We’re entering our critical third season at the Champaign Farmers’ Market. Critical third season is a phrase I’ll be using a lot in the coming weeks and months. Research shows that farmers’ markets who make it through 3 seasons are far more likely to succeed and truly become a part of the community. We’ve already been fortunate to receive a great deal of community support, but I know that we still have so many people to reach. Even regular shoppers don’t always remember Tuesday is Market Day; we’ve still got work to do to stake out a permanent place in our shoppers’ weekly routine.So what are we going to do to that end? My goal is to make the market even more of a welcoming gathering space. Patrons have often commented to me that one of their favorite aspects of our Market is that they feel comfortable letting the kids run around and explore, while easily being able to keep an eye on them while parents shop. We’ve worked to make the Market fun for kids through our regular kids’ table (full of chalk, jumpropes, and bubbles) and collaboration with the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, St. John Lutheran School, City of Champaign, Champaign Public Library and more to offer children’s activities.
This year we plan to kick it up a notch with our new children’s program: Market Seedlings. On the last Tuesday of every month we’ll host a variety of activities centered around a local food theme. Each Seedlings Tuesday will incorporate art projects and hands-on activities, sampling, cooking demos and meal ideas for parents and kids.
We’re also getting the kiddos involved before the season kicks off, with our first annual Champaign Farmers’ Market Poster Contest. Open to all Champaign K-12 students, we’re looking for creative posters from kids around town to promote the new season of the market. We’ll choose 3 winners, one each from elementary school, middle school, and high school. We’re so excited to see how local kids see the market and how they’ll share their vision with the rest of the community.
Back to that gathering space. One of our primary aims this year is to create seating areas for shoppers to stay awhile, enjoy a snack and soak up the atmosphere and summer weather. We’re also boosting our sampling tent, with more cooking demonstrations, meal plan ideas, and of course delicious produce, grains, baked goods, and more to taste before you buy. In order to build this community space, we need the community’s help. We’re running a crowdfunding campaign until April 21. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to help us purchase much-needed market equipment and supplies, ensure we have trained, reliable staff to serve our vendors and market patrons, and make sure the Champaign-Urbana community knows about our market, educational programming and SNAP matching program. Every dollar counts, and your donations together will help us enhance the Market and make our critical third season a smashing success!The Market returns May 16! We’ll see you every Tuesday from 3:30-6:30 in the parking lot by Neil & Main in Downtown Champaign.