Last week, the village council did something it hadn’t done in more than a century: It drove the last farmer out of town.
Jessica Rinks decided after the meeting that with planting season upon her and the council in a peculiar self-made box, she had to grab an immediate opportunity and move her Purple Leaf Farm (a tiny farmette, actually) to a welcoming location in Elgin.
At issue was the council’s signal that they would not grant Forest Parker Rinks a renewal on her lease of a small plot of village-owned land at the Altenheim which she used last year to grow flowers and vegetables. Locals knew her not from her small space in the wilds of the Altenheim property but from the produce she brought to the Forest Park Farmers Market.
Seemingly at issue this year was Rinks’ desire to add 100-square feet to her plot and to begin selling flowers at markets beyond Forest Park. Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioners Tom Mannix and Mark Hosty objected variously and, we think, oddly.
Hosty didn’t want to lease space to anybody because he wants to market and sell the village-owned land. After sitting patiently on the open land for 10-years and with a Comprehensive Plan process, we don’t get the logic of not leasing space to Purple Leaf.
Mannix didn’t like Rinks’ plan to sell her wares outside of Forest Park. Why? Beats us. Especially because one of her plans was to sell flowers at the market at the nearby Hines VA Hospital.
And the mayor? Well, he saw this as a precedent for others who might want to use public property for private business. If letting a restaurant tent a parking lot for the St. Patrick’s weekend is a good idea – and we think it is just fine – then what’s the problem with leasing a totally unused corner of the Altenheim for a farmette?
We think Commissioner Chris Harris got it right in an e-mail to the Review this week when he said last week’s council actions were an insult to an interesting local entrepreneur who was embodying precepts – organic, hyper-local food – that are both sustainable but also hip. In this odd process, he wrote, “We lost a quirky little treasure.”