniel Jones. You can't put an alarm on a garden!

Taxpayer  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 3:50 PM

Just watched the video of the VC meeting and gotta wonder why Calderone has a necessity to talk down to both Harris and Hoskins and gives praise to his yes men, Hosty and Mannix. He's such a schmuck.

Daniel Jones from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 11:21 AM

Both Sullivan's and Piggyback were allowed to set up tents on public property last St. Pat's Day and that was much more disrupting than the garden at Altenheim. Come to think of it, St Pat's parade and Summer Fest are subsidized by the village so Madison St. businesses can make money.

all the fuss?  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 9:58 AM

Here is a link from the board agenda to Ms. Rink's proposal. http://forestpark.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=3539&view=&showpdf=1 -- First you see from the arial photo in her proposal, that the "expansion" is nothing much. Also, it's worth reading to just give us an idea of what this is all about.

Oh Please no Chickens!  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 9:01 AM

Because my husband would love to keep a couple in our yard! He's even bought me a fancy coffee table chicken book to try and sway me.

Gina Thomas from Forest Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 8:08 AM

@jerry - interesting! I'm going to check this out. We've had numerous people contact us about approaching the village to ask them to allow backyard chicken keeping and we just keep saying no thank you. Also, my husband has said the only way we can have chickens is if we get a divorce. HA! He and my mom both laughed in my face at the suggestion of backyard chickens. *shrug*

jerry from forest park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 11:53 PM

Gina, I was talking about land usage not price supports. Anyway I am very much in favor of Jessica's farm, she grow lots of stuff last year and if certain nimrods get over themselves I am sure she will again this year. I believe chickens are allowed in FP as pets or some such thing. I know one person who keeps them.

Sharon Daly from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 11:51 PM

hmm. my info is from two years ago, as a friend was raising four of 'em - in accordance w/OP village code :) I have a perfect grazing spot for a cow - is that allowed?

Maria from Forest Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:18 PM

@ Sharon, Oak Park allows 2 chickens (and no goats, I recently learned!)

Gina Thomas from Forest Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:49 PM

@Sharon - I found this ordinance once before but can't locate it, now. I believe it said all livestock including chickens (and goats) are prohibited. I was surprised since OP and Chicago allow them. But I think bees are legal, right?

Sharon Daly from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:00 PM

I believe four chickens are allowed per homeowner in Oak Park. C'mon Glinke, don't make us search the dreaded Sterling files - how many chickens allowed in FP?

Gina Thomas from Forest Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 6:37 PM

@Jerry - the government also pays farmers to grow corn, nearly all of which is used in animal feed and food additives. Don't get me started on that! HA No, seriously, I do appreciate the position that the counsel is in but bees fit in backyards and as far as I know, chickens are illegal in FP. Using this land to grow fresh food until its fate is decided seems smart from every angle, to me. Decisions designed to prevent future requests are easier but let's think big! A farm in FP is amazing!

jerry from forest park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 5:03 PM

Jessica, sorry about Maggie.

jerry from forest park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 5:02 PM

Maybe the village should take a lesson from the feds, they lease land for commercial use at nomimal fees. I am not talking a half acre either, I am talking thousands of acres. The comment that this could lead to chickens being grown on the parkways or being bombarded with all sorts of request for the leasing of public property is silly, we don't have that much empty space. With all the cans of worms that been openned the village council I think they need to get real on this.

Jean Lotus, Editor from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 1:02 PM

Maggie sure had a lot of character and I bet you miss her a lot.

Jessica Rinks  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 12:58 PM

To the Review: I had no idea this article was in the works. Thanks for sharing my story and posting the lovely photo of me and Maggie the dog (who passed away over the winter). I'd also like to thank those who have spoken out in favor of the mini-farm and who have reached out to me regarding alternative places to locate my farm, if that should be needed. I respect the concerns raised by Mayor Calderone and Commissioners Mannix and Hosty, but I still hope I can reach an agreement with the Vi

Taxpayer  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:20 AM

So Hosty's alley gets redone this year. How nice for him! Last year the Mayor's section of Jackson got new sewer pipes; now Hosty's alley. How convenient.

Gina Thomas from Forest Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:31 AM

@Michelle - I completely agree. I think the positive marketing that could come from people outside of FP knowing about this cannot be overlooked. That our local government is willing to do this will likely attract young, hip people to shop and live in our village. We need that! I can see the market signs now "grown at Forest Park Mini Farm, a partnership between Purple Leaf Farms and the Village of Forest Park".

Michelle W. from Forest Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:16 AM

If produce from FP is sold outside of the village it will be seen as a good thing. It will paint the village in a positive light, suggesting we are forward-thinking and, frankly, cool enough to green light an urban farm (however temporary it may be pending the permanent use of the property).

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