Natalie is the Marketing Coordinator for the City of Urbana and the Director of Urbana’s Market at the Square, a long-standing farmers market located in downtown Urbana. Although Natalie has only been running Urbana’s farmers market since Fall 2012, she’s not new to the community. She’s proud to represent the seventh generation of her family to reside in Champaign County and enjoys that she can connect working at the Market with her family’s deep Midwestern roots. Natalie holds Bachelor’s degrees in advertising and political science from Southern Illinois University and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is married with two daughters who are nearly 3 and 5 years old.
See why we think Natalie is a Chambana Mom to Know.
How does it feel to be the steward of this community gem?
I love the farmers market and am honored to work with all the people involved with making it such an important part of our community. It really is a community-wide effort and wouldn’t be such a success without the talented vendors, committed community groups and patrons dedicated to supporting local business. I take pride in knowing that what I’m doing as Market Director is making a positive impact on the community and the place my family calls home.
Tell us what a typical market day looks like for you.
I typically get to the office just after 5 a.m. to check emails, voicemails and make any adjustments to the Market day map. Running the Market is a team effort, so I have a great crew of Market staff to help. They start to arrive around 5:30 a.m. and that’s when we head over to the Market site to help vendors and community groups locate their spaces. At that time we also start to set up barricades and prepare for Market programming (like Sprouts at the Market and Art at the Market). The Market officially runs from 7 a.m. to noon. During that time we run the Market booth located at the northwest corner where we provide Market information, answer questions, sell Market merchandise, and most importantly, run the “Market Scratch” program. This program allows customers to use SNAP benefits at the farmers market. After the Market ends at noon, we pack up and head back to the office to close out the Market day. My day typically ends around 1:30 p.m.
What does your typical market haul look like?
Colorful! I’ve been known to come home with cherry tomatoes, green beans, basil, cilantro, white cucumbers, herbed chevre, grass fed beef, pastured pork, sugar snap peas, strawberries, blueberries, salad greens, zucchini, squash and pumpkins, white donut peaches, sweetcorn, carrots…and of course kettle korn and juicy bears.
During your tenure as Market “chief” what are you most proud of? What have you learned about yourself through this experience of leading the market?
I’m very proud to be a part of Urbana’s Market at the Square. It’s been an honor to be in this position. When I took over in 2012, I was fortunate to have inherited a very well-oiled machine. The previous Market directors did an outstanding job growing the Market and I have strived to keep that momentum going. It’s been very important to me to make sure that the Market vendors and community groups are taken care of since they are the ones that make the Market so awesome! I’ve also tried really hard to make the Market as accessible and welcoming as possible. That includes enhancing our programming, adding a new seating area for our customers, making the Market’s map available online, adding an online product search tool, and using video and social media to better connect the Market with customers. Over the past two years I’ve learned that although planning ahead and being organized is important, it’s equally as important to try to remain calm when things don’t go exactly as planned. Let’s just say I quickly learned to keep a pair of rain boots under my desk…and an extra change of clothes.
What is your biggest challenge as a working mom?
Balancing everything – which I’m sure is challenge all moms face. I want to be the best I can be at work, at home, at the gym, in the kitchen, for my husband, and for my kids. It’s a challenge to balance it all but I try my best, smile as much as I can, and tell my kids I love them a thousand times a day.
You also have two beautiful daughters. When you’re not at the market, what is your favorite way to spend time with them?
We love spending time together at the pool, reading books, and making up silly songs and dances. We’re also fortunate to live across the street from my parents – so there is a lot of family time. My parents are very helpful and supportive and it’s been a blessing to have them so involved in our daughter’s lives.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
My first job was driving a front-end loader.
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