Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pumpkin' Up the Volume

It's pumpkin time. Warty or smooth, these orange beacons of a new season are at the Market and are ready for carving, adorning your front porch or table, or... eating! Yep, eating. Everywhere you look there's pumpkin-flavored coffee, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin etc. Why not make some pumpkin soup, or a pie, or some scones on your own with the little pie pumpkins (also known as sugar pumpkins) some of our growers are offering up? It's easy to make your own puree

This weekend's Market will be cool and sunny and just about perfect. If you're coming to town for the U of I Homecoming game vs Northwestern, welcome! Then get on over to the Market early to grab some breakfast and pick up some produce. We'll have plenty - we're looking at lots of peppers, beans, other fall squash, broccoli, cabbages, onions, potatoes, salad greens, chards & kales, and a few straggling tomatoes (it's been a tough tomato year). A bit of sweet corn and the probable end of the melons will be available this weekend, too. Growers will be offering seasonal cut flowers in bouquets and other arrangements, as well as potted mums and asters to plant into your yard. And, of course, our artisans will be offering up quite the array of beautiful, handmade things - many seasonal in nature. 

Community organizations at the Market this weekend - Urbana Business Association, Sister Cities Project, Infant Cognition Lab, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, CIMIC, St. Patrick's, TIMES Center, and others. Come check out these organizations - they're in our community to help, but at the Market they also have information on how YOU can help, whether it's as a volunteer or a donor. The groups are currently located on the west end of the Market, between the Market's two main entrances. This weekend, look also for the Urbana Free Library near the City tent at the NW entrance - they'll be there for the final time this season, filling helium balloons and reading stories to kids and answering questions about the library from 8 AM - 11 AM.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in last weekend's Art at the Market workshop. Many, many patrons came by and made "Shrinky-Dink" -style crafts with local artist Lori Caterini. The final Art at the Market workshop of the season will be on Saturday, October 29. More details when we get them!

Looking forward to seeing all your faces at the Market this weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Falling In

Last week's Market fell on an early autumn-perfect Saturday. It was chilly in the morning and quite warm by noon and a lot of people came, as you can see. They bought food, they bought flowers, they bought arts & crafts, they visited with their friends, they participated in the Sprouts workshop, they hung out with the community organizations, and they generally enjoyed themselves. It's what people do at the Market every weekend during the season, and we're glad they do.

The season is winding down, a little. Summer produce is on its way out; much of it is done already (peaches coming to mind, here). That's OK. It makes way for fall produce - the squashes and root vegetables that bring so much color to Market tables... and our tables. The flowers now offered are hardier and able to stand up to cooler temperatures. There are pumpkins alongside the melons. It really is a terrific time of year at the Market.

We talked about local produce and its benefits with ciLiving yesterday. ciLiving is a new show on WCIA that's on from 4-5 PM with all local content. Click here for the video. It was great - the feature before our segment was all about Market vendor Prairie Fruits Farm, and the segment after ours featured Market vendor The Cravetruck.

Community groups this weekend: Look for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, AWARE, Illinois Club, Champaign County Democrats, U of I Physics (with cool stuff!), Habitat for Humanity, Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus, ASPCA, and others will be in the community organizations area on the western side of the Market, right between our two main entrances. Please go give them your support.

Special activity this week: Art at the Market, the Urbana Public Arts Program's free, monthly hands-on workshops for people of all ages, will be happening this weekend with local artist Lori Caterini teaching everyone how to make "Eco Shrinky Dinks" from #6 plastic. If you have a stash of #6 plastic lying around (U-Cycle can't accept it for recycling, so you just might!), bring it with you! The workshop is continuous and goes from 8 AM - noon.

Hope to see you there this weekend - rain or shine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Packed Saturday

It's Sprouts time again at the Market! This month we're working with the Family Resiliency Center to bring not just nutrition information, and not just information about farms and farmers, but information about healthy family mealtimes, too. The event goes from 9-11 AM this Saturday and is FREE. Not only that, all kids who finish the Market-wide workshop will receive a special (and extremely cute) prize AND an official certificate of participation.... which is good for 25% off at Art Mart Toys all day Saturday. Come find us at the Sprouts tent - it'll be at the NW entrance to the Market. Questions? Just call 217-384-2319 or drop us a line.

With the cooler temperatures, we're starting to get excited about eating soup and stew... must have been the pumpkins, squashes, and potatoes we saw last week. Cooler weather also means that eating outdoors - whether while tailgating for the game this weekend (6 PM start at Memorial Stadium) or while having people over for a backyard cookout - is way more pleasant. These activities are a great chance to take advantage of the Market's selection of late summer and early fall veggies, early fall fruit, and farm-raised meats. There is just something awesome about eating in cooler weather. Especially if it's an apple galette.

In addition to Sprouts, the Graduate Students in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (GEEB) will be at the Market this weekend offering Market-goers a chance to get their hands dirty. If you're feeling particularly brave, you can pet their corn snake or their blue-tongued skink. Look for them in the Community Organizations row at the west end of the Market. Other groups this week: Eastern Illinois Foodbank, AWARE, Practical Assistance For Survivors, Infant Cognition Lab, Chambana Moms, Champaign County Democrats, Champaign County Forest Preserve, CU Folk & Roots Festival, Champaign County YMCA, and others. A swing through this area will give you a lot of insight about what's going on in our community. Please go check them out!

It's looking like a busy Market this weekend... see you out there!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

We Can See You, Fall 2011

This weekend, in addition to the Market, we'll be co-sponsoring, with Common Ground Food Co-op, an event with Ken Meter, nationally-recognized food systems analyst, over at the Co-op (just to the northwest of the Market site). Mr. Meter will be presenting his findings about the central Illinois food system and how we can make local food more of a priority for the enhancement of sustainability, community health, and economic development in our area. His presentation begins at 10:30 AM and runs until noon, including a Q&A session with the audience. It's totally free and it's open to the public. Head over after picking up your Market goodies! Highly recommended if you're interested in seeing more locally-produced food in institutions and in larger grocery stores, if you'd like to see more restaurants carrying menu items made with local food, or if you're interested in encouraging community food security in our area. For more info, call 217-384-2319 or drop us a line.

We're in that time between the seasons. Actually, the weather can't decide which season it is (high 90s last weekend, mid-70s this weekend), but the calendar doesn't lie. We're heading into Fall. Where did the summer go?

That's OK, though. It's a season full of color and food and, hopefully, cooler weather. If you come to the Market this weekend, you'll find cooler temps and a vast selection of fresh, Illinois-grown food. And while a few things are on the wane (peaches/nectarines and berries, especially), some things (winter squashes, apples/pears) are on the rise. That's seasonality for you. Isn't it great?

FACET (Friends Against Children's Empty Tummies) will be having their annual bake sale in our community organizations area THIS WEEKEND. All proceeds go to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, who will also be in attendance. The baked goods? QUALITY. The cause? MIGHTY. Please visit them - our community organizations area is right smack between the two main entrances to the Market, on the west end.

Speaking of community organizations, we'll also be having the Parkland Natural Sciences folks out at the Market conducting all kinds of experiments - fun for kids, fun for adults. A preview of the planned activities can be found here. Other organizations we plan on seeing this weekend: Champaign County Democrats, U of I Vet Med, the Infant Cognition Lab, Illinois Club, CIMIC, Sierra Club, and others. Also - the Community Blood Services of Illinois will have their Bloodmobile out in the parking lot west of the Market site this weekend - see them if you're interested in donating blood. They'll be there from 7:30 - noon.

Reminder - Urbana's Market at the Square takes credit/debit cards, and we accept the LINK card as well - now with a double value program that can help LINK users stretch their resources. For more info about Double Value for LINK, click here.

As you can see, there's plenty to do and see at the Market this Saturday. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Summer Redux

Well, September isn't trying to make friends, is it? At this writing (Thursday, 1:30 PM), it's 97 degrees outside. Tomorrow's high is forecast to be 99 degrees. And Saturday? A cool 91 degrees. I guess we can all pretend it's July one last time...

... and make pesto for our Labor Day festivities. You can also still pick up peaches from southern IL (definitely on the wane, so now's the time to stock up if you do any preservation) and sweet corn for the grill.

Other fruits and veg you'll see at the Market this weekend besides those mentioned above: tomatoes of all kinds, melons of all kinds, beans, okra, greens, peppers, eggplant, cucucmbers, summer squash & zucchini, onions, potatoes, carrots, fresh herbs, nectarines (probably the last weekend for these), assorted berries (probably the last weekend for these, too), and some early apples/pears and fall squashes. This is in addition to the frozen, farm-raised meats, farmstead goat cheese and goat's milk gelato, farm-raised eggs, honey, and home-grown/arranged flowers. And while it's hard to think about fall plantings and flowers, chrysanthemum season is upon us, and several of our plant and flower folks will have them ready for you to take home.

As always, there'll be a wide variety of baked goods and prepared foods, iced/hot coffee and tea and other beverages, and the work of area artisans to check out. This weekend woodworkers, photographers, candle and soapmakers, upcycled apparel creators, painters, glassblowers, knitters & crocheters, and others will be showing their work at the Market. 

A few vendors you might have been wondering about:

Danville Gardens: Back in their usual Row 3 digs this week.
Blue Ribbon Apiaries: Back for 2 dates in September - this weekend and 9/17.
Veggie Trails: on (possibly permanent) hiatus.
Sager Farms, aka "The Peach Lady From Southern IL": Done for the season.
Eberlin's Orchard: Done for the season.
Red Herring: Done for the season - too busy making food on campus!

Is there someone you've been wondering about? Drop us a line and we can try to help you out.

Community organizations often take a break over Labor Day weekend, but we have some great groups coming this weekend - among them the U of I Nanotech folks, who will be doing some demos at the Market this weekend. For a preview for what they'll be up to, check out this video. Other visitors include Vet Med, Illinois Club, Champaign County HOUSE, Jobs For Justice, Champaign County Democrats, and several more. Organizations are now located on the west end of the Market, between the two entrances, and are a great resource for information and volunteer opportunities.

Details about our event with Ken Meter will be available ASAP - in the meantime, mark your calendar for September 10, 10:30 AM - noon, at Common Ground Food Co-op. Ken will be delivering a presentation about central IL's existing food system and things we can do to make our local food economy much more robust. He'll also be taking questions from the audience. This is an important issue that affects all of us - it would be great to see you there.