For those of you who are looking for something new to cook up, The Land Connection will be featuring some special chef demos from local chefs at their weekly farmers’ market.
The first one, featuring Jacob Sartin of Destihl, kicks off today and runs on Tuesdays through the end of the month. This, too, is part of a larger initiative called the Central Illinois Eat Local Challenge, a collaboration between Central Illinois’ farmers’ markets which seeks to drive people to eat entirely local for the month of September. For more information on that initiative, check out the press release below:
This September, a new campaign challenges central Illinois residents to spend $20 each week on locally grown food. The Central Illinois Eat Local Challenge Campaign, organized by Illinois Stewardship Alliance in partnership with The Land Connection and City of Urbana, as well as farmers markets across central Illinois, aims to combat the annual slump in sales that farmers experience during the month of September by spotlighting the bounty of locally grown produce available throughout the month.
September is one of the most abundant months of the year for Illinois farmers, featuring warm season crops like tomatoes and melons along with the return of cool weather crops like lettuce and those that require a longer growing season, such as winter squash. However, the return of the school session, cooling temperatures, and a growing lack of knowledge regarding crop seasonality have all led to a drop off of farmers market attendance during this month. The resulting decline in sales increases food waste and weakens the economic viability of small farms before entering into the slow winter months.
This year, as a result of concerns from central Illinois farms and farmers market managers about the “September Slump”, the Alliance is working with farmers markets and other businesses to organize the Central Illinois Eat Local Challenge campaign. The Alliance will coordinate efforts regionally, while the participating farmers markets will help coordinate efforts in their respective communities.
Participating farmers markets include:
- The Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market
- The Urbana Market at the Square
- The Champaign Farmers Market
- The Peoria Riverfront Farmers Market
- The Old Capitol Farmers Market in Springfield
- The Streator Farmers Market
“There is such a wide variety of products this time of year,” says Molly Gleason, Communications Director for Illinois Stewardship Alliance, “and because the harvest is so plentiful in September, it’s also one of the most affordable times to shop locally. Farmers have zucchini, squash, and cucumbers in abundance. Plus there’s all kinds of varieties and flavors that you won’t find in the grocery store, like baby fairytale eggplants and green striped zebra tomatoes. It’s really one of the best months of the year to shop at the farmers market.”
In order to help Challenge participants meet their goal of spending $20 a week on locally grown food, participants will be automatically subscribed to a weekly e-newsletter featuring seasonal recipes, farmers market meal plans, storage and food preservation tips, and updates on local food events going on throughout the region. Participants can also find updates and inspiration on the Central Illinois Eat Local Challenge Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/centralillinoiseatlocalchallenge/).
Additionally, beginning the first week of September, participants can bring their registration form to either the Champaign Farmers Market on Tuesdays from 4-7 p.m. or at Urbana’s Market at the Square on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon and pick up a farmers market tote bag that contains a Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois directory; a magnetic shopping list note pad, and a flyer listing the events and activities going on throughout the month.
In Champaign-Urbana these include:
- All Month: Eat Local Central Illinois Bingo Challenge
- Sept. 1: Farmers Market Fresh Cooking Class: Pickles Beyond the Cucumber at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, Champaign
- Sept. 6: Secrets of a Seasonal Cook demonstration with Alisa DeMarco at the Champaign Farmers’ Market, featuring special guest: Chef Jacob Sartin from Destihl
- Sept. 13: Secrets of a Seasonal Cook demonstration with Alisa DeMarco at the Champaign Farmers’ Market, featuring special guest: Chef Mark Hartstein from Watson’s Shack & Rail
- Sept. 15: Farmers Market Fresh Cooking Class: Farm-to-Table Basics at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, Champaign
- Sept. 15: Local Flavors Dinner at V. Picasso in Champaign
- Sept. 20: Secrets of a Seasonal Cook demonstration with Alisa DeMarco at the Champaign Farmers’ Market, featuring special guest: Chef Drew Starkey from Bacaro
- Sept. 22: Common Ground Food Co-op cooking class, “Cheese in One Hour or Less: Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Paneer” in Urbana
- Sept. 27: Secrets of a Seasonal Cook demonstration with Alisa DeMarco at the Champaign Farmers’ Market, featuring special guest: Chef Ann Swanson from Hendrick House
Interested parties can register to participate online at www.buyfreshbuylocalcentralillinois.org or in person at the market information booth at any of the participating farmers markets.
“We hope to have 500 participants this year,” says Gleason. “That would mean $40,000 in sales of locally-grown food for the region, although our hope is that people will be inspired to spend more than $20 each week. We’ll try to track the final result through data collection at the markets and through a final survey to participants at the end of the month. This is our first year attempting a campaign like this, so we’re excited to see how it turns out.”
Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a statewide non-profit organization committed to building sustainable, local food systems and aiding small farmers. The Alliance operates the Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois chapter, which consists of over 150 farmers, farmers markets, restaurants, and retailers with a commitment to selling locally-grown food.
For more information about the Central Illinois Eat Local Challenge or the Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois Chapter visit www.buyfreshbuylocalcentralillinois.org