Smile Politely

Summer Market Premiere: May 2016

The weather has slowly getting a little bit better in Central Illinois. The sun is out, the birds are signing, and the trees are in full bloom. You may have even noticed a few sprouts popping up in gardens around town. That can only mean that it’s time for the return of market season!

The beginning of the market season in C-U is always exciting. It’s fun to see what new features will premiere at the markets, as well as looking forward to the all the delicious, local produce the market offers as the season continues. At the beginning of the season, it’s a bit of a slow start with mostly lettuces, kale, spinach, and dark leafy greens in terms of produce. But it is worth checking out the early markets for locally produced meats, eggs and cheeses, as well as baked goods and craft items.There might also be carrots, onions and some hydroponic tomatoes if you check out the early markets; but as the season takes off, more produce will become available including melons, berries, peaches, sweet corn and almost any vegetable you can imagine, as well as gorgeous locally grown flowers.  Usually, I try to stock up my freezer with locally grown meat the first couple of weeks so that I have more room in my market basket later for produce. The markets are also a great place to learn more about your community, chat with your neighbors and local farmers, hear some some excellent local music, and participate in community art programs and programs for kids.

Farmer’s markets are a serious business in Champaign- Urbana, so serious that we have two markets premiering this week: The Land Connection’s Champaign Farmer’s Market and Urbana’s Market at the Square. Both markets are unique and excellent, but they are a little bit different so here at market watch, we did the hard work and got the full scoop on both markets to pass along to you. 

The Land Connection’s Champaign Farmer’s Market

This market is held on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. in downtown Champaign from May through October (image above from last year). This is a fairly new market in Champaign, but is has been growing quite rapidly. The Tuesday market features local produce, meats and cheeses, as well as baked goods. The Land Connection is a local organization that works with farmers and the public to educate and enhance farming practices. The Tuesday market is located in parking lot M on Neil Street downtown, just across from Kofusion and Big Grove Tavern. The list of vendors for this market has been steadily growing, so it’s likely that this year the market will be even bigger than last year.  The market features recipes each week and also had some activities for kids. This is primarily a cash market, so you may want to hit up the ATM before you go; there’s an ATM close by in the Busey building on University, or there is an ATM at the PNC location on Main Street just behind the market. If you haven’t been to this market yet, it tends to be less crowded than the Urbana market, and is definitely worth the trip downtown  on Tuesdays. To learn more about the Tuesday market, check the Land Connection’s website.

In the meantime, you can participate in finding Eggwaldo:

The Land Connection’s Tuesday market kicks off Tuesday, May 3rd at 4 p.m.

Urbana’s Market at the Square

Market at the Square is located in Urbana at right next to Lincoln Square mall and runs on Saturday mornings, 7 a.m. to noon, from May 7th to November 5th, rain or shine. The Urbana market is well established in town and draws a large crowd, especially toward summer as the weather improves and the produce is more abundant. Boasting 75+ vendors each weekend, the market features a variety of locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, and flowers. There are also vendors offering hand crafted, upcycled, and one of a kind items, as well as baked good, jams, candies, and ready to eat foods. The Saturday market also features local food trucks and local musicians, as well as a full schedule of arts and activities for kids and adults alike. Art at the Market and Sprouts at the Market are two very popular programs that run on different weekends at the market and change with the season. Market at the Square is a mostly cash market, but some vendors do take credit or debit cards with their smartphones. There is an ATM in Lincoln Square mall if you need one. The market is also quite bike friendly and features several bike parking areas. To learn more about this market, visit their website.

Urbana’s Market at the Square kicks off Saturday, May 7th at 7 a.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie. Land Connection images from its Facebook page. 

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