The markets are opening up this month, signaling the gloriousness of the Midwest summer marketing in Champaign-Urbana: fresh produce, Saturday morning treats and shopping, long, light filled evenings, Tuesday dinners procured from a truck and eaten on a curb or grassy patch. I very much look forward to the market season, because it means several weeks of impromptu get-togethers with friends, and meats and veggies and fruits cooked on the grill.
For those of you new to this column: it publishes monthly, but both markets are weekly.
In terms of produce at both markets this month, you can expect to find spring things like rhubarb, spinach, salad mix, asparagus, hydroponic tomatoes, herbs, and strawberries. There will also be meat and cheese vendors at both markets. The warm winter/spring may have allowed for some vendors to take advantage of planting/growing, so some items may appear sooner than expected. Or not, because Mother Nature is her own boss.
Urbana’s Market at the Square (intersection of Illinois and Vine, Urbana) kicks off at 7 a.m. Saturday, May 6th. On the first Saturday of each month,
the Market will showcase a demonstration of a dish incorporating ingredients sourced locally by Market vendors. The demonstrations will offer patrons interesting and new ways to prepare seasonal products and give them the opportunity to sample new dishes. (per press release dated April 26th)
This month Common Ground Food Co-op will present the demo. One of the things I have struggled with in my market going has been identifying and following through on trying new things and preparations: I tend to fall into the same buying and cooking habits. These demos are excellent opportunities to gain a little inspiration for familiar and not-so familiar ingredients.
Urbana’s Market at the Square will continue to offer free, kid-friendly programming throughout the season with the return of Art at the Market (second Saturday of the month, May 13th) and Sprouts at the Market (third Saturday of the month, May 20th). The community section (western-most row of vendors, closest to Vine Street) features a wide range of community organizations. There will be a blood drive on May 20th.
In addition to food vendors, there are always a wide variety of local artisans selling locally made goods including health and beauty products, dog treats, home decor and accessories, jewelry, and other knick knacks. You can also find flowers and potted plants.
Don’t forget to check out the food trucks — they offer tasty, albeit indulgent breakfast options such as doughnuts, pizza, ice cream, and hashbrown-stuffed egg sandwiches.
May is Bike to the Market month, and there’s no better time to do it — it’s not yet too hot in the mornings, and it’s an excuse to work up an appetite for those food truck yummies.
The Land Connection’s Tuesday Market kicks off at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 16th (Hill and Neil). That’s right — the Champaign market has new hours this year: 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., to make it “even easier to pick up the kids from school and swing by the Market!” Those of us who do not have children and would like to grab dinner and market goods in the later evening will have to get it together earlier. Hopefully the new hours will benefit the vendors, if not only the kid-centric community.
Now in its third year, The Land Connection’s Tuesday Market is smaller than Urbana’s, but quite mighty. Each year has seen additional vendors and programming, and unlike Urbana’s Market, in Champaign you can bring your dogs (or other leashed pets). This year there will be a new, free, kid program called Market Seedlings.
There are far fewer craft and artisan vendors at Champaign's market, but you'll almost always be able to find some fresh flowers.
There are always at least a couple of food trucks on hand, so bring cash, as some don’t take plastic.
I hope not to confuse the situation any more than necessary, but The Land Connection will be hosting a pop-up market at M2 on Neil Street on Tuesday, May 9th, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. You can find more information on the event’s Facebook page.
Urbana’s Market at the Square Info
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.
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.
Photos by Jessica Hammie.