Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It Lives!

Greetings, Market lovers! It's definitely been too long. The Market is a mere 81 days away from its 2010 season, however, so it's time to dust things off and tell you guys what we've been up to in the off-season.

Have you missed us?

Cross your fingers for a decent spring and an abundance of strawberries, asparagus, spinach, greens, rhubarb...


We've begun a strategic planning initiative for the Market. This process is going to take place throughout the spring, and will provide several opportunities for the public to comment, strategize, vision, and basically help create a roadmap to help the City a)best manage the Market's incredible growth of recent years and b) look ahead to the future of the Market and what it could be. Do you have some crazy, hare-brained scheme for the Market that just might work? Bring it to Public Input Session #1! We want to hear from you.

If you're interested in Market at the Square stats and minutiae, you might enjoy reading the 2009 report, just delivered to Urbana's City Council last night (warning: it's a large PDF). Video will be up of the Council meeting sometime in the next day or two, if you're interested in the presentation of the report and Council Q&A - just check here.

I'm sure you've heard that the 2nd Annual Illinois Marathon is being run on Saturday, May 1. That also happens to be the date we open the Market - run or shine. While part of the race will be run in Urbana, don't let that deter you from coming to the Market - we'll have plenty of signage and people directing traffic to make sure Market patrons get to where they need to go in as timely a fashion as possible.

We'll accept LINK cards (as well as credit and debit cards) at the Market this season. How will you guys do that, you ask? People wishing to use any of the aforementioned methods to pay for something within the Market (from a participating vendor) bring their card to the City booth, swipe it, tell the Market staff how much they'd like taken off their card, and then receive that amount in Market tokens, which are then used same as cash (rules surrounding the use of LINK cards still stand for tokens). Vendors "redeem" the tokens with City staff and are reimbursed the following week. We're still working out the details, but this option should be available at the Market when we start on May 1.

Eat Here gets underway in May. This is programming designed to encourage people to re-think their grocery shopping habits and to consider the Market as a source for Illinois-grown fresh fruits and vegetables when they're in season. Look for much more about this program in the near future.

How many Sprouts events will we have this season? That's right, SIX. More details coming soon. Sprouts has its own Twitter feed and its own Facebook fan page, if you're into that sort of thing. There's also a blog. I promise these places will be active closer to the season opener.

Sound ambitious? Believe it or not, there's more, but I'll give it a rest for now. Or, uh, give myself a rest.

Public input! February 23! Urbana Civic Center! We need you! Be there!