The hottest month at the market has arrived. Be prepared for an onslaught of produce and summer sun! If you plan to shop the market for anything frozen or chilled, it’s a great idea to bring a cooler or a freezer bag to keep your items cool until you arrive home. With the beginning of school and the arrival of fall just around the corner, this is a great time to visit the market and soak up all the summer that is left. Now is an optimal time to stock up on prepared foods and avoid heating up your kitchen at home, or get some frozen treats that can help beat the heat. The Urbana market features goat milk gelato from Prairie Fruits Farm, which is delicious and super creamy. The Pop Stop at the Champaign market has lots of unique popsicles which are also a fun summer treat. I highly recommend the watermelon mint!
This month market goers can look forward to sweet corn, watermelon, and other produce that thrives in hot weather. I love to see truck beds of sweet corn and dig through the field fresh corn to pick some delicious ears for BBQs at home and with friends. If you haven’t tried corn fresh from the field, the trip to the farmers’ market is worth it. There will also be tomatoes, peaches, and berries if you are craving summer fruits. Peppers, green beans, and okra will also be available in abundance. While lettuce is not as plentiful this time of year, August is a great time for picking up some fresh local cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and bread for panzanella or caprese salads. There are also some tasty local meat options for late summer barbecues, including bison and other free-range meats. In August in Central Illinois, the eating is good.
The Champaign market will feature some great events this August, including chef demonstrations and a booth for brain teasers and puzzles. I’ve been enjoying the music at both markets, but I’m glad to see a few new performers at this market. This market has been getting larger and seems busier this summer. The Land Connection chose a great time to catch people on their way home from work in a great location. I enjoy going to both markets, but I am really glad to see this market grow so much in the last couple of years. The market staff from the Champaign market is doing a great job to pull in new people to the market with grants for matching SNAP and other programs to provide fresh produce at affordable levels in the community. There are also some opportunities to volunteer with the market if you just cannot get enough of the marke; volunteers earn a coupon for $3 off at Dragon Fire Pizza, but it’s also fun and great way to meet people in your community.
This month at the Urbana market, the usual events will take place, including Art at the Market on August 11th featuring music by Bone Jugs and veggie stamping by The Land Connection. August 18th will be Sprouts at the Market. This program is free for kids (3-8) and will feature edible dirt cups as a way for kids to learn about soil. Read at the Market will take place on August 25th. Read at the Market has had some great programs this summer to help kids (and adults!) keep reading through the summer months. Plus everyone loves a free balloon! One thing that has changed with the Urbana market is that the vendors are doing “flash sales” this summer, so if you aren’t following the market on market mail you might want to start to see what the flash sale of the week is. I’m pulling for a flash sale on chocolate croissants if the good people at Central Illinois Bakehouse are reading.
Urbana’s Market at the Square
The Urbana Market is one of the largest farmers’ markets and has been in continuous operation since 1979. The market runs from May 5th to October 27th, each Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.
Forms of payment: All vendors accept cash, and a few may take checks. Some vendors have card readers on their smart phones. Vendors selling LINK-eligible foods will accept LINK tokens, and there are some vendors who accept SNAP.
Parking: Free parking is available in the parking lots surrounding Lincoln Square Mall and the lot south of Illinois Street. Bike parking is also available at the entrances to the mall and at the bike corral area past the entrance to the Market off of Illinois.
Pets: No pets allowed. Please respect the market’s rules and leave Fido at home.
The Land Connection Champaign Farmers’ Market
The Champaign Market is Tuesday evenings from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Hill or Main and Neil Street in Downtown Champaign.
Forms of Payment: Vendors take mostly cash, but some do take cards on their smart phones. If you run out of cash, there are ATMs close by in the Busey building on University, or at the PNC location on Main and Walnut.
Parking: Parking is available in parking lot M off of Neil Street, or in the Hill Street Parking Deck.
Pets: Dogs are welcome at this market, but must be leashed.
Photos by Jessica Hammie