preSERVE Garden - The First Volunteer Day of the Season

It's here. The first preSERVE Garden volunteer day of the season is upon us. We'll be weeding and otherwise prepping the garden for planting this growing season.

Images from the 2016 preSERVE Garden volunteer season.

Images from the 2016 preSERVE Garden volunteer season.

We don't want to jinx anything - but we're hoping for a morning of cooperation from the elements. Just in case, be sure to bring layers as well as closed toe shoes. If you have gardening gloves, a hat, and your own water bottle, those items are recommended as well. We will be sharing a small community picnic style meal after the hard work is done - so be sure to stick around after working up an appetite from digging around in the dirt.

Can't wait to celebrate the kickoff to the season with you!

Questions? Get in touch via 

When: Saturday, April 15th, 2017 // 10am-12pm (but be sure to stick around for the picnic lunch!)

Where: preSERVE Garden (1231 S Central Park Ave Chicago, IL 60623 / Map)

More Info: See also our event page and facebook invite. Dress appropriately (closed toe shoes and layers recommended) and bring gardening gloves, a hat and a water bottle if you have them. Feel free to bring a dish to share as well!

Slow Chicagoan Profile : Lisa Santos of Southport Grocery & Cafe

If you look at the staff profiles on the Southport Grocery & Cafe website, owner Lisa Santos' profile stands out not just because it's the first one listed, but also because of her recognition that food and food experiences are intricately woven into people's daily lives. A former Slow Food Chicago board member, it's no surprise that Lisa runs her business by objectives that closely mirror our mission of good, clean and fair food for all. By supporting local farmers with a fresh + seasonal menu, giving an audience to the sweat equity of artisanal producers with their grocery, and preserving flavors of peak harvest to get you through the winter, Southport Grocery & Cafe is working hard to support and highlight the fruits of local laborers. Read on for more from Lisa about how they got started and why romaine beats kale as a popular and versatile leafy green.

What was the idea behind Southport Grocery & Cafe? How did you start?

We started preserving in 2009; the recession hit everyone and we needed to look at our expenses. We were shipping great preserves from California but the price plus shipping made the products expensive. We started preserving a handful of items that year and now do well over 75 from fruits preserves, pickles, condiments + soda syrups.

What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

Planning! There is so much planning in this business; especially for preserving, what is available from the farms and when, staffing, new product testing, etc.

What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

Well, I have two bests: one, coming up with something new that we are excited to share with our customers; and two, a great batch of preserves that started with the perfect fruit from a farm and the well balanced preservation process.

The hardest part of my job is the overall balancing act of food costs, labor costs, and competitive pricing.

The smoked fish plate available as a brunch option at Southport Grocery & Cafe in Lakeview.

The smoked fish plate available as a brunch option at Southport Grocery & Cafe in Lakeview.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food systems to overcome?

A challenging obstacle can be the City itself. There are a lot of small moving parts to operate a business here!

How does Southport Grocery's work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, + fair food)?

Southport Grocery uses good, clean and fair food whenever we can. As a matter of fact, our preserves have won three Good Food Awards! I have to say, 'whenever we can' because we need to offer a competitive price to our customers in the end.

Favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow?

The Infatuation.

What do you think should be up next for trendiest food item - kale's successor?

I would like to see romaine be more on trend... it is chock full of nutrients and it is my favorite vegetable to grill! Grilling romaine adds dimension to any salad.

What wins - avocado toast vs. artichoke toast?

Avocado for sure... I love the creaminess!

A interior view of Southport Grocery & Cafe's dining and grocery options.

A interior view of Southport Grocery & Cafe's dining and grocery options.

Why Chicago? If not Chicago, where?

Chicago is a great city with a great food presence... we have been open for 13 years! It is amazing where Chicago has evolved to. And if not Chicago, NYC. I love that city... but I am pretty sure doing business there has even more moving parts!

Want to learn more about Southport Grocery and Cafe? Follow along via the links below.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram

Slow Food Chicago Board Alumni Profile : Jennifer Polk

The deadline for Slow Food Chicago Board Member positions has come and gone. But that doesn't mean you missed out on your chance to get involved and join this powerful movement. In an attempt to inspire you to take that first step, we bring to you another board member alumni profile. Today's dose of encouragement comes in the form of some insights and reflections from past SFC board member Jennifer Polk. Jennifer began as a preSERVE garden volunteer and her participation grew from there. As you will see as you read on - the influence of Slow Food on her personal life also blossomed (pun intended). To give you a preview - as her passion for the Slow Food movement grew, so did it's impact in her personal life - as she graduated with time from a few sad containers of plant growth on her back porch balcony to a robust backyard garden. Read on for more food for thought from Jennifer!


Why did you join the Slow Food Chicago board? How did you learn about it and what motivated you to get involved?

I got involved in Slow Food Chicago through the preSERVE garden partnership in North Lawndale. What appealed to me about preSERVE was the hands-on aspect of the work -- building a new food-production garden in a neighborhood with a strong community gardening history. As a gardening novice, I wanted to learn more about planting food crops -- and the opportunity to get my hands dirty in a space larger than the few sad containers on my sunless back balcony was a bonus! Through my volunteer work with preSERVE, I decided I wanted to get more involved with Slow Food Chicago at the board level.

What project or initiative are you most proud of during your time with Slow Food Chicago?

I continue to be most proud of the preSERVE garden, particularly the partnerships and relationships we've nurtured over the garden's five growing seasons. preSERVE is a collaboration between the North Lawndale Greening Committee, the Chicago Honey Co-op, Neighborspace, and Slow Food Chicago. Each organization adds something essential to the success of the overall project.

What are you up to these days?

I still go to as many volunteer workdays at preSERVE as I can - and now I also drag my husband and new baby daughter along! Never too early to learn about Slow Food!

Does Slow Food still impact your work, life, eating habits? 

Absolutely. Once you get involved with Slow Food, it becomes a way of life! From that first sad container garden, I've graduated to a pretty robust backyard garden with five raised beds. I'm also a farmers market junkie and a home canner.

Good, Clean, Fair. What does this mean to you?

To me, it's a vision of the ideal world I want to help create for my daughter -- a place where nourishing, delicious food is available for everyone, and all those involved in its productions are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve.

What advice would you give people who want to get more involved with Slow Food? Where can they start?

Come volunteer at the preSERVE garden! Ok, so I am a bit biased, but I truly think it's the best way to get started. You can help with almost every aspect of the Slow Food meal -- planting the seeds, tending the crops, and helping with the harvest. You'll take home a bag brimming with the freshest produce, and feel the satisfaction that comes with having participated in the creation of your meal from start to finish!

Anything else you want to tell us that we missed?

I'm proud to have been part of the Slow Food Chicago board - it was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone who wants to make a difference in the food world, in Chicago, and beyond.