Smile Politely

Market Watch: By the numbers for 2010

We’re having a hard time believing that the Market’s 28th week — the last Market of the season — is here already. How is it possible that we’re staring down the barrel of Thanksgiving?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were buying bagfuls of nectarines from Mileur Orchard, peaches from the Sagers and the Eberlins, sweet corn from the Schottman brothers and O’Rourke Family Gardens, green beans and patty pans from Moore Family Farm, strawberries from Kleiss and Livesprings Berries & Produce, cherry tomatoes from Bob Brackett and Triple S Farms, zucchini from Roth Countryside Produce tiny greens from Tiny Greens, asparagus from Blue Moon, melons from Meyer produce, celery from Jerry & Dawn’s and Clay Bank Farm, currants from Prairie Fruits Farm, salad mix from First Fruits, and pears from Cary’s Garden?

Sigh. It’s been a great season.

Here are some numbers for the Market geeks:

NUMBER OF SEASONS THE MARKET HAS BEEN IN OPERATION: 30, although some longtime participants think the Market probably goes back further than 1979. Never mind the details — the Market has been, and will be — a fixture in this area for a long, long time.

NUMBER OF SPROUTS AT THE MARKET EVENTS: Four, up from two in 2008. They averaged about 50 kids for each event. Nutrition and farm info + scavenger hunt-type activities + produce tasting + enthusiastic dietetics student volunteers = happy kids and caregivers.

DOLLAR AMOUNT OF GRANT MONEY AWARDED TO THE MARKET FOR 2010 PROGRAMMING: $15,000. The money will go toward advertising the Market’s new Eat Here programming, which will focus on educating all local eaters about the merits of adding their local farmers’ market to their grocery shopping route. Stay tuned for more information.

NUMBER OF RAIN DAYS: Two, down from nine in 2008. This does not mean the weather didn’t factor into Market activities or attendance, however. A windy/cloudy/foggy/chilly September and October definitely affected patron and vendor attendance.

TOTAL NUMBER OF REGISTERED VENDORS: 174, an all-time record.

AVERAGE WEEKLY PATRON ATTENDANCE: 6,400 (estimated), also a record.

NUMBER OF “HOME” BAKERS THAT DROPPED OUT OF THE MARKET DUE TO STEPPED-UP ENFORCEMENT OF STATE RULES: Zero. The local restaurant and church kitchen communities stepped up and offered their spaces to bakers in need. It remains to be seen, however, how many small-batch food producers come to the Market next season

NUMBER OF WEEKS THE HULA HOOP PEOPLE CAME OUT: Five. We wish they’d come out for a few more; seeing Market patrons of all ages try their hand (hips?) at hula-hooping made for excellent people-watching. Also, watching shoppers carry their brand-new hula hoops through the Market along with their fresh fruits and vegetables was, well, not something you saw every week.

NUMBER OF VARIETIES OF HEIRLOOM TOMATO GROWN BY BLUE MOON FARM THIS YEAR: Thirty. Some growers branched out this season and experimented a bit with different varieties of produce. If they grow it, will you come?

NUMBER OF VENDORS THAT BROUGHT ILLINOIS-GROWN BANANAS TO THE MARKET IN 2009: One. That’d be Jeff Meyer, the Market’s resident mad scientist. He also grew mangoes, citrus trees, sugar cane, and other tropicals in his greenhouse. Ask him about it — he’s at the south end of Row One.

NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS THE MARKET HAS ON TWITTER: 379. You can follow the Market here — we hear there’ll be off-season tweeting.

NUMBER OF PEOPLE FOLLOWING THE MARKET ON FACEBOOK: 1,404. Lots of info, photos, and updates — even in the off-season.

NUMBER OF PHOTOS POSTED TO THE MARKET’S FLICKR PAGE: 473, posted from 2008 and 2009. Find them here.

The Market might be small this weekend (just three rows, but packed in pretty well), but it is mighty. Here’s a list of available produce:

apples, cilantro, celeriac, leeks, onions, heirloom potatoes, tomatoes (?), fresh carrots, chard, cabbages, lettuces and salad mixes, spinach, green onions, green beans, okra, eggplant, hot & sweet peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squashes (including pumpkins) – also, locally-raised meat and eggs, award-winning goat cheese, honey, and much more

Some of the very same vendors you’ve come to know and love over 2009’s Market at the Square season will be doing their thing at the Urbana Business Association’s Holiday Market, which gets underway on Saturday, November 14 at 8 a.m. in Lincoln Square Mall and runs every Saturday through December 19.

And for those of you already looking forward to next season — it launches on May 1, 2010 at 7 a.m. in our same location.

See you out there!

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