We’re a few weeks into our second season out at the Champaign Farmers’ Market, and it’s wonderful to be back out there, surrounded by new faces, and returning favorites. While we may have lost a few vendors to retirement and job changes, we’re happy to report that most have returned. But we were also thrilled earlier this year when applications opened up to see so many new farmers joining the Land Connection fold. This has translated into even more variety out at the Market, so let’s take a look at who’s new.
First off: graaaaiiiiiiiiiins! No, we’re not confused zombies, we’re just excited about organic grains from Brian Severson Farms up near Dwight. They’re a small certified organic family farm who grows organic sweet corn, flour corn, popcorn, wheat, oats, soybeans, buckwheat, just to name a few. They’ve also embraced sampling at the market, and have come prepared every week with absolutely delicious cornbread, popcorn, and this week have promised lemon cornmeal cake and buckwheat chocolate chip cookies. We’re so happy to see collaboration between Brian Severson and some of our other vendors, including Hopscotch who featured a fabulous looking rhubarb pie made with their grains (as well as ingredients from our next Champaign Farmers’ Market newbie) downtown at Watson’s Shack & Rail in Champaign.
We’re also very excited to be joined by PrairiErth Farm, out of Atlanta, IL. PrairiErth is a family farm operated by Katie and Hans Bishop, and they are also certified organic by the USDA. PrairiErth features a gorgeous array of vegetables—you’ll recognize them by their crates overflowing with turnips, radishes, carrots, and greens (and that’s just the start of the season!). Also, pro-tip for those of you with kitties at home—they sell incredibly potent catnip that’s been delighting my own Toby for two weeks now. I’ve never seen anything like it. PrairiErth is also selling Funks Grove maple sirup (no that’s not a typo, here’s an explanation).
Continuing the organic theme, we’re also joined by a new meat vendor this year: Burning Oak Farm. Ron and Debra George have brought up delicious organically fed pork and poultry. Plus, hailing from Paris, they should be all set for the return of our Bastille Day festivities in July (ok, it’s actually Paris, IL, but still!).
Joining Stone Court Farm this season is Joy of Illinois Farm. Penny Gioja is bringing us a delicious array of veggies all summer, as well as baked goods made with grains from, you guessed it, Brian Severson Farms!
We’ve also added popsicles to the lineup this year. The Pop Stop makes artisan ice pops (sorbet, gelato, and frozen yogurt varieties) made from local fruits. I had the strawberry rhubarb pie popsicle last week, and I can attest to the quote I found in Pop Stop’s profile: “They taste good.”
If you’re stopping at the Market after a long day and need a little fuel before shopping, we’ve got you covered. Another new addition is the fabulous Piato Truck. Kelly Jo Lamb, of Organic Food Nanny fame, and her team are bringing a fantastic array of smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and other snacks to the market, made from great local ingredients.And these are just the new vendors who’ve been out for the first two weeks! As the season progresses, we’ll be adding even more, including a number of interesting collaborations, such as Legacy of the Land, a group of family farms straddling Mclean, Livingston, Woodford and DeWitt counties, which formed to provide a business, educational and community network that makes small-scale, sustainable farming a viable livelihood for more Central Illinois farm families. We’ll also be joined soon by The Seasonal Plate, a micro-farm in Cullom. Fowler Farm will also be testing the farmers’ market waters. This project is a garden site that partners with Unit 4 Schools to provide a Living Laboratory for students to learn sustainable methods of growing foods and caring for the soils, and we’re excited for the opportunities they’re creating for kids to learn about farming in Champaign. We’ll also be joined by Garden Beas: siblings and Parkland College students Eric and Sara Beasley are growing their own produce at the Eddie Albert Community Garden in Champaign.
Of course, sweet corn will be on the menu as we get further into the season, with Maddox Sweet Corn Farm joining us from Warrensburg, in Macon County. We’re also very excited to be joined by Okaw Valley Orchard in Sullivan, IL. They’ll be bringing along peaches, apples, plums, nectarines, cider, and all kinds of baked peach delights. WE Products out of Seymour will also be selling watermelon and cantaloupe, and we are so excited to see even more fruit at the market this year!
On The Land Connection’s end, we’re very excited to announce that we received a grant from the Link Up Illinois program to support our SNAP matching efforts at the Champaign Farmers’ Market. We will continue to match Link purchases up to $20 per week. We’ve got a strong fund built up to help struggling families expand their food budgets, so please help us spread the word. This money not only helps the individuals, but it goes directly back into our local economy, helping our farmers continue to grow all this delicious food for you!Finally, we’re also adding a sampling tent at the market, starting today! Stop by and get a taste of PrairiErth’s amazing turnips or hearty Pekara bread, and try before you buy! We’ll feature different vendors throughout the season and give you a chance to taste their irresistible produce.
And don’t forget to stop by the Land Connection tent each week to pick up the latest Farm Fresh Now! recipe cards, this year featuring new nutrition cards to let you know what you’re getting out of your produce. Collect them all!
The Champaign Farmers’ Market runs every Tuesday through the end of October from 4-7 PM in the parking lot at the corner of Neil & Main. For more information, visit thelandconnection.org/market