Country Financial Brings Agriculture to the Windy City
Editor’s Note: Last year while mingling around various Chicago farmer’s markets, I learned that the markets happened from the generous support of Country Financial. That my locavore habits were underwritten by a downstate insurance company*, anxious to help their farm customers as well as bring their name more in focus in a recently re-entered Chicago market. Last year I talked with visitors to Chicago from San Francisco and Boston. Both commented on the quality and quantity of our markets. It takes a lot to make these markets happen, including some great dedicated staff. It also takes the financial backing of Country Financial. By stepping in with some backing, we can all enjoy a vigorous market scene.
I had never heard of Country’s financial support of the markets, nor did I even know that corporate sponsorship helped make the markets possible. I felt that if I did not know about Country’s sponsorship, others did not. And I thought others should know. I asked some people at Country if they would be willing to let the readers of the Local Beet know about their actions. They were happy to contribute this piece. Let us know if you have any questions on Country Financial’s market support, and we will be happy to try to address them.
The days have grown longer and sunshine brighter. Cyclists and seagulls have emerged from hibernation, and baseball fans await the Crosstown Classic—spring has officially come to Chicago, but the celebration isn’t complete without the kickoff of the Chicago Farmers Markets.
Beginning May 13 and running through October, the markets bring more than 70 vendors into the city. These local farmers sell fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese and flowers in more than 20 neighborhoods.
This seasonal treat wouldn’t be possible without the support from Country Financial. The Country story began in Chicago in 1925. Imagine the city as an agricultural empire of food processing and shipping. It was here that Country first opened its doors to protect Illinois farmers from losses resulting from fire and lightening.
The seeds sowed that day continued to bear fruit. Since then, Country has become the No. 1 insurer of Illinois farmers and further deepened its connection with these men and women who feed the world.
In 1960, Country relocated downstate to Bloomington to better connect with its small town and suburban client base. However, the company’s ties to the city remained unbroken. Thanks to these firm roots, Country reaffirmed its windy city connection in 2007 by extending its insurance and financial services to Chicago residents.
When presented the opportunity by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events to sponsor the Chicago Farmers Markets, Country leapt at the chance. Here was an event unifying the company’s unique history by bringing together Chicagoans and neighborhood farmers. At the markets, Chicago residents can meet their farmers and purchase fresh, locally grown food directly from them.
“We have a history of supporting local farmers and giving back to the community. The Chicago Farmers Markets allow us to do both, which is amazing,” says Mike Fisher, Chicago District Director of Agency for Country. “Our financial representatives attend the markets, greet neighborhood residents and encourage them to support the dedicated vendors.”
As if delicious, locally grown produce wasn’t enticing enough, market patrons receive added benefits like a sustainable canvas bag to carry home their market treats each week. The bag is branded with the winning design from the annual Country bag design contest.
Standing-room-only crowds flock to Daley Plaza every August for the Country Chef Challenge. Celebrity chefs gather the market’s freshest ingredients, roll up their sleeves, and create simple, nutritious dishes in just 30 minutes. Shoppers not only can cheer on their favorite chef, but they also take home new recipes and techniques for turning their bagfuls of abundance into tasty, flavorful meals.
Country serves 1 million households throughout the United States including the farmers who feed the world. Through agriculture, its employees and Chicagoans alike share a common bond. Whenever they bite into a fresh apple or fill their cars with gas, they’re participating in agriculture. Nowhere is this bond stronger than at the Chicago Farmers Markets.
*Correction – We originally referred to Country as a bank. They are and insurance company, which provides financial services such as retirement planning, college education savings, trust management and investments. They are not a traditional bank in that they offer no saving/checking accounts.