Austin Talks | Austin Harvest is looking forward to next season

Austin Harvest, a youth-run outdoor market at 423 N. Laramie Ave, recently held its second fall family festival.

About 40 people visited the market on September 25, enjoying the seasonal festivities which included live music from The Asaph Band and fall treats from star vendor J. Spice.

“We decorated and everything, we had the vibes of fall,” said Joshua Taylor, senior at Chicago Bulls College Prep and one of the young entrepreneurs running the market. “It was something to engage the community. “

Community engagement has been a priority at Austin Harvest, which opened in 2020 after students at the By the Hand Club for Kids bonded with former Bears linebacker Sam Acho on 15e District police and other community leaders in a peace circle where they discussed racial injustice and fairness, and how they could strengthen their community.

This led to a tour of Austin where students observed a lack of fresh food options, with liquor stores outnumbering grocery stores, 19 to 3, at the time. Less than two months later, with 10 students in the lead, Austin Harvest opened.

“I’ve always wanted to help my community,” said Neveah Hester, a junior at Michele Clark Magnet High School who has participated in By the Hand programs for 2 class.

“My first thought was never really to open a fresh produce market, as it didn’t necessarily occur to me how few produce markets we have or how much our access to food. fee is limited within the Austin community. “

What was initially only supposed to last 12 weeks became 24, then 36 – and more due to community demand. The next step for Austin Harvest is a permanent structure that will allow them to remain open during the winter months.

The students received strong support from Aco and Athletes for Justice, who raised over $ 650,000 through a 24-hour radiothon on 670 The Score radio.

“When you see the success of this, it shows that we believe in Austin and hope others do too,” said Rodney Williams, director of entrepreneurship and business development at By The Hand.

“The kids have bought into what we’re doing here. When they presented their ideas, as adults, we partnered with them to make their dream come true. Now they won’t dream outside of Austin anymore because they saw that something can be done in our community.

The young entrepreneurs at Austin Harvest told them about the importance of the market and the advice they would give to other students who want to make a difference.

“What Austin Harvest means to me is basically a change in the community and bring hope. It opens up a lot of possibilities, ”Taylor said.

“Look for people with a similar mindset to yours, but also open-minded people,” Hester said. “If you still agree on the same thing, it might be easier, but it won’t be as fun to debate what you think can best help a community. Get people who think like you in the sense of wanting to help, but also open-minded people.

Austin Harvest is currently open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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