From flowers to fencing: Champaign’s Farmers Market has it all

Although summer is winding down and a new school year is about to begin, the farmers market season is still in full swing.

Champaign’s Farmers Market is located on N. First Street, two blocks north of University Avenue, and has been treating people from all over the area with fresh food, cooking demonstrations, entertainment and much more since it began its second annual season on June 10. The market is held from 3 to 7 p.m. every Thursday until its season’s close on Sept. 2.

“The Champaign market provides a nice compliment to the other Saturday farmers markets,” said the market manager Wendy Langacker.

The afternoon weekday time slot seems preferable and unique to most people’s schedules.

“The downtown locale is a great draw for people who just got off work and want to stop by for a few things,” said Kent Miles, a vendor for the Illinois Willows flower company.

Illinois Willows sells different flowers at the market each week.

However, they primarily vend mixed bouquets and solid bunches consisting of one type of flower, Miles said.

In addition to five fresh produce suppliers, the market has a variety of weekly food vendors.

Vendors offering meat, bread, corn, popcorn, iced tea and barbecue are a few of the stands that make appearances each week.

“Often times people come for the barbecue, but then they walk around and try different foods and realize how easy it is to have access to healthy and fresh food,” said Langacker.

Other vendors come to the market selling homemade crafts, jewelry, puppets, dolls, bags, urban style clothing and even handmade goods from El Salvador.

The market also offers entertainment for its visitors. The activities vary each week and have included a professional storyteller, CUperStars youth singing group, U of I Capoeira dance group, fencing club, cooking demonstrations offered by the Mettler Center and C-U Public Health District and even a bike safety course.

“We like to change up the activities each week because that helps to get different groups and interests involved,” said Langacker.

According to Langacker, the different cultures and groups of people that visit each week are what makes Champaign’s Farmers Market so unique.

“There is no main demographic of people that come to the market,” she said. “The ethnic and cultural diversity is varied.”

Langacker prides herself on the market’s accessibility to people of different incomes. People who are on food stamps are able to purchase items sold at the market using their Illinois Link Card.

“There is a preconception that farmers markets are only for an elite group of people,” said Langacker. “But here, people are able to get the most bang for their buck.”

Despite the many different goods and activities offered by the farmers market, it has maintained its unique neighborly and low-key appeal.

“This market is more intimate and not as crowded as other Saturday markets,” said Miles. “From a consumer standpoint, there’s not as much of a rush and people can shop leisurely.”

Langacker agreed and said that it is very easy for people to walk around the market and to not feel crowded or overwhelmed.

“The mix of different vendors and people creates a unique juxtaposition of a rural and urban atmosphere,” said Langacker. “The market offers a multicultural downtown feel.”