The farmers' markets are the place to be right now on Saturday mornings and Tuesday afternoons. September produce includes so many favorites like tomatoes, peppers, onions, apples, and sweet corn. Plus, pumpkins and gourds make their entrance to the market this month.There are makers and bakers at the markets as well. Berries are harder to find, but there is so much to enjoy at our Urbana and Champaign farmers' markets.


At the outdoor farmers market Urbana in the Square, masked shoppers walk on a sunny day. In the foreground, there are several long bouquets of flowers taking up half of the image. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

One difference I noticed at the markets this month was that I saw more masked people. At the Urbana market, I noticed that more than half of the shoppers were masked. I always carry a mask with me wherever I go, and I had mine in my hand upon arrival, ready to mask if required or if it feels like everyone else is masking. It felt like everyone else was masked at the market, so I masked up as well.

In the parking lot of Downtown Champaign, the Champaign Farmers' Market is busy with shoppers, half masked and half unmasked, visiting the tents of vendors.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Masks were common at the Champaign Market as well. The markets' mask guidelines ask that those who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask at the markets. While the policy has not changed since May, it did seem like the culture of our community may have adjusted. 

Enough of the masks. Let me walk you through the markets with a little photo essay. One fun surprise is that I found three great, spicy things at the market this month. Scroll to the end to see what spicy Saturday market finds I used for that night's pizza toppings.

 

On a grayed white plastic table, many tomatoes are waiting to be sold. The morning sun is rising in the top left corner of the photo.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Masked shoppers wait in line to buy produce from a blue tent at the Urbana Market in the Square.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
On a wooden table painted white, there are many small watermelons for sale at the Urbana Market in the Square. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
A box of bright purple red onions are seen from above at the farmers' market.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
In a burlap wrapped basket at the Urbana Market in the Square, many tomatoes fill the container. They are bright red and dewy in the morning light. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
An above photo shows small square baskets of okra in green and purple.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
In the parking lot, the Champaign Farmers' Market vendors have tables under tents offering goods for sale. Masked and unmasked shoppers walk by, browse, and pay for goods with the Champaign skyline behind the tents on the right side of the photo. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Skinny, purple Kermit Thai eggplants are in a gray basket to be sold at the Urbana Market in the Square. The morning light is coming through on the top left of the photo. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
An overhead photo shows pumpkins in one burlap lined basket beside another basket of yellow squash, zucchini, and garlic. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
At the Urbana Market in the Square, masked shoppers wait in line to buy peaches. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Pumpkins with a bit of dirt on them are waiting to be bought at the market beside yellow squash. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Britt from Britt's Sweet Spot is busying setting up her table with baked goods for sale at the Champaign Farmers' Market. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

If you're at the Champaign Farmers' Market, you have to stop by Britt's House of Sweets. She bakes some of the most amazing desserts. I was a fan of her peach cobbler, and this week, I picked up two of her rice krispie treats and an apple pie.

On a white table, a thick rice krispie treat with mini marshmallows showing on the side sits in front of a blue wall. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The rice krispie treats ($3 each) were thick bricks of dessert. They were the tallest krisipie treats I've ever had, and they were amazing tasting as well. Rich and buttery, these krisipie treats were full of mini marshmallows and had added white chocolate which was heavenly. I should have bought more than two, and I will next time.

On a white tablecloth, there is an overturned basket of paprika peppers beside clear bags of paprika spice in front of an old fashioned silver scale. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

At the Urbana Market in the Square, I stopped by a minimal tent to talk with a friendly bearded man about his paprika peppers. He asked me, "Do you like spicy?" I said I did. He got very excited and started talking about his peppers. The red peppers on the table were paprika peppers, and the bags were paprika (the spice) which he made himself by drying the peppers.

The man offered me a sample of his paprika spice. He had prepared a water bottle ("It's spicy, ma'am. You'll feel it sparkle," he said) and a slice of cheese covered in paprika. He even had hand sanitizer and napkins "so everyone can feel safe," he said. I sampled it; "Just a nibble! It's spicy," he warned. It was spicy, but it was not painfully spicy. It was pretty damn spicy, though, so spicy lovers only. It did have the slow build to the sparkle of spiciness, and I loved it so much — and the joy this man had about paprika — that I had to buy a bag of his paprika spice ($10) and a paprika pepper.

On a wooden cutting board, a red paprika pepper lays uncut on its side. Behind it is a plastic bag of dried paprika spice. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The pepper I ate raw, and it was very similar to a bell pepper: sweet garden freshness and a crisp veggie bite. The seeds seem to be where the spiciness is, but if you cut it up and remove most of the seeds, it makes a delicious, mild addition to a salad or pizza.

On a white tablecloth, two large, black trays are filled with heirloom tomatoes for sale in the morning light of the Urbana Market in the Square. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The same friendly man also sells heirloom tomatoes at his stand at the Urbana Market in the Square. 

On a tiered, white plastic stand, there are many plastic clamshell containers filled with microgreens from Diamond's Homestead. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I stopped by Diamond's Homestead to see what microgreens they have, and they have a lot. The vendor had a lot to say about the flavors and textures of each one, so ask questions, and he'll help you find the right microgreen for you.

On a white counter, there is an opened plastic container of microgreens with little green tops and long, skinny white ends. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I left with a pack of wasabi microgreens ($8). He promised a little wasabi spice to it, and the microgreens delivered. How can one little microgreen have such a flavor? I was so impressed. Moreover, at the market, he told me how to wash and store the greens, and they are still going, six days later. I'm topping everything I make with microgreens: salads, tacos, sandwiches, omlettes, pizza, whatever.

On a white counter in front of a white wall, there are two glass bottles of sauce. One is the barbecue sauce and the other is the ghost pepper sauce by Weird Meat Boyz. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I also bought some sauces from Weird Meat Boyz as mine had run out. I bought the chipotles in adobo + apple cider vinegar + black strap molasses + coffee barbecue sauce ($12) and their newest sauce ghost pepper + strawberry and rhubarb + bourbon ($12). These sauces were unlike anything I can find at the grocery, and the flavors were just incredible. The barbecue sauce was a thin, hot sauce that started sweet and ended with a peppery finish that lingered. The ghost pepper sauce needed only a bit to give a firey, fruity flavor. Both of these were spicy, but the barbecue was a more sweet-spicy and the pink hot sauce was very, very spicy. I'm obsessed with both of these sauces.

An above shot of the author's market purchases: microgreens on a paper towel, a bright red paprika pepper, a package of paprika seasoning, several small red onions, and a lot of red, orange, and yellow little peppers. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I took all my Saturday purchases home, washed the produce, and decided to make a pizza with as many of the ingredients as I could.

On a slice of pizza, there is a dark barbeque sauce with pork, sliced red onion, sliced yellow tomatoes, and microgreens on a white plate. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I landed on a barbecue pork pizza made with Weird Meat Boyz sauce, paprika pepper slices and red onion slivers, topped with microgreens and cherry tomatoes grown in my backyard from a seedling I purchased back in May from Meyer Produce. This was a good pizza. I used Weird Meat Boyz's pizza sauce, and it gave the whole pizza a deep spiciness. The onions and peppers were sweet when baked, and I put sliced tomatoes from my garden on top after baking which gave a bright, fresh flavor. The microgreens topping took this pizza to the nevel level. The texture of the greens was a great contrast, but the flavor! The wasabi flavor came through, and it went so well with the spicy sauce. This pizza was a wonderful celebration of amazing local food we have in C-U.

There is so much to find at both markets, and I certainly can't cover everything. We only have September and October to enjoy our farmers' markets, so get out there and see what you can find. 

A woman stands distanced from a vendor at the Urbana Market in the Square waiting to buy produce. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

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.

Social Media: You can follow the Market on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Sign up for weekly Market emails here.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, shoppers are shopping the vendors at the Champaign Farmers' Market. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

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.

Social Media: Follow The Land Connection on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or check the website for more information.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.