This month, the farmers’ markets are the place to be: new vendors, classic vendors, food trucks, and more. I went hunting for delicious foods and drinks at both the Urbana Market in the Square and the Champaign Tuesday Market, and it was easy to find appetizing eats and drinks.
The vendors are overflowing with fresh produce — if you get there early. Within the first hour or two, the berries are sold out, so if you want locally grown berries, get there at market open. This month, you can find potatoes, blueberries, peaches, peas, cabbages, apples, tomatoes, salad greens, corn, strawberries, eggplant, and more.
Each farm has a slightly different selection, so make sure you shop around and get some fresh produce from several different ones.
Since the masking policy has been relaxed in Phase Five, there were more unmasked individuals at both markets than last month. Those who are unvaccinated are asked to continue to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose while at the markets.
There were so many options for produce that I had lots of ideas about how to add more veggies to my family’s meals. I picked up some cabbage and made a big bowl of colelaw, and I still have some more cabbage in the fridge.
Havilah Gardens is a micro farm in Bellflower, Illinois that incorporates orchards, small fruit and vegetable growing, and aquaponics. Havilah Gardens was at the Champaign market selling salad mix, radishes, blueberries (which were sold out by the time I got there an hour and a half into the market, so go early if you want the berries), beets, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, hot peppers, and hanging strawberry baskets.
It is fun to walk through the market and see all the produce that has been picked for C-U shoppers. Green G Farms, a small farm in Villa Grove, had these pretty peas plus herbs, shelling peas, and more for sale at the Urbana market.
At the Champaign Farmers’ Market, they offer free Kids Kits. Each kit has everything you and your kid need to make that month’s dish: all the ingredients, a recipe card, and a link to the recipe and a video on The Land Connection’s website. You can also view the videos on The Land Connection’s YouTube channel. This month’s recipe is a massaged kale salad.
There was also a make-your-own vermicompost station hosted by UIUC’s Illinois Extension in the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. What is vermicomposting? Vermicompost is a mixture of partially decomposed organic waste, bedding, worm castings, and worms. It is a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner, and they helped my son make it right there at the Champaign market. They asked him to add a mix of vegetable and fruit scraps, then a spoonful of coffee grounds, a pinch of crushed eggshells, and a layer of damp newspaper on top. He even got to pick out three worms (which he’s named) that we can continue to feed at our house with leftover fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds, and tea bags. I hope Gary, Mike, and Justin like broccoli because my children certainly leave a lot leftover.
There are also options for meat at the market. At the Urbana Market in the Square, you can find Harden Ranch from Fairmount, Illinois. They sell bison that have been given lots of land which they said creates happy animals which makes happy customers. You can buy bison in all forms: ground, patties, stew meat, sirloin tip roast, brisket, sirloin, ribeye, filet mignon, liver, heart, or tongue.
I saw these beautiful peaches from Mileur Orchard, and I had to have them. I picked up a carton of peaches in the morning at the market, and my family had sliced peaches all day long. I made peach cobbler using this recipe, and we ate the whole thing within twelve hours. These peaches were perfect peaches. Peaches will be on my shopping list for the markets for the rest of peach season. Go get you some.
Both markets had food trucks available. When I visited the Champaign market this past Tuesday, the Kona Ice truck was there, and my son got a medium ice. He went ham on the syrup, getting a
little huge drizzle of each flavor, including a healthy pour of tiger’s blood syrup. The Urbana Market has local favorite Just BEE Açaí with a line that shows just how popular açaí is. Also, you can find the Piato To Go food truck and Burrito King truck on Saturdays at the market.
I tried a good many things fom the markets, but this little baked good called kouign amann ($3) was the most incredible find. The Six Red Chairs baker told me it was like a croissant but with sugar, and I was sold. I took it home to try, and it was heavenly: buttery, flaky, and sweet. It had a soft airy middle that was bready and so, so buttery. The outside was a golden, carmelized edge that was cripsy and flaky — and an amazing texture contrast.
Urbana’s Market at the Square Info
The Urbana Market has been in continuous operation since 1979. The market runs from May 1st to October 30th, each Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. It’s located at the corner of Illinois and Vine in Urbana.
Forms of payment: Credit, debit, or SNAP is preferred. Cash is accepted, but vendors may not provide change to reduce the spread of the virus.
SNAP/LINK: Vendors selling LINK-eligible foods accept LINK tokens. Please visit Urbana’s Market at the Square website for specifics, or the information tent on site.
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 your doggo at home.
The Land Connection Champaign Farmers’ Market
The Land Connection’s Champaign Farmers’ Market is on their seventh year. The Champaign Market is open on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting on May 18th. The Champaign Farmers’ Market will take place in parking lot M in Downtown Champaign at Neil and Washington.
Forms of Payment: Pre-ordering, credit cards, debit cards, or SNAP/EBT cards are preferred. Cash will be accepted, but vendors will be instructed not to provide change.
SNAP/LINK: All eligible vendors accept SNAP benefits through the LINK token program. Please visit The Land Connection website for specifics.
Parking: Metered parking is available in parking lot M or in the Hill Street Parking Deck.
Pets: Leashed dogs are welcome.