Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season!

Happy holidays, everyone. Hope you all emerge from the deep freeze (2 degrees above zero FAHRENHEIT as I type this) intact, and we at Market at the Square/the City of Urbana send along our best wishes for 2009.

A couple things: First, I need to let everyone know about the Food Rules workshop we're hosting on January 13, 2009, along with U of I Extension, the Champaign County Farm Bureau, and The Land Connection. If you're currently offering prepared foods at the Market (or are considering doing so), this workshop is a great opportunity to discover what, exactly, the health department requirements are on the state and county level to be able to do so legally. I'll blog about this in more detail after the holidays; for now, there's more information at The Land Connection's site or this Facebook page.

Second, Market at the Square will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2009. We'll be marking this milestone in many different ways - honestly, Market devotees, next season is shaping up to be flat-out AWESOME - but one thing I'd love is access to photos anyone might have taken at the Market over the years for eventual inclusion (with permission, of course) in an online collage or photo album or DVD documenting the Market's history. The older, the better. Have something you'd be willing to let us use for this community project? Let me know.

Want something to hang your winter hats on? Opening Day is a mere 131 days away!

I can't say this enough: Market at the Square starts for the season on Saturday, May 2, 2009, in the southeast corner of Lincoln Square Village's parking lot. Showtime is at 7 AM, rain or shine, and the season will continue through Saturday, November 7, 2009.

More soon - for now, have a safe and happy holiday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Party's Over (for 2008, at least)

Well, Market nerds, November 8 is upon us... and the first (or second, depending on where things fall on the calendar) Saturday of November marks the end of the outdoor Market season.
In seasons past, when I was a regular (and slightly fanatical) patron and not supervising things, I would attend the last outdoor Market, whatever the weather, and find myself getting all sad and nostalgic for the mornings of Saturdays past. I'd talk vendors' heads off that last day. I'd buy stuff I didn't really need. I'd look around for my friends so I could have someone to talk with as the season wound down for good right in front of me on that last day. I would finally take my stuff to my car and just sit there, feeling empty.

Just so you know, nothing's changed for me. I guarantee you I'll be doing all of the above tomorrow.

Aw, guys, it's been such a great season. Even with the torrential rains in June and July, even with the wacky weather affecting produce availability all season long, even with the Moo Mobile leaving us in August - it's been AWESOME.
I want to thank the excellent Market staffers who got up early and worked without complaint in all kinds of weather, occasionally dressed up in costume for special events, listened to my rambling, and handled patron feedback with humor and grace. I MUST thank every single vendor who sold their wares this year, every single community group who set up this year to let us all know what was going on, every performer who played/sang/danced/spoke/made balloon art, and every single patron who came out, whatever the weather, to support Urbana's fantastic open-air Market, one of the largest and best of its kind in the entire state of Illinois. Without all the players, it wouldn't be the experience it has become for so many over the years - and the experience it will become for the new patrons that venture out every year.

A slightly different version of the Market, called the Holiday Market, opens in Lincoln Square Village on Saturday, November 15, at 8 A.M. The Urbana Business Association does a terrific job of showcasing local art, craft, and produce vendors in a winter holiday atmosphere. If you're wondering who's scheduled to be there, give the UBA a call at 344-3872.
I'll be hanging out at the Holiday Market selling Market at the Square T-shirts and tote bags (they make terrific gifts for the Market nerds in your life), but my thoughts will be drifting toward spring, because...
... Market at the Square's 30th season opens May 2, 2009, and there's a lot to do. I'll be blogging here on occasion to keep people posted about local food events, stuff that's newsworthy, etc, but also to muse about what's on tap for next year. Keep us in your feed reader!
Thanks again, everybody.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Market at the Square, Week 26

Many thanks to everyone who came out for last week's Market at the Scare! It was chilly and damp, but we saw a lot of really excellent costumes. Next year's event will be a real bash, I think. For photos from last week, head over here.
Chef Alisa has been writing excellent Market updates for Smile Politely - this week's column is no exception. There's a great photo of carrots - and YOU HAVE NOT LIVED until you've had carrots from the Market. look for them from several produce vendors, most of who are still hanging out at the Market.

There is a preponderance of squash at the Market, too. Shapes, sizes, flavors abound... but what the heck does one do with these late fall jewels? Fear not -
Culinate has some answers.
OK. This week's Market is the next-to-last Market for the 2008 season.
:: sob::
Before taking this job, you see, I was a weekly-without-fail-the-postman-has-nothing-on-me attendee of the Market, and I was always very sad when it closed for the season. Helming the Market hasn't made a bit of difference in that regard - I'm still going to miss it - but I also get to start planning for 2009 in earnest, which is cool but requires a break. So, for all you Market addicts, here's something to keep you going:
Market at the Square will open for the 2009 season (and begin partying like it's 1979, since it's turning 30 and all) on SATURDAY, MAY 2, 2009. I'll write a little more about what's in store for 2009... after November 8, 2008.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Market at the Scare

Things went so well at last week's Sprouts event!

A HUGE shoutout goes to Jen Hewitt and her stellar group of volunteers from the University's Student Dietetic Association - Sprouts doesn't happen without these folks. We gave away almost 70 tote bags, which means almost 70 kids "trick-or-treated" for fresh, seasonal produce at last week's Market and got a little education, to boot.

Another huge shoutout goes to our participating produce vendors: Blue Moon Farm, Tiny Greens, Tomahnous Farm, Kleiss Produce Farm, Brackett Farm, Meyer Produce, Prairie Fruits Farm, and Moore Family Farm. Sprouts doesn't happen without these folks, either.

This weekend is the last Saturday before Halloween, which means it's time to get those costumes out for a test run at Market at the Scare. I'll be taking photos of all the costumes and shenanigans, there'll be plenty of free candy and cider (good thing we had Sprouts last weekend...), and a couple lucky kids will be winners of pre-carved Market pumpkins. We'll start things off at 9 A.M., rain or shine - just look for the tent next to the City's Information Station. Both tents are located at the Market's NW entrance.

[Poster art done by Slanky Design - they're responsible for most (all?) of the Market's look this year.]


As Market at the Square continues to wind down to its inevitable 2008 conclusion on November 8, I'm getting more questions that bascially boil down to this:

"What happens after you guys are done outside?"

Here's the basic answer:

After November 8, the City of Urbana is done with Market at the Square until Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 7 A.M.


The Urbana Business Association picks up where the City leaves off and offers the community its Holiday Market, which is located indoors at Lincoln Square Village and runs from November 15 - December 20. It's not just an arts & crafts & gifts fair - many of the produce and food vendors you've come to know and love outside head inside when things finish up outside. The hours are a bit more civilized, too, especially with those dark winter mornings ahead - things start at 8 A.M. and run through 1 P.M. If you have questions about the Holiday Market, give Susan a call at the UBA at 344-3872.

See you at the Market! I'll be the one in the witch hat. With candy. Trying not to eat it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sprouts at the Market

Fall's here, everyone. I woke up at 6:15 this morning and it was 43 degrees and the air smelled of leaves and my neighbor's brewing coffee and the moon was still out in the northwest sky and... oh! It can be such a great season. I'm going to try and maintain this feeling through my much-earlier (and probably much-chillier) start on Saturday morning...

...the Market's slowly winding down it its typically bittersweet fashion. We've successfully consolidated operations into four rows and it seems to be going smoothly, but if you're ever looking for a vendor who doesn't seem to be in the right place, please come to the Market's Information Station at the northwest entrance - we'll be able to help.

This weekend's Market features our final Sprouts at the Market event for the 2008 season.

[If you want to read the Sprouts FAQ, go here]

U of I's Jen Hewitt will lead another series of short nutrition workshops for kids, this time focusing on fall and winter fruits and vegetables. After the workshop, each participating Sprout will receive an official market tote bag and can "trick-or-treat" for something fresh and seasonal from participating growers. Workshops and trick-or-treating happen on the half hour starting at 9, with the last session underway at 10:30. Tote bags and produce supplies are limited, so please arrive early for your session to ensure participation! Questions? Email me or call 384-2319.

Next weekend: Market at the Scare! Costumes! Picture-taking! Candy! Pumpkin raffling! Seriously, folks, it's a great way to take that Halloween costume on a dry run.

One more thing: The Eastern Illinois Foodbank kicks off their 22nd annual Food for Families drive this weekend. Check their website for food donation locations and where to send cash donations - you can even donate online. It's crucial they meet their goals - over 136,000 people in Eastern Illinois aren't getting enough to eat, and the number is rising.

See you at the Market!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Market at the Square, Week 23

Bittersweet from Illinois Willows (back 10/25, we hope)

Good grief, there's a lot going on at the Market in October. Let's get started with this Saturday's event:

October 11: Market at the Square and Urbana's Public Arts Program are co-sponsoring a mask-making workshop headed up by local artist Lori Caterini. She'll be using recycled materials to help patrons of all ages create wearable works of art. The workshop begins at 8 AM and runs until the Market ends at noon. It's free and open to EVERYONE, and registration is not required. Please stop by the table - it'll be next to the City's Information Station at the northwest entrance to the Market. Please call Anna Hochhalter, Urbana's Public Arts Coordinator, at 384-2311, or Lisa at 384-2319 with questions.

Still to come in October:

October 18: Sprouts at the Market, the Market's nutrition and farm-linkage program for kids, is back for some education and some healthy trick-or-treating. U of I dietetics student Jen Hewitt will provide a short nutrition workshop for the kids during 4 sessions (9, 9:30, 10, 10:30), who'll then take their official Market bag and trick-or-treat for produce at participating vendors' booths. Produce and bag supplies are limited, so please arrive early for a session to ensure participation. Registration is not required. The Sprouts tent will be located next to the City's Info Station at the northwest corner of the Market. Questions? Call Lisa at 384-2319.

October 25: Market at the Scare! Patrons of all ages are encouraged to attend the Market in costume (your Market Director is already planning hers). There'll be candy, a local photographer documenting the whole thing for posterity, pre-carved pumpkin giveaways, and more! The hijinks get underway at 8 AM. More information is coming soon, but in the meantime, you can call Lisa at 384-2319 with questions.


WILL-AM's Celeste Quinn, host of "The Afternoon Magazine", will be at the WILL tent this weekend along with other station folks - stop by and say hello if you get a chance. There might be a meteorologist hanging around, too - in that case, you can thank them for the beautiful weather they're promising us.

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank is gearing up for their annual Food For Families drive, which happens this year from October 18 - November 1. They'll be at the Market this weekend - stop by their tent, donate some non-perishables, and find out what Food For Families and the Foodbank are all about.

Row 5 has been retired for the season. The Market is seasonal and a lot of vendors end their season after the summer is over, so we consolidate operations to keep the Market vibrant and bustling. Many of the vendors you've come to know and love over the last few months that were in row 5 - Tiny Greens, the bagel folks, Ed the Bonsai Guy, etc - have been relocated to Row 4, so look for them there. If you're missing someone, please feel free to stop by the City's Info Station at the northwest entrance and ask - we can help you find them.

Did you know that each week, a different recipe using produce/meat from local graowers is being developed by Prairie Fruits Farm Chef Alisa DeMarco and distributed both online and at the Market? Plans are in the works for 2009 to make a really big deal about this - recipes and cooking demonstrations are things many patrons have asked for - but through the rest of the 2008 season, you can access the recipes three ways:

a) Check out this area's best food blog, Champaign Taste, on Friday mornings for the week's recipe.

b) Pick up the recipe Saturday morning at the Market at the Triple S farms booth (along Illinois Street).

c) Download the recipes in PDF format any time from the City's Market page (the previous four recipes should be up by this Friday, and each Saturday's recipe will go up after the Market has closed).

Speaking of Prairie Fruits Farm, they're blogging. Definitely worth a look!

Whew. That's it for now. See y'all at the Market!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Late Addition

Just confirmed that awesome batik artist Jill Miller - Hooeybatiks of Urbana - will be selling at the Market tomorrow.

Kind of weird, because I just found my formerly-missing Hooeybatik shirt this morning after months of searching.

Of Note For This Weekend

Don't forget the Bike Rodeo this weekend - support bike safety for kids and stop by the Rodeo on your way in. If you have kids, consider riding in on your bikes! There's bike parking on Lincoln Square Village's south and east sides so you can park and shop.

There will be corn this weekend. Not a lot, but corn nevertheless. I recommend coming early.

Craft vendor Mary Finch, whose wares are found in Row Two, will be selling at the Market for the last time tomorrow - after thirty seasons in the business, she figures it's time to retire. She's been with the Market since it began in 1979 and could probably tell a story or two (or three, or four...). Stop by and wish her well!

WILL's chef-in-residence, Doyle Moore, will be "in residence" at WILL's booth at the Market this weekend from 9-11. If there's something you've always wanted to ask him - now's your chance!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October is the Busiest Month

What a Market this past Saturday! There were between 7000-8000 attendees, the weather was scrumptious, and the vibe was good. What a great way to end September.

Next up - October, the month that best demonstrates how the tone of the Market shifts with the weather. While a major focus is still (always) fresh, seasonal produce and other food, as the season comes to a close, patrons will see an increase in art and craft vendors. Things will look different, too - some vendors will be in different places due to the seasonal shrinkage in the Market's size, and some vendors you might be used to seeing, like Roth's Countryside Produce in Row 5 and Schottman's Sweet Corn in Row 4, are done for the year. Some vendors you haven't seen at all this season, like Kent Miles of Illinois Willows (you know, the flower guy who, in years past, set up with his amazing arrangements on the Illinois Street row?) are just now arriving.

It's also time for special events:

October 4
We're co-presenting the Second Annual Bicycle Rodeo - an event put together by C-U Safe Routes To School to promote safety and skills for kids biking to school or around the neighborhood. Representatives will be at the Market from 8:30 - 11:30 A.M. to help fit kids for helmets (helmets will be available for $10), help kids navigate bike skills stops, and to hand out safety information. Bikes are being used more and more - let's get kids road-ready! For more information, please call 217-398-4206 or 217-278-9059. You can download the official flyer here.

October 11
Join area artists, City staff, and supporters of Urbana's Public Arts Program for a mask-making workshop! The season for disguises is fast approaching! Adults and kids alike are welcome to construct a getup - you can even wear what you make to our Market at the Scare event on the 25th! The event is free and open to all - more info in a future post, but you can call Anna Hochhalter, Urbana's Public Arts Coordinator, at 384-2311 for more information.

October 18
Sprouts at the Market is back for a fall installment - this time, participating kids will learn about seasonal fall produce and healthy eating throughout the fall and winter, and can trick-or-treat for produce from participating vendors at the Market. U of I Dietetics student/Sprouts co-coordinator Jen Hewitt will lead the discussion, which will geared toward 5-10 year-olds. The first 50 kids receive a free Market at the Square shopping bag!* More information soon, but if you have questions you can call Lisa at 384-2319.

*pending timely delivery

October 25
Market at the Scare! We encourage patrons young and old to come dressed in their spooky/scary/cute/crazy/uncannily accurate best. There'll be candy for the kids (yeah, right... the kids), carved pumpkin giveaways, picture-taking, and more! Stay tuned for more details.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Real Quick

Time got away from me this week (work always seems to get in the way of, well, work)!

The U of I football game isn't at home, so all of C-U will be looking for something to do. I have just the thing...

Basically, the Market this week should be grand. I extracted a personal promise from WILL Chief Meteorologist Ed Kieser that the weather tomorrow is going to be splendid. All the vendors will be bringing, as always, their showoffy best stuff - produce, goat cheese, kabobs and other ready-to-eat eats, art, crafts, plants, flowers, etc. I'm sure scads of performers will come out.

You should, too - after tomorrow there're only 6 Markets left!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


1. From this press release...

The number of farmers markets in the United States continues to grow, reports USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), reaching a total of 4,685 in August 2008. This represents a 6.8 percent increase since mid-August 2006, when AMS reported 4,385 farmers markets nationwide.

"More and more consumers are discovering the wide array of fresh, locally grown produce available at farmers markets," said AMS Administrator Lloyd Day. "Another reason for their popularity is food buyers like the opportunity to interact with their producers." day pointed out since 1994, when AMS began to track farmers markets, the number of farmers markets nationwide has grown by nearly 3,000.

Keep up the good work, people! Get out there and interact with your growers! :)

2. It's Hunger Action Month - from the Illinois Food Bank Association website:

Throughout the month of September, IFBA will join Feeding America to mark the first-ever Hunger Action Month by hosting a series of events aimed at eradicating hunger in Illinois. Hunger Action Month is part of a nationwide effort to motivate local action to end hunger.

Illinois has experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of working families who are turning to food banks and pantries to make ends meet. As more and more families struggle to pay for surging costs of energy and other essentials, money left over at the end of the week for food is scarce.
Hunger Action Month will enable elected officials, community leaders and all other Illinois residents to join the fight against hunger by raising awareness of the food crisis locally and nationwide. Together, we can reverse the trend.

As part of the month's activities, several Executive Directors and employees of member food banks (including the Executive Director of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, Jim Hires) are trying to make it on $25 a week - the average weekly allotment of food stamps to a typical recipient. You can read about their attempts to eat well on $25 a week at the $25 Challenge Blog.

This evening, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank will present a panel of speakers and advocates exploring the growing problem of hunger in our area and how it's affecting the thousands of families who aren't getting enough to eat. Running on Empty: Hunger's Impact on Our Community will begin at 7 PM at the Champaign Public Library. I'll be there - the Foodbank and the Market have enjoyed a good relationship over the years, with the Foodbank picking up excess produce after each Market throughout the summer.

3. We'll be showcasing at the Health and Wellness Showcase from 2-7 PM this Thursday! See their website for more info about other exhibitors and activities - it looks like there's a lot of fun stuff to do.

Over and out!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Twentieth Market: Autumnal Equinox Version

Cinderella-style pumpkins/Moore Family Farm/Row One

Well, OK - the equinox is actually on Monday (at 10:44 AM, for those keeping track), but who needs astronomy to tell us we're sliding headfirst into fall? Sweater-weather mornings and the appearance of pumpkins, gourds, and all manner of fall vegetables at the Market tell us everything we need to know.
If you're looking for something to do this weekend with free admission, free entertainment, great people-watching, tasty prepared food as well as food to fill your crisper/freezer/cupboards, look no further than this weekend's Market at the Square. Hoo boy. As of this writing, there are 71 fresh produce, prepared food, and art vendors scheduled to appear, and an unknown number of musicians and performers. Couple that with no U of I football this weekend plus beautiful, gorgeous weather? It's gonna be HUGE.
You can look for locavore-in-training Michelle Ryan at the Market, hunting for the best fresh food to help her on her quest to keep her diet local, regional and seasonal for the month of September. She talks about her experience on the radio all the time, and is blogging about it at The Farmer and Michelle. If you see her at the Market, she'll wax rhapsodic about her experience in person to you. Here she is showing off a watermelon last weekend:

The folks from Homestead Bakery will be back for another weekend (each one could be their last; it depends on how busy things get at the Pumpkin Patch!). Meister's Gluten-Free Mixtures will be back, so make sure you pick something excellent for the gluten-free person in your life (the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease is increasing). Local musician Angie Heaton will be out - not just playing her guitar, but also selling bracelets she makes from repurposed leather belts.

Then there's the food:

Join us! We get started at 7 AM over in the Lincoln Square Village parking lot, and go until noon. If you've never gone to the Market, now's the time to come out and see what the buzz is about.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Here it Comes

Gearing up for Saturday's Market - this year's 19th! Because I have no self-restraint where the weather's concerned, I've been checking the forecast a bit obsessively - and the weather's looking a bit on the uncooperative side for Saturday, I'll admit. However, let's accentuate the positive:

- it doesn't look like constant rain
- it won't be freezing cold
- free coffee from Eastland Suites
- there won't be gale-force winds
- Papa George will have kabobs
- folks from WILL AM/FM/TV will be there - maybe even a meteorologist, so you can take it up with them!

Just kidding, WILL meteorologists.

You can find a full product list and scads of other information about this week's Market here (uploaded Fridays).

Also, you have to check out this blog by Michelle Ryan, a local radio personality who's trying her hand at the eating completely local thing - mostly from weekly trips to the Market - and is talking about it on the air as well as blogging about it. She's on WLRW/94.5 in the mornings. So far, she's REALLY making it work for her. If you're at the market and you see someone lugging around huge bags of produce hanging out with a person carrying a notebook and calculator? That's Michelle and her friend/accountant Bettina. Stop her and say hello - she LOVES talking about what she's doing!

I'll post soon about the plethora of programming for kids we'll have in October - there'll be the 2nd Annual Bike Rodeo on October 4, another edition of Sprouts at the Market on October 18, and we just might be bringing back the Market's costume party this year on the 25th. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Farmers' Market Nutrition Program

We've received several phone calls and emails regarding this program, which is an offshoot of WIC (Women, Infants & Children) and involves the distribution of coupons for redemption at farmers' markets for fresh produce.

While we don't administer the program itself - locally, one would need to contact the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (scroll down to August 4 press release for further information - it's a PDF) - we can let patrons know which vendors at Market at the Square are able to accept the coupons:

Kleiss Produce (rows 1 & 2)
Blue Moon Farm (row 1)
Meyer Produce (row 1)
Brackett Farm (row 1)
Tomahnous Farm (row 2)
Roth Produce (row 5)
Clay Bank Farm (row 3)
Mileur Orchard (row 4)
Schottman's Sweet Corn (row 3)

This list is likely incomplete; it'll be added to as necessary.

For more information about the monthly farmers' markets being held onsite at CUPHD or further information about redeeming the WIC coupons, please contact Brandon Meline at (217) 531-4305.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tomorrow = Market #18 Already. Sheesh.

Market Facts:

  • One can still find peaches and nectarines at the Market. Corn, too.
  • The MooMobile is officially gone until next year. Boo.
  • Fryer Tuck's uses Stan the Meat Man's (aka Triple S) sausage in its sausage and egg sandwiches.
  • A local radio personality is eating 100% locally, mostly from the Market, for three weeks*.
  • The Urbana Free Library comes to the Market every first Saturday of the month during the season.
  • Market site maps are available every week at the City of Urbana tent.
  • Got batteries to recycle? We can take them at the City of Urbana tent.
  • The Market LOVES social networking tools. Follow us on Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook - see links in the sidebar to the right.
  • Various and assorted personalities from WILL radio and TV will be out at the Market starting 9/13.
  • There is excellent free musical entertainment at the Market every weekend.
  • There will be special stuff for kids at the Market in October - the Second Annual Bike Rodeo, another edition of Sprouts at the Market, and the return of Pumpkinfest!
*As we shift gears into the fall season, I find myself wondering where the summer went, just like everyone else,'s been cool to mark time by produce seasonality. I've always been into the idea, but running the Market (or, uh, having the Market run YOU) almost requires following a different kind of calendar - the kind that's governed by what people are getting off their trees and plants or out of the ground. That's why I think it's awesome that Michelle Ryan, the 9 AM - 2 PM DJ on Mix 94.5/WLRW, is trying her hand at being a locavore for a few weeks. Lend her your support... and recipes!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Great Suggestions!

Keep 'em coming.

In the meantime, some answers to reader comments on my last post:

@lisa, re: the baskets - good call. I'll put the word out and see if I can entice someone here for next season.

Re: port-a-pots - doubtful we'll get those, due to huge expense for delivery and lack of storage (the lot is used as a regular parking lot M-F, so I'd have to get them in/out every week for 28 weeks), but here's a tip: City Hall, right across Vine Street, is open on Saturdays and the bathrooms are way better than serviceable. No need to head over to the gas station!

@amelia, re: cilantro - I love fresh cilantro, so feel your pain. Cilantro bolts easily in warm weather, though, so it's not really available locally during the height of summer. Look for it to start reappearing as our days get shorter and cooler. I'll call some growers this week and see if it's going to be back on the availability list anytime soon.

@rumblebrumble, re: battery recycling tubs - done! Bring your batteries to the City tent (the orange one at the Market's northwest entrance) and we'll take things from there.

@anna maria, re: rapini, cilantro, parsnips, loose cabbage, etc: all that stuff is coming back into season, so hunt around the Market in the coming weeks. I'll check and see if anyone is growing the kinds of cabbage you desire (I know Tomahnous Farm might have had some earlier this season) - check back!

Re: the flower guy - I know who you're talking about, and I've already been working on him. I don't have a firm commitment, but last time we spoke he mused about coming this fall. I'll keep you posted.

I'm loving the feedback... more, please.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Week 17

Home stretch, y'all!

Whew. I guess with it being Labor Day weekend and school starting and all, summer really is over, but what a summer - attendance at the Market was up, all that rain at the beginning was so crazy, once the produce got going it went gangbusters, etc. Our twin towns are full of people once again, though, and that means folks - especially new residents - are going to be looking for something to do that's busy, fun, and involving food. Market at the Square, duh.

Just because summer's over doesn't mean the Market is - our season runs through November 8, which means you can access fresh, local food until practically Thanksgiving - longer if you hit the co-op right across the parking lot, since they work with many of the Market vendors:

Co-op produce manager Jessy and General Manager Jacqueline take their haul of Market-purchased local produce back to Common Ground's new location at Lincoln Square Village

Here's what's on deck for Week 17 of Market at the Square:

Sweet Corn. We can see the end of the season from here, but in the meantime you must come out and avail yourself of a for-now plentiful sweet corn supply. Two major vendors I spoke with are planning on bringing large loads, so there should be plenty, even for the late crowd. Sick of eating it (is such a thing possible?)? Boil it, cut it off the cob, and freeze it in freezer bags. It tastes wicked good in January.

The season's last Moo Mobile. If you haven't tried the homemade ice cream from the Sidney Dairy Barn's Moo Mobile, this is the weekend to give it a shot, because after this Saturday, they're gone from the Market until next year. The chocolate is my fave, and the ice cream sandwiches have been a huge hit with the younger set. The Moo Mobile is in row five - you can't miss it.

Bagels and granola. It's not easy to find a good bagel in this town lately, but if you're not above toasting your own, Stewart's bagels will make you happy, indeed. Their granola/granola bars are powerfully good, too. They're also in row five, but they're only at the Market every other week.

Rain barrels. It's been unspeakably dry here for weeks - which, considering how wet it was earlier this year, seems to be a particularly cruel joke - and the water rates are going up, up, up. Maybe it's time to invest in one of these? If you visit Austin and Sarah, whose booth is in row 4 at the south end, they'll tell you how the barrels work and give you testimonials from local folks who've installed them and use them.

Weather forecast from the WILL guys is looking positive. Hopefully we'll see you there!

One more thing - I need some feedback. What do wish you could find at the Market that you've seen at other markets? Leave a comment or email me. Thanks!

Friday, August 22, 2008

They're Back

No, not the poltergeists - the students! The University of Illinois students are back (or, in the case of freshmen, are here for the first time)! Official Move-In Day was yesterday; Townie Summer is OVAH.

They picked a good weekend to get everyone back here - there's a lot going on in Urbana. To wit:

  1. Common Ground Food Co-op, whose new location is in Lincoln Square Village right next to the Market, will be opening its doors to the public for the first time in its history on Saturday morning at 8 AM. Members get a sneak peek from 5-8 PM Friday. [Hint: if you haven't become a member yet, Friday evening would be a great time to join.]

  2. The Urbana Sweet Corn Festival is getting started Friday evening and will go all day and well into the evening Saturday in downtown Urbana. There'll be tons of food, (not just corn), kids' activities, art and craft vendors, an auto show, and FOGHAT, people. Foghat takes the main stage on Saturday night at 9 PM. You've heard them - "slow ride/take it easy". Rock n Roll!

  3. Urbana's Market at the Square sashays into its 16th week. We'll have a little of some things (we're at the end of berries and nearing the end of peaches, apples are starting to come in, come early for salad mixes) and a lot of others (still plenty of sweet corn, natch, and tomatoes are coming on strong) and tons in between. If the weather holds we'll have plenty of music (listen for Rodney George Peacock's awesome flute if you come early!).

Just a quick note - Meister's Gluten-Free Mixtures and Baked Goods will be at the Market this weekend. These folks are proof positive that gluten-free pastries and other yummies, done right, taste AWESOME. Go visit them at the south end of Row Four!

WILL-AM weather forecast: Looks like the rain will hold off until late afternoon. See you guys there - I'm the one with the ponytail running around. Say hi!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Out to Dinner

As a market manager, I love it when one of the Market's produce vendors diversifies - when they add a little something to their repertoire that differentiates them from other growers. Going organic is an example; so is offering heritage turkeys for the holiday season, or growing varieties of fruits or vegetables that no one else is. All of our vendors have a lot to offer and try hard to do something different each season.

This year, Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery (north end of Row Four) are diversifying their already-unique operation (they're t
he first farmstead cheesemaking facility in Illinois; farmstead means that they only use the milk produced from their goats to make their cheeses) by offering "Dinners on the Farm".

"Dinners on the Farm" are also "Dinners From the Farm". The hook here, besides physically having dinner on Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband's farm...

... is that you also get to eat food sourced directly FROM their farm, or darn close. It's not just goats and goat cheese at Prairie Fruits, you see - they grow many varieties of several fruits, keep a good-size vegetable garden, and are friendly with people who produce what they don't - meat and certain vegetables.

Prairie Fruits employs Culinary Institute of America-trained Chef Alisa DeMarco to preside over the cooking for these dinners. I can tell you from personal experience that the meal is divine - un-fussy but of the highest quality in terms of taste and preparation - and the experience as a whole is terrific. It's dinner the way most of us never eat any more. You're dining al fresco, you bring your own wine, you have conversation during and between courses; you're "having dinner" for a few HOURS.

The next dinner on the farm will be this Saturday, August 16. Space is limited to 40 (please call Leslie at 217-643-2314 to see if the dinner is sold out), and cost is $65/person for 5 courses. Guests are asked to arrive at 4 PM for hors d'oeuvres and drinks, with dinner beginning at 5 PM and lasting until about 8 PM
. See menu in photo above for details.

If it is sold out? Not to worry. There'll be several more dinners on the farm this fall.

*****EDITED TO ADD:***** It looks like August 16 is sold out. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery updated its website overnight (looks fantastic!), and you can now reserve places for the other dinners here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shirts, Sprouts, Sun, etc

Sorry about the hiatus - I've been working hard, I swear.

First - we got our Market shirts in last week. AWESOME, because I was running out of cool shirts to wear on Saturday mornings. Smartly designed by Slanky Designs and patiently hand-screened (and ironed, I found out) by those fine folks at VineRipe Tees, these shirts are American Apparel 100% organic natural cotton, screened in non-toxic ink (green for the girls, brown for the boys), and fit like a dream. All this for $13! Here's what they look like, modeled by a young, safety-minded Market patron:

The back says, "Something fresh in every corner" and has a little chick on it. Aw!

Then I worked with a SuperVolunteer (tm)/U of I dietetics student named Jen Hewitt to develop Sprouts at the Market - Market programming geared toward kids. The first session is this Saturday, August 9. There's a little nutrition lesson involved, and a little meet-your-farmer exercise, and a tour of the Market, and some produce sampling at the end. It's a great way to make trying fruits and vegetables fun for the sprouts among us. If you're interested in bringing your 5-12 year-old to the Market to participate, please come to the City tent at either 9 AM or 10:30 AM to catch one of the tours. After each tour, every participating child will receive a sample pack of donated yummies from participating vendors. Come early to make sure you get a spot! If you have any questions, please call 217-384-2319, or email me.

Here's another cool happening at the Market this weekend - the guys at the southeast corner of the Market - Papa George (prepared Greek and other foods), Pasta Alley (handmade pastas and sauces) and Roth Countryside Produce (fresh produce from Morton, IL) have combined forces for their own sample event - George is making food from Roth's produce and Pasta Alley for people to try at the Market. YUM. These guys are at one end of Row Five - living proof that it pays to shop all five rows!

The weather looks splendid, according to those wonderful meteorologists over at WILL-AM. I really, really love them when a) they forecast scrumptious weather and b) they're right about it.

See you at the Market!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Easy Like Saturday Morning

There's something about the entire Market at the Square experience - and yes, it's an experience, especially if you come for the food and hang around for whatever transpires between the organic salad mix and the Moo-Mobile - that makes it just like a huge special event, only it happens every weekend for 27 weeks, has free admission, AND gently encourages activities one might not run into at a one-time festival or other event.

What kind of activities, you ask?

How about buying food from local growers, supporting your local economy and your local grower in the process (not to mention developing a closer relationship with your food, reveling in its color and freshness)?

Plums from Meyer Produce, Villa Grove, IL

You can purchase wares from many local artisans (again, supporting that local economy and getting something one-of-a-kind, to boot):

Batik by Jill Miller of Hooey Batiks (back at the Market August 16)

Local musicians come and perform for patrons, free of charge:

Gypsy Soul performs at the Market

Throw in the various and sundry community groups that come to inform and educate, PLUS the chances you'll run into someone you know that you haven't seen for awhile and will want to catch up with AND excellent people-watching... and you have yourself an awesome, community-oriented, not business-as-usual venue to take yourself (and your family, friends, etc) for breakfast, coffee, entertainment, conversation and, of course, fresh produce, all summer long and well into the fall.

Hope you can join us this weekend - the
weather's looking mostly decent and the produce is in full swing!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Note to U of I Basketball Coach Bruce Weber

... and all other Market shoppers on the hunt: If it's sweet corn you're looking for, it pays to get to the Market before 10 AM.

Market at the Square features corn from 4 vendors this year - Kleiss Produce from Tuscola has the truck at the north end of row 1; Schottman Sweet Corn (above) out of Effingham has the two red pickup trucks in row 3; Roth Countryside Produce out of Morton are the south end of row 5, and Triple S Farms from Stewardson has organic sweet corn in the row along Illinois Avenue on the south end of the Market.

Just, you know, a little inside scoop.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Guess what? Some good (though muggy) weather MIGHT MAYBE POSSIBLY be on the way for the Market. Maybe. Possibly.

How do I know this, you ask? Because the fine folks at WILL-AM are giving Market weather forecasts during their "Talk to the Meteorologist" segments, which air on Friday mornings near the top of the hour. I know it seems weird, but people love their on-air meteorologists around here, and when they've showed up at the Market in the past, people have gone, well, a little nuts. To that end, I'm trying to get those guys to pay us a visit one of these mornings at the Market - details forthcoming soon, I hope - but in the meantime, we certainly appreciate the forecasts. It's been a wild weather year, that's for sure.

Fabulous, fabulous food at the Market this weekend:

This is my favorite time of year for fruit, and tomorrow will not disappoint those of us who dig (pick?) the stone fruits and berries. Look for peaches and/or nectarines in almost every row, and you're probably going to see some luscious blackberries in the row along Illinois Street.

Sweet corn will be in abundance this weekend. My favorite way to do corn, courtesy my Oma:

1. Purchase corn at Market, if you can't pick it out of your own field (my grandparents were farmers). The less time your corn sits after it's been picked, the sweeter and more tender it'll be.
2. Put water on to boil. Put a little milk in the water, too.
3. Shuck corn and compost stalks, silk, and husks if you can.
4. Place corn in boiling milk/water for no more than 3-4 minutes.
5. Remove from water with tongs, place on plate, go fetch the butter and salt, and EAT.

See you there - I'll be the one watching the sky with a suspicious eye.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sweet Corn O' Mine

Potatoes from Roth Countryside Produce, near Peoria, IL

The first sweet corn of the season will be in full effect at the Market tomorrow.

Sure, the forecast might have a teensy-tiny little bit of rain in it, but don't let that stop you - the Market is bursting at the seams with excellent fresh & local produce. This week also heralds a headlong rush into stone fruit season, with peaches and nectarines in abundance. We're starting to see potatoes and green beans in greater supply, too, so make sure you come and get yours for the week's eating. Don't forget your eggs, meats, and goat cheese, if you eat them - we have the best selection and highest quality around.

A reminder: If you ever have any questions about how something was raised or made, ask your farmer/vendor - they're there to answer your questions.

Bring an umbrella, just in case - we'll see you there, dressed for the weather (whatever it is).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Looks Are Everything

Photos of the previous week's Market are posted here every Monday.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Shop Five Rows!

We're gearing up for an excellent Market tomorrow - see Alisa DeMarco's wonderful piece in yesterday's Smile Politely for some ideas regarding what to do with all the dang food that's out there, especially poultry.

Just a quick note, too, to encourage you shoppers to shop all five rows of the Market! There's produce in all five rows this year, and while the first two rows near the Market entrances house some produce vendors who've been at this for decades (!) now, there are so many "new" folks in the other rows selling top-notch produce, meats, cheeses, art and crafts, and baked goods that it would be a shame to miss them. While some producers didn't return this year (Where are you, Bison Guy?), new ones (bagels in Row 5! Rain barrels in Row 4!) have stepped up to make the Market an even more diverse, educational, and entertaining Saturday destination.

Stop by the City tent for a site map (new ones generated weekly) or just to say hi - we love to answer questions and accept feedback.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Absolutely Peachy

Mileur Orchard was out with the first round of peaches and apricots at the June 28 Market - look for more vendors to have more of both (plus other fruits) this weekend.

I don't know... I'm thinking pie. How about you?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Come On Over...

.... the food is FINE.

This week heralds the beginning of the next phase in produce at the Market - the arrival of stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, cherries) from various parts of Illinois, as well as the arrival of a wider variety of vegetables. For a complete produce list, head over to the City's Weekly Market page - that's where you'll get the, uh, dirt on the weather forecast for Saturday morning, as well as produce and other food availability.

Speaking of weather, here are a few tips regarding shopping at the Market in tricky summer weather:

1. The Market goes on rain or shine every Saturday during the season!

2. Come prepared if the forecast looks dicey - bring an umbrella, a poncho or raincoat, and some boots or other waterproof shoes if squishy shoes weird you out.

3. Some vendors opt out of attending on rainy days. Stop by the City's tent to get up-to-date information about who's at the Market and who isn't on a rainy day.

4. If you're caught in the rain while shopping, you can huddle under either City tent (at the NW and NE corners of the Market), or see if a vendor has room for you. Very often, things rain themselves out after a few minutes and people resume shopping:

Also, tomorrow's Market will be going on while the folks from Fluid Motion Productions prepare for the first annual Blues, Brews, and BBQ festival, which is happening from 11:30 AM-10 PM in the parking lot directly south of Lincoln Square Village. Come out and help Urbana celebrate its 175th birthday, y'all - there'll be BBQ, beer and other beverages, and some very well-known blues talent - Lonnie Brooks headlines. Click here for more info about the Festival.

See you tomorrow, weather or no weather.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Do I Do With It?

Well, there are two different answers to the question in regards to Market at the Square:

We brought our "toters" to the Market for the season last week, so if your question has to do with waste, i.e. "I just had this smoothie and have this plastic cup - what do I do with it?" here's the answer:

We encourage all patrons to put recyclables - paper, cardboard, and most plastics - into the recycling bins, and all trash into the trash barrels. Many thanks to Courtney Rushforth, the City's Recycling Coordinator, for getting us the toters and developing increased signage.

If your question has to do with food, like, "What the heck is kohlrabi and what do I do with it?", there are a couple of books regarding seasonal produce that you might want to have a look at.

The Real Dirt on Vegetables: Farmer John's Cookbook is one of the best books out there for dealing with seasonal produce. Farmer John Peterson owns and operates Angelic Organics just outside Chicago. These folks run a huge CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation and routinely send out newsletters to their members offering tips about how to prepare the food that comes in members' boxes every week. Those newsletters morphed into this cookbook - lots of information about their farming methods included with the recipes. If you haven't seen the documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John, which documents John Peterson's ups and downs on the farm, it's available on DVD locally. Recommended.

The book Simply In Season is a recent discovery of mine - I grew up with the More-With-Less Cookbook, and this book is done in much the same vein (in fact, M-W-L inspired this book), only focusing on the kind of fresh, local foods one comes into, well, at their local farmers' market. The recipes are simple, healthful, organized by season, and way tasty. Available everywhere, including your local library.

Produce at the Market this week: Strawberries are winding down (but still available), and we'll be catching our breath for a couple of weeks before the stone fruit (sorely missed last year after the April freeze (PDF) that killed most of Illinois' fruit crop) starts rolling in. This week some other fruits are available - look for some sour cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and maybe even a few gooseberries. Vegetables continue to come on - in addition to last week's bounty, this week's will include green beans, broccoli, and some "cukes and zukes". A few greenhouse tomatoes will be around, and there should be a vanload of hydroponic tomatoes. Don't forget your greens, kales, peas, radishes, turnips, and other late spring veggies.

Don't forget to shop all five rows at the Market - we have produce/growers in every row this year, so if you can't find what you're looking for, check another row, or ask the Market staff at the City tent - we're happy to unite patrons with Illinois-grown or -made items.

As always, you can email me with questions or comments, or comment here.

See you Saturday!

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'll Be Brief

(click image to read this very funny Baby Blues strip from last Sunday)

The site maps are printed. The weather looks great.

Alisa at Smile Politely wrote about us this week - thanks!

In one of the season's most anticipated arrivals this year, the Meisters are bring their gluten-free mixes and baked goods to the Market tomorrow. While folks with gluten sensitivities will now be able to chow down some breakfast in-hand at the Market, keep in mind these treats are tasty whether you're wheat-free or not.

Time to locate some sunblock - until tomorrow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Strawberry Alarm Clock

OK, after last week's weather hijinks, it's looking like it'll be a fabulous weekend here in Urbana. Nothing finer than getting up and heading to the Market to get your fill of strawberries...

... like these from Cary's Garden of Eatin' in Urbana, IL. There'll be plenty of strawberries to go around, so dig out that heirloom strawberry preserves recipe and come on over! Don't have an heirloom strawberry preserves recipe? You can borrow mine, given to me by my fabulous mother-in-law:

1 cup sugar for...
... each pound of strawberries (1 pound = about 3 cups)

Hull the strawberries. In a bowl, layer the strawberries and sugar. Let stand for several hours in fridge to allow the berries to "juice up". Cook 4 cups of berries and juice at a time in a heavy, deep pan. Bring to a boil quickly and reduce heat to medium-high, cooking for 15 minutes. After cooking, place in glass jars or plastic containers, and refrigerate. You can freeze preserves that won't be eaten within a week. I'm a huge fan of freezer preserving - it's a great way to get some springtime when the season is long gone.

In other news:

- The new recycling bins will be in full effect this Saturday - there'll be one by the City tent and a couple others throughout the Market.
- Wondering where to park your bike at the Market?
Click here for more information about biking in Urbana, and a map of the City's available bike parking.
- Curious about what's available at the Market this week? Hoping to get a site map of the Market? Looking for more information about U-Cycle, the City of Urbana State Tree Trail, the Public Art Program, and other City initiatives? Stop by the City's tent at the northwest entrance to the Market (the entrance closest to Lincoln Square Village) to pick up literature, ask questions, or just to say hello.

A final produce availability list and some news about June 14 Market vendors will be posted tomorrow - in the meantime, please take our very unscientific poll over there in the sidebar.


Monday, June 9, 2008

There's More Where That Came From

And I'm not talking about the rain... I hope.

The June 7 Market, while quite rainy and more than occasionally ominous-looking, still had its share of raindrop-dodgers (and not-dodgers) out on the prowl for fresh, local produce, like the above chard from Blue Moon Farm in Urbana.

It's also a bumper strawberry crop in Central Illinois this year. On Saturday I bought several pints to share with Market staff, but they were timid and only finished off a solitary pint. (Can you believe?) Maybe they don't like strawberries as much as I do. Regardless, the June 14 Market will be awash in strawberries, just ahead of the Urbana Park District's Strawberry Jam in Meadowbrook Park later that afternoon. You won't be able to resist - you can smell them as you walk the five rows.

A quick note to a caller who mentioned the upside-down orientation of our site map in their message - I know it's weird, but the reason it's laid out that way is because the City tent is at the North end of the Market, which is where people usually look at the map and where staff direct people looking for something/someone specific.

Which reminds me - more information about the City tent and what you can find there will feature in this week's Market preview entry, posted Thursday.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Recycling & Strawberries Come to the Market

Thanks to the fine folks at the City of Urbana's Public Works Department/U-Cycle, Market at the Square will have recycling bins for patron use at the Market this season. Look for them right next to the trash barrels.

As for tomorrow... theforecast is a little dicey. We know it'll be warm and breezy, but we're not so sure about the chance of rain. No matter - we're out there, rain or shine, every Saturday, and so are most of our vendors. BUT...

This Saturday several of our growers will have strawberries - lots and lots of strawberries. It's local strawberry season, which means things like shortcake and pink fingers and, for the ambitious, homemade ice cream. But it's not all strawberries, all the time - here's a list of some other fresh produce you might score tomorrow:

lettuces - spinach - radishes - turnips - green onions - asparagus - rhubarb - kohlrabi - kales - cabbage - sprouts - cilantro - sugar snap peas - swiss chard - hydroponic tomatoes - bok choy

As you can see, they're not kidding around with the produce this week, and it's looking like the other food producers will be there in force as well. I think it'll be the first week where a cook can make an entire "real" meal from food purchased at the Market. Give it a try!

More features, like links, will be added to the blog as time permits. Is there anything you'd like to see on the blog?