This month at the markets, we have reached peak Central Illinois produce production. Corn, watermelon, berries, and peaches are all in season and delicious. Heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers are out in full force and it is definitely a great time to try some goat milk gelato. This month at the markets, the Fruit and Veggie Zoo Market Seedlings program happens the last week of August and there is much fun and music in the middle.
We were super excited to see the return of the balloon stand at the Urbana’s market last month. It’s a perennial kid favorite at the market and it is really fun to watch the balloons being made. The Sprouts at the Market event on July 15th was one of our favorites so far. Kids got the chance to color a tote bag and a voucher for some market produce that they could pick out themselves. It was so fun to watch all the “sprouts” picking out their favorite produce and getting very excited about fruits and vegetables to take home. The Champaign market is also having lots of fun with their new Market Seedlings programs this year.These programs are free for kids to participate, and are great educational opportunities for the kiddos in your life. I was also really excited to see some really nice peaches during July at the markets. Peach pie and peach jam are some of my favorite things, and it is so nice to use local peaches to make (or buy!) both. The market will continue to have a variety of produce this month and lots of things to look forward to. One of the fun traditions at the markets in the summer is to locate a veggie or fruit you have never tried and take it home to give it a try. You might discover something you really like.
The Urbana market will feature the usual events in August. Art at the Market will return on August 12th with music with Bones Jugs & Mackville and paper circuits with Makerspace. All Art at the Market events go from 8 a.m. to noon and are free. On August 19th, Sprouts at the Market will return with a trip through the five senses. Sprouts is free for kids 3 to 8 and runs from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Read at the Market, a program sponsored by the Urbana Free Library, returns on August 26th and features a magic reading rug. The library is also known for the free green balloons they give away to kids. The library has some great summer reading programs, so be sure to stop by the 26th at the library tent. One other great feature of the Urbana market is that the row of tents closest to Vine Street (across from the Fire Station) is full of community tents where you can learn about great projects and opportunities in the community that you might want to be part of. Some of these are political organizations or religious or advocacy groups — it’s worth the walk to see what’s happening in the community. Also, this row is right near Pandamonium Doughnuts and the food trucks, so you can check out the community stuff while you eat some doughnuts or yummy treats.
The Champaign market also has some great events to look forward to this month. Market Seedlings will feature a fruit and veggie zoo on August 29th. I have no idea what a fruit and veggie zoo is, but I am excited to find out! The Champaign market also features a variety of chef demonstrations, tastings, and fun throughout the month. The last couple times we were there, it seems like they have gotten more buskers and performers as well on a weekly basis.
One really great thing that is still happening at both markets is opportunities for LINK users to double or triple their LINK card dollars. The Champaign market has offers up to $20 matching funds for LINK every week, and on the second market of the month, LINK benefits are tripled with up to $40 matching. To learn more about the LINK program at the Champaign Market visit their website. The Urbana market also has a matching grant right now for up to $20 each weekend for LINK. To learn more about this program, check out their website.
Urbana’s Market at the Square
The Urbana Market is one of the largest farmers' markets and has been in continuous operation since 1979. The market runs from May 6th to November 4th each Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.
Forms of payment: All vendors accept cash, and a few may take checks. Some vendors have card readers on their smart phones. Vendors selling LINK-eligible foods will accept LINK tokens, and Urbana’s Market at the Square will match up to $20; more information is available here.
If you run out of cash at the Market, there is an ATM in the Lincoln Square Mall.
Parking: Free parking is available in the parking lots surrounding Lincoln Square Mall and the lot south of Illinois Street. Bike parking is also available at the entrances to the mall and at the bike corral area past the entrance to the Market off of Illinois.
Pets: No pets allowed. Please respect the market’s rules and leave Fido at home.
The Land Connection Champaign Farmers’ Market
The Champaign Market is Tuesday evenings from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Hill and Neil in Downtown Champaign.
Forms of Payment: Vendors take mostly cash, but some do take cards on their smart phones. If you run out of cash, there are ATMs close by in the Busey building on University, or at the PNC location on Main and Walnut.
Parking: Parking is available in parking lot M off of Neil Street, or in the Hill Street Parking Deck.
Pets: Dogs are welcome at this market, but must be leashed.
All photos by Jessica Hammie.