Urbana’s Market at the Square is a Chambanamoms.com sponsor.
By Natalie Kenny Marquez
Urbana’s Market at the Square has been around for 36 years but over the past 10 years has really expanded and morphed into what is today a bustling place to shop and socialize.
With an average of 80 vendors and estimated 5,000 visitors appearing at the market each week, it’s important to know what to expect when you come to the farmers market, especially if shopping with young children. Here are some “pro tips” for shopping at Urbana’s Market at the Square, courtesy of the farmers market director:
1. The selection of products varies each week, and so do the vendors.
Urbana’s Market at the Square offers products made, grown or created locally (which we define as within the state of Illinois). With that being said, you won’t find citrus fruit, avocados, bananas, etc. THINK LOCAL! Our farmers grow right here in Illinois so the season dictates what they offer to customers on a week-by-week basis. Check out this chart to see what is in season. Some weeks, especially early in the season, the pickins might be slim. Other weeks, especially as the season progresses to the very height of growing season, the choices can become downright overwhelming!
2. The farmers market runs rain or shine.
The Market is open 7 a.m. to noon every Saturday from the first weekend of May through the first weekend of November, RAIN OR SHINE! Market programming, like Sprouts at the Market and Art at the Market , runs rain or shine and will not be cancelled unless there is significant weather. If you’re concerned about the status of an event, please check the market’s Facebook and Twitter. PRO TIP: The Market has a limited quantity of umbrellas it gives away to customers who left theirs at home. Stop by the Market tent to see if there are any available.
3. Methods of payment
All vendors accept cash and some vendors accept personal checks. Many vendors accept credit/debit cards and often have that information posted on their tent. Customers may always use their SNAP benefits by bringing their LINK card to the big orange market tent in the northwest corner. For details click here.
In addition, there are over a dozen vendors eligible to accept Women, Infant and Children (WIC) farmers market nutrition program (FMNP) vouchers. Beginning in June, staff from the Champaign County WIC office will regularly be on-site at the farmers market to help customers learn how to redeem their WIC vouchers. We’re excited to announce that the Market and the local WIC office received a grant from the Illinois Farmers Market Association to double the value of WIC vouchers (while funds are available). Stop by the big orange tent to learn more about this great incentive and get more information on redeeming WIC FMNP vouchers. PRO TIP: Stop by the market tent in the northwest corner for details on payment. Market staff look forward to assisting you!
As a mom with two young kids I need to know where I can find the restrooms. There are public restroom facilities located within the City of Urbana building, across the street from the Market. PRO TIP: Lincoln Square Mall offers restrooms, which are conveniently located next to some awesome shops like Piato, Dr. G’s Brainworks, and Art Mart!
Parking is always free and available in the parking lots surrounding Lincoln Square Mall. PRO TIP: There is parking across the street from the farmers’ market at the corner of Vine and Green streets. That seems to be the “secret parking lot” for quite a few folks looking to avoid the congestion that occurs in the parking lots surrounding the farmers market.
6. Free programming!
Urbana’s Market at the Square is the place for families! There is regular free programming:
- Read at the Market: Join The Urbana Free Library on the first Saturday of each month of Read at the Market. It’s a great way to learn about what is happening at the library and take advantage of its great programming, cookbooks and the vast food-related items in its collection. Plus, free balloons are available.
- Art at the Market: Happening the second Saturday of each month, Art at the Market is a workshop and performance series offered by the City of Urbana’s Public Arts Program. The events are free, open to all ages, require no registration to participate and take place near the northwest corner of the market. Check out the schedule of workshops and performers here.
- Sprouts at the Market: Kids ages 3-8 years old are encouraged to participate in this free monthly farm linkage and nutrition program happening on the third Saturday of each month. Themes change each month and offer kiddos (and their parents and guardians) lots of great information and samples of local food.
PRO TIP: Sign up for Market Mail to get a weekly update on programming, that way you don’t have to worry about checking the website for details!
Natalie Kenny Marquez is director of Urbana’s Market at the Square (and mother of a very, VERY energetic 3-year-old and 5-year-old).