Thursday, August 25, 2011

Full Swing

School's in session, the weather is just barely thinking about starting its seasonal shift, and the Market, we expect, will be hopping this weekend.

The summer trifecta (sweet corn, tomatoes, and peaches) is still widely available at Market stalls. Peaches are winding down, though, so if you want the best selection you need to get to the Market soon. Happily, peak sweet corn and tomatoes will be around for weeks to come. 

Other produce - berries, greens, potatoes, summer squash & zucchini, cukes, beans, onions, okra, melons, and just about all summer produce will be widely available this weekend.

[Speaking of sweet corn, Urbana's Sweet Corn Festival starts this Friday in downtown Urbana at 5 PM and goes 'til 11 PM. The Festival continues Saturday from 11 AM - 11 PM. Corn, food vendors, activities for kids, lots of music - it's THE classic way to bid August adieu. ]

Community organizations attending the Market this weekend: Eastern Illinois Foodbank, Campus Middle School For Girls, Illinois Club, Crisis Nursery, Mothers & More, CIMIC, TIMES Center, U of I Nanotechnology, The Land Connection, and several others. The organizations provide interested patrons with information about their activities and possible volunteer opportunities, and like our farmers and vendors, are "homegrown". Check 'em out on the west side of the Market!

If you ever have any questions about the Market, you're welcome to go to the City of Urbana tent, located at the NW entrance to the Market, and ask. Staff there also accept lost and found items, can run your credit, debit, or LINK cards for tokens (especially great if you have the LINK card or have run out of cash), sell you one of our very popular T-shirts and/or tote bags, and can take feedback directly/hook you up with one of our "Something to Crow About?" comment cards. They're there to help!

As mentioned over the last couple of weeks, the Market is now doubling LINK token purchases up to $20 per card, per Market day. More information is here, or you can ask the staff at the City tent to help you out. The program has been a huge success thus far, but we want more new shoppers coming to the Market and using these resources. Do us a favor - help us spread the word about this program. It really is something we're so excited to be able to do, and part of our outreach plan is to use word of mouth in addition to posters and brochures.

Farmers markets have been in the news quite a bit these days:

You can vote for your favorite farmers market at this contest sponsored by the American Farmland Trust. If you want to vote for us (and we hope you do), click on the "large markets" tab at the link above and cast your vote.

Grist asked the question: Too many markets? Or not enough farmers? The article is interesting... and so are the comments. What do you think?

Here's another piece on the subject... and this piece is also related...

Finally, watch this space for more information on an event about the central Illinois food system featuring food systems analyst Ken Meter of the Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, MN. We're co-presenting it with Common Ground Food Co-op on Saturday, September 10. Details coming soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Urbana-Champaign, as we type, is going  from a sleepy and quiet and summery college town to a wired, populous, and still quite summery bustling mini-metropolis. The U of I students are returning - or arriving for the first time - and it's though a giant has been awakened. While summer in U-C is lovely, there's something about the energy that comes with the student population that's transformative. We're glad you're here.

So! New here? Or - returning student who couldn't make it to the Market back in May? We'd love to have you visit the Market this weekend - bring your families, if they're still here! The fresh food, produce, and flowers are peaking right now, so if you're looking for amazing local eats, this is the place. We also offer up a variety of baked goods and prepared foods to augment the fresh stuff. Really, the Market is lucky to have such exceptional growers and food providers.

Oh - in case you weren't aware (and this is good to know if you run our of cash at the Market), the Market accepts credit, debit and LINK cards. The new LINK Double Value program, launched just last weekend, is going to be a huge success, if the launch is any indicator. WCIA even came out and did a segment about it. Many thanks to those who came to the Market for the very first time - we hope you'll be back. 

Local artisans are showing their work every weekend, too. This weekend you'll see paintings, jewelry of all kinds, blown glass, textiles, photography, leatherwork, woodwork, furniture, and more - perfect for gifts or dressing up your living space a little bit.

Look, too, for performance. We don't have a schedule of performers - our performers are busking throughout the Market. You might hear bluegrass, folk,acoustic indie rock, solo ukelele, one-man percussion, and who knows what else on a swing through all six rows of the Market.

If you're new to town and are looking for volunteer opportunities, or just want to find out what else is going on in the area, our community organizations area is the place to go on Saturday. This weekend you can talk to folks from the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, AWARE, CIMIC, St. Patrick's, Community Center For the Arts, Community Blood Services of Illinois, CARE Center, and several animal rescue groups will be in attendance, too. The organizations will be more than happy to talk with you about their efforts.

Special events coming up - Art at the Market on 8/27, the Urbana Free Library will be out 9/3, and our next Sprouts at the Market event will be 9/17 in partnership with the U of I's Family Resiliency Center.

We're glad to have you back!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Farmers Market Week!

We love the fact that there's an entire week dedicated to farmers markets - to the growing, purchasing, and consuming of local foods, to commerce and relationship between producer and consumer, to encouraging people to get out and socialize and see what else is in the area. Farmers markets are great for everyone. Here's how the Farmers Market Coalition (we're proud members) has laid it out:

Seven Days, Seven Ways to Celebrate Farmers Market Impacts
Sunday, August 7thFarmers markets and community education
Innovative partnerships that allow markets to serve as hubs of information
Monday, August 8thFarmers markets and public health 
Promoting good nutrition and healthful habits
Tuesday, August 9th Farmers markets as economic engines
Business incubation, job development, and local spending
Wednesday, August 10thFarmers at the center of the system
Governance and policies that put farmers first
Thursday, August 11thFarmers markets and food equity
Improving access to healthful foods in underserved neighborhoods
Friday, August 12thFarmers markets and civic engagement
Growing social capital and engaging volunteers
Saturday, August 13thFarmers markets and rural renewal
Supporting agricultural diversity and farm viability, while inspiring a new generation of producers

Good stuff. It's all really important to us, but the food equity piece is especially important. We've been accepting the LINK card since 2010, and in 2011 season we received a grant to double the number of LINK tokens requested by patrons using their LINK card - up to $20 per card, per Market day. This is a great way for people receiving LINK benefits to stretch resources, and for farmers and food producers to get their foods into new households. Win-win! For more information about the new LINK Double Value program, click here. The program's debut is this weekend.

[And, yes, that photo of peaches on the page linked above was taken at our market!]

This weekend's weather is suddenly starting to look a little touchy. Of course, you'd never let a little rain stop you from snapping up the best in-season locally grown stuff, would you?

And  even though we're all about the food for Farmer Market Week, don't forget that our prepared food vendors and our artisans contribute hugely to making the Market what it is today. You have to explore all five rows to get the real idea.

Also this weekend:

It's our annual corn event for Sprouts at the Market. Sprouts is nutrition and farm linkage programming for kids ages 3-8 - it starts at 9, runs until 11, is completely free, and features samples of corn in its many forms and lots of cool facts about corn. All kids finishing all tables at the Market receive a Certificate of Participation, which they can then take over to Art Mart Toys for a 20% discount. NOTE: If it's raining at 8:30 on Saturday or rain is imminent, we'll be canceling the event. Stay tuned for a possible rain date.

Community groups participating this week on the west side of the Market: Vet Med, Chambana Moms, Urbana Business Association, Eastern Illinois Foodbank, Sierra Club, CIMIC, UP Center, The Land Connection, Habitat For Humanity, and several others. These folks have their finger on the pulse of what's happening in our area, and are especially good resources if you're looking for volunteer opportunities this fall. Check them out!

Finally, a warm welcome/welcome back to U of I students and faculty. Best wishes for a great semester - we hope to see you out at the Market each Saturday through November 5!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Spice of Life

Variety, that is. And we have it at the Market this weekend (well, and every weekend!):

We're so lucky to have all these farmers and creators and entrepreneurs coming to the Market and offering up this gorgeous food and these lovely works of art.

Quickly, because this post is late - we want to announce that the Market very recently won a LINK UP Illinois grant to start doubling the value of LINK token purchases at the Market - up to $20 per card per Market day. This means that, starting August 13, if you bring your LINK card to the Market and swipe it for $20 in LINK tokens, you'll receive $40 in LINK tokens to spend on fresh food in the Market. It's good for our patrons, it's good for our vendors, and it's good for the Market. Much more information about how the Double Value Program will work can be found right here. Big ups to Experimental Station, Wholesome Wave, and Illinois Farmers Market Network for putting this grant program together.

The weather's looking good and the food's looking even better - plenty of community organizations (they're on the west side of the Market, right between our two main entrances) and performers will be rounding things out, too. Oh - and  the City of Urbana's Downtown Plan will be up for review at the Market this Saturday -  look for them by the City of Urbana and Urbana Free Library tents, located near the NW entrance to the Market.

See you out there - thanks, as always for your support.