The Weird Thyme community supported agriculture service, from Chicago wine industry veteran Tonya Pyatt, opened a pickup site at Webster’s Wine Bar (2602 N. Milwaukee Ave.) earlier this year. Organic produce and artisanal products like black truffle butter and CBD sparkling water are now accessible at this Logan Square staple, known also for its selection of natural and “minimal intervention” wines.
Since the early 2000s, Pyatt has been deeply rooted in the city’s wine industry. After spending seven years with Janan Asfour and Tom MacDonald at Webster’s, Pyatt co-founded Rootstock in 2009, her own wine bar in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. But the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is wont to do, changed all of that.
Pyatt left Rootstock at the onset of the pandemic and started Weird Thyme CSA in April 2020. “Owning a restaurant and wine bar for the past 12 years, I realized very quickly the impact COVID would have on small organic farmers and other small businesses,” Pyatt said. That spring, she reached out to her network to gauge their interest in the idea of a small, weekly CSA.
Joining a CSA is like getting a subscription to a farm. Customers typically sign up for an entire season of weekly produce packages and pay a sizable lump sum up front. Pyatt had another plan for Weird Thyme: to make CSAs more approachable, accessible and affordable: “I decided that mine was going to be a little different than the traditional CSA,” explained Pyatt. “Weird Thyme was going to be a weekly commitment as opposed to a large sum of money up front from my customers for an entire season.” She also noted that because the greenhouses of her, Werp Farms, are capable of growing produce during winter, Weird Thyme can offer its weekly CSA bag year-round.
With enough interest behind her, Pyatt chose the popular Michigan-based Werp Farms to outfit her weekly CSA bag with fresh, seasonal, organic produce. In addition to buying produce, customers can put artisanal grocery items, such as eggs, bread, local honey and truffle butter, in an order. Weird Thyme also provides fresh, nutritious food to Chicagoans in need by partnering with organizations like The Love Fridge mutal aid group, Support Staff hospitality industry support group, Food Not Bombs and Humboldt Park Solidarity Network. Through Weird Thyme’s “Buy a Bag, Give a Bag” program, customers can purchase a CSA bag to be donated to one of the organizations.
In February 2021, things came full circle when Pyatt rejoined the Webster’s Wine Bar team. With Asfour and MacDonald eyeing retirement in the near future, Pyatt returned to the fold as a partner and also found a permanent home for Weird Thyme. Together, the team refashioned part of the Webster’s space into a retail and wine shop selling items such as wine, candles and tote bags to complement the beloved wine bar. Webster’s also now serves as a pickup spot for Weird Thyme.
Pyatt said she’s thrilled with this new partnership. “Webster’s is responsible for the natural wine movement in the Midwest, which has clearly become a popular and vital role in sustainable farming,” she said. “This attitude toward sustainability and farming is another reason I started Weird Thyme. I wanted to make sure a small, organic farm like Werp Farms survived and, hopefully, will thrive when the pandemic is over and it’s safe to go to restaurants again.”
A list of each week’s CSA offering can be found on Weird Thyme’s Instagram page, and to order a CSA bag and browse the online shop, visit the Weird Thyme website. Orders should be placed by noon on Mondays and will be available on Thursdays for delivery ($10 flat fee within city limits) or pickup at Webster’s Wine Bar.
And while you’re there, might as well stick around for a glass of wine, right?
Featured photo: Kristina Alto