Thursday, July 9, 2009

King Corn

Schottman's corn sign, 2008

Local growers have had a couple of particular issues this season - every season it's a different combination of Things Gone Awry - and those are WEATHER and VARMINTS.

WEATHER: It's been tricky at best this season - a cool start, more rain that anyone really knows what to do with, no slow heat, etc, so that's delayed some things (sweet corn) and shortened the season of others (that last heat wave turned stawberries into goo). The weather has also been a factor on a couple of Market days, most notably that very windy Saturday in May and a very soggy 4th of July. It's important to remember that the produce vendors are out there every weekend, no matter the weather, selling that fresh and local produce. We all know that rain is going to be a potential factor this weekend, so break out the umbrellas and galoshes and get thee to the Market for some fresh food! I'll take a photo of you (with permission, of course) in your finery to post in the Market Flickr. The Market can be fun, even on the less-than-perfect days. Thanks to Kathy of the Urbana Free Library for the inspiration.

VARMINTS: I received a phone call from Bob Kleiss of Kleiss Produce a couple of days ago, telling me that he would, indeed, have sweet corn, but it wouldn't be that much due to the raccoon problems he's been having. Jon at Blue Moon told me last weekend that varmints have been a major problem for them this year, with a second planting of tomatoes becoming critter food instead. Growers all over the area (and in other areas) have noticed an uptick in the number of voles, moles, mice, bunnies, raccoons, and other small furry mammals eating food that's meant for people. As it turns out, varmints don't really care who it's meant for. Raccoons partied in the one patch of sweet corn I grew years ago, and the aftermath was such that I swore I'd never do it again.

By eating seasonally and supporting local growers by coming to the Market, consumers have to roll with the punches. When the cherry trees freeze or get eaten by deer, there are no cherries at the Market. When it gets really hot, it's hard to find salad mix. When varmints eat entire second plantings of tomatoes, variety might be a bit more limited. It's part of being in the community, of knowing your growers.... and you might end up trying something you never thought you'd try. You can learn a lot at your farmers' market.


Yes, I can confirm that most excellent Illinoisian delicacy - SWEET CORN - will make its presence felt, however shortly, this weekend. Look for it for sure in rows one and four, and come to the City tent to find out which, if any, other vendors have it available. It's highly recommended that you come early to avail yourself of the stuff, as it won't last long. There will be plenty more corn as the season progresses.

It's also time for summer berries - there will be blackberries, raspberries, black raspberries, blueberries, and maybe a few gooseberries, so get your cobbler on this weekend.

Other local produce: all kinds of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, onions, leeks, potatoes, peaches and nectarines, broccoli, cabbage, chard, kales, and MUSHROOMS!, not to mention a wide variety of goat cheeses, farm-raised meat and poultry, fresh eggs, and honey. Of note: If you're into Stewart Pequignot's bagels or artisanal breads, stock up this weekend - he won't be back at the Market until 7/25.


Finally - this week's special events:

Art at the Market is back for its third installment of the season. Urbana's Public Arts Program is bringing in local artist Roberta Bennett to provide a watercolor workshop to the public - it's free and open to all ages, and goes from 8 AM - noon this Saturday! Look for AatM right next to the City tent at the NW entrance to the Market. Questions? Contact Anna here or call 384-2311.

Second Saturday is happening in Downtown Urbana from 10 AM - 2 PM this weekend. This event is sponsored by the Urbana Business Association and showcases Downtown Urbana merchants and other vendors in a unique outdoor setting. Questions and other inquiries should be directed to Katie or Alix at the UBA - you can also reach them by phone at 344-3872.

Have a great weekend - I'll see you at the Market. And if it's raining? I'm the one in orange galoshes.

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