Smile Politely

The Market Watch returns!

Farmers’ Markets in this area generally get going sometime in the month of May, but the elder statesman of them all, Urbana’s Market at the Square, launches first — and it launches THIS SATURDAY. It’s about time, too — with winter barely registering, and spring/summer trying to happen in March, it feels like the Market should have started a month ago.

The Market, for the uninitiated, is one of the largest and most diverse markets in the state of Illinois and is certainly a dominant market in downstate Illinois. This Saturday morning fixture, which runs from May 5 through November 3 this season, features locally-grown fresh produce, plants, and flowers available directly from the grower, locally-produced prepared foods and baked goods, and locally-produced handmade textiles, jewelry, wood items, paintings, photographs, and much more.

Community organizations participate as well, and the musical performances are local, too, ranging from kids practicing their violins to well-known local musicians coming down to the Market to hang out for a few hours. In addition to all the locally-produced goods and local talent, it’s an awesome place to see and meet a true cross-section of Urbana-Champaign’s population, and to gather as a community in a public square atmosphere. Best of all, it’s completely free to get in, and most weekends there’s extra programming, ranging from arts workshops sponsored by the Urbana Public Arts Program to Sprouts at the Market (kids’ programming geared toward young’uns age 3–8) to the Urbana Free Library reading stories to kids and signing people up for library cards. It really is the place to be on Saturday mornings, starting at 7:00 a.m. and going clear through ‘til noon.

But what about this Saturday morning? What could possibly be happening this Saturday morning, so early in the season?

Well, FOOD. You can expect lettuce, chard, mixed greens, spinach, leeks, maybe some green onions, napini, baby carrots, radishes, fresh herbs … all great. All WONDERFUL. But the pièce de résistance, the real tiara-wearing rocks stars of this first day of Urbana’s Market at the Square? Asparagus and strawberries. These delicacies have short market seasons anyway, and possibly even shorter market seasons this year because of the early spring. So buy plenty for weekend feeding! Think of the shortcake you can make! Think of how awesome your asparagus will look on the grill! You can just check out a host of asparagus-related recipes here if you’re not sure what to do — MW recommends the Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette. Look also for lots of flowers thanks to the warm weather. We hear several vendors will be selling plant starts — and some of our farmers will be donating plant starts to Common Ground Food Co-op’s Annual Plant Sale, which is happening over on their patio during Market hours.

A couple new vendors, and other news of note — PrairiErth Farm and Ludwig Farmstead Creamery will be out plying their certified organic produce and farmstead cow’s milk cheese, respectively. There will be a few new baked goods purveyors, including some familiar faces returning with home-baked goods thanks to the new Cottage Food Law. Artisans, both familiar and brand new, will be scattered throughout the Market. Look for community organizations and food trucks — well, Crave Truck for sure this weekend — in Row 5 (that’s the easternmost row of the Market, along Vine Street). The City tent, where you can swipe your credit, debit, or LINK card for tokens to spend in the Market (don’t worry, everyone still accepts cash), will be located in the intersection of Walnut and High Streets — that’s the corner by Health Alliance, near the northwest entrance to the Market. There’ll no longer be through traffic there during Market hours to keep things safe for folks traveling on foot between the Market and various Lincoln Square businesses. The parking situation will remain the same, though, with the same number of free public parking spaces available in Lincoln Square and south of Lincoln Square. Plenty of bike parking, too.

Have questions? Desire more information? Check out the Market’s home on the web. Follow them on Facebook. Follow their Twitter and Pinterest feeds. You can also contact the Market’s director, Lisa Bralts for more info., or at 217-384-2319.

Market weekend! See you out there.

Related Articles