James Grevious had never planted a garden before, let alone run a farmers’ market. But this 38-year-old father of three is successfully doing both and plans to keep the momentum of good, clean food going in his Aurora neighborhood.
“As far as Aurora goes, people actively need access to healthy food,” he says. “I spoke to Mo Betta’ Green [Marketplace], and I wanted to bring something like that to Aurora and follow in her footsteps.”
So Grevious founded his own business, Rebel Marketplace, a monthly, seasonal farmers’ and local wellness market that opened this past spring in Aurora’s Del Mar Park at 312 Del Mar Circle. Under the slogan “Feeding our community, one garden at a time,” this small market started with a lot of gumption on Grevious’s part after his several years running his own urban farm project, Rebels in the Garden. But between COVID-19 and an initial permit denial from city officials, the public market almost didn’t happen.
Rebels in the Garden urban farm in Aurora.
“You can’t tell James no,” says Desiree Fajardo, Grevious’s girlfriend and a fellow gardener. “I think they are going to say no and if you just except that no, you won’t get anywhere,” she say about the city agencies in charge of licensing and permitting.
As she predicted, Grevious did not take no for an answer and asked for a meeting with the city to discuss the issues they had with starting an outdoor market at the park. He found out that there weren’t any restrictions he couldn’t overcome, and they were all able to work together to set up a plan. Then the pandemic hit and the rules became trickier to navigate, but still Grevious pushed on.
“If we didn’t have COVID I think it would have taken off, but then I wouldn’t have all of this without COVID and staying home,” says Grevious, gesturing to his vast garden. “Also, the market drew people who might not have come out if it wasn’t for the pandemic.”
Grevious can plant long rows of vegetables in his spacious back yard.
The seeds for Rebel Marketplace were planted in Grevious’s own back yard with Rebels in the Garden, a project he launched to engage his kids, nephew and a family friend in 2015. The idea, he says, was to do something meaningful in response to the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. At first it was mostly just good reason to hang out, grow food and have healthy snacks together at his home in Montbello. But the gardening and socializing went well enough that Grevious decided to continue his urban farm the next year. Unfortunately the timing was off and the the Air Force master sergeant and F-16 mechanic got deployed to Japan. So, the garden had to be put on hold.
In 2017 he moved to his current location in Aurora’s Highland Park neighborhood. His large back yard was perfect for the new farm, and by