Friday, April 24, 2009

One Week Out

Folks planting at O'Rourke Family Gardens in Downs, IL

We're a week out from the opening day of the Market's 2009 season, and as if on cue, the weather has greatly improved. Thank goodness, because last winter was TOO LONG.

While the produce situation was looking rather slow a couple of weeks ago, there will definitely be asparagus, some greens, radishes, mushrooms, and a few other yummy things from the ground at the May 2 market. I encourage you to ask your farmer what their timeline is in terms of other spring foods - rhubarb, strawberries, peas, and later spring greens should be here by the end of May, which really isn't that far away.

Regarding home-baked goods at the Market: These items are still on the "no" list, but I should have an update next week regarding the status of some of your favorite home bakers - I know several are looking into alternative baking sites so they can continue to provide everybody with the baked goods they've come to know, love, and expect over the years. Check back again in a few days - I should have something for you.

In the meantime - get thee to Prairie Fruits Farm to take advantage of their on-farm sales and breakfast for one last weekend. It's not just about award-winning goat cheese, either (though if it was, that'd be OK, too) - it's about seasonal, fresh produce, hand-spun yarn, a hot breakfast whipped up by Chef Alisa DeMarco, and BABY GOATS. Prairie Fruits Farm will be at the Market starting May 2, but the goatlets will be staying behind.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Opening Day = Less Than 2 Weeks Away

... and home-baked goods are still banned from the Market. Last week was harsh.

Anna Barnes, a local who knows about all things food, writes today about this issue for Smile Politely. If you feel strongly in either direction about this, I encourage you to leave some feedback somewhere - at the article, on Twitter, or on Facebook (see sidebar for links to those last two).

To achieve certified status and comply with the new guidelines, home bakers would have to install a three-compartment sink with three-foot drainboards on either side. (Note: Champaign County is the only county in Illinois to require this.) Depending upon the design of their homes, they may have to install an entirely separate kitchen, or use/rent a restaurant or other certified kitchen in off hours. Some in the community have already begun to reach out: Harold Allston of The Great Impasta has generously offered his kitchen to the market's home bakers for use between midnight and 6:00 a.m. on Saturdays, and more are sure to follow. And while this will work for the majority of baked goods — cookies, muffins, scones, pies, and short-rise breads — it isn't compatible for long-rise artisan breads. And, in Alexandra's case, it isn't compatible with her bedtime.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Like Baked Goods? Something You Should Know

This is something affecting Market at the Square directly:

On another issue, Roberts said he has clarified local regulations pertaining to home-baked goods sold at farmer's markets. No longer will pies, cookies, cakes and other products produced in a kitchen lacking a valid health permit be allowed to be sold at farmers' markets, flea markets or roadside markets.
Thoughts? Comments?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Feeling Bookish

Two book-related events of note:

Steve Ettlinger, author of the highly-entertaining (and occasionally kind of gross) book Twinkie, Deconstructed, will be speaking on campus at the YMCA at 7 PM on Thursday, April 23.

Also! Market at the Square has just scheduled its first book signing ever. The book in question is Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois, the author present will be Joe McFarland, and it's all happening at the Market on May 16, from 9-11 AM. McFarland will be signing copies of his book on-site. Check out the Illinois Mushrooms site here. More information forthcoming.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Into Action

You know that snow we all saw this morning? Forget about it. Urbana's Market season, whether Mother Nature wants it to come or not, is less than four weeks away.

Application materials have been out to vendors, community groups, and performers for almost a couple of weeks now, and the deluge of people wanting to participate at the Market has begun.
Interested in participating at the market as a vendor, community group, or performer? Please go here and click on the appropriate application materials for PDF download.

Also, our first vendor meeting of the season will be happening Monday, April 13, at 5:30 PM at the Urbana Civic Center. We'll do a wrapup of the 2008 season, talk about some of the programs and other events happening at the Market in 2009, and catch up. If you're interested in becoming a vendor, this would be a great meeting to attend.

In other Market news:

- Last month, Market at the Square was selected by the Illinois Department of Agriculture to receive a $7,500 grant to be used for advertising Sprouts at the Market on local and regional television.

- Never wonder where to park your bike at the Market again! The City of Urbana is creating 40 new bike parking spaces on the green space between Walnut Street (just west of the Market lot) and the parking lot just west of Walnut. They should be installed and ready for use by the end of May.

- We're looking for a few good men and women. If you're 18 or over, interested in seasonal, very part-time employment, enjoy farmers' markets or public markets, don't mind working out in the elements and can get up early, there just might be a job for you.

- The Market will be appearing at ASAP's Food Film Fest on April 15. The event is free and open to the public, and they'll be showing some great films - Eat Drink Man Woman, King Corn, and The Real Dirt on Farmer John are all on the roster.

Have to get back to planning and plotting! Stay tuned for further updates.