Delicious produce is being harvested all around the Champaign-Urbana area, so how can we get it onto our dinner tables?
It’s that time of the year when you hope your neighbor with the great vegetable garden goes out of town and asks you to “take care of things” in their absence. Or perhaps some oversized zucchini mysteriously appeared at your front door recently; just FYI, every Aug. 8 is National Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch Day.
In these “dog days” of summer, farmers and gardeners alike are heading into their busy harvest season and there’s lots of delicious produce to be had. Our area is fortunate to have a number of farmers markets, which serve the essential function of uniting farmers with their customers.
But what if you are craving something farm-fresh and it’s not your community’s market day? A farm stand just might be the answer! Along with our knowledgeable readers, we’ve assembled some tips on how to find a farm stand when you need one.
Many farm stands are informal and transient, operating through word-of-mouth or serendipity. Consider these suggestions from our readers:
- “You can drive down almost any road in Amish country (in Douglas/Moultrie Counties, around Arthur) any day and find farm stands set up along side of the roads. Items are priced so you leave money in a jar for what you take. It’s usually the honor system.” (Sounds like a fun afternoon adventure!)
- “A guy sets up in Rantoul daily. He posts in Rantoul Community Uncensored.” (You could check social media for whatever town you live in to find something similar.)
Some farm stands operate at their farms. While their locations may be more permanent, these stands usually operate only during the main harvest window of that particular farm, or they are only stocked on particular days during that time. These farmers tend to have booths at area markets, or have other ways to sell what they produce — meaning the farm stand is a bonus, and not their main gig. Definitely check with the individual farm before making a trip.
- Seldom Home Farm (intersection of East Windsor Road and Cottonwood Road, Urbana): Growing over 125 different varieties of produce. Specializes in tomatoes, peppers and specialty veggies. Find Deanna Prather and Seldom Home Farm on Facebook. Sells at Urbana’s Market at the Square.
- Delight Flower Farm (driveway entrance to farm, 1472 County Rd 500 E., Champaign): Follow them on Facebook to see what is available at their farmstand: seasonal bouquets (wrapped and in vases), farm-grown teas, floral bath salts, eggs, veggies, or other farm-made goods. “The farmstand is open seasonally, spring-fall, Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and closed for inclement weather.” Sells at Champaign and Urbana markets, as well as supplying several local retail outlets.
- Meyer Produce (southern edge of Villa Grove): Their new farmstand is currently open on Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m. Follow them on social media to see what is available each week. “Directly supplying local farmers markets in Champaign and Urbana, Ben and Molly Oberg farm 25 acres of diverse varieties of vegetables, berries, and orchard fruit. Honey too, from their pollinating bees.”
- Mariah’s Mums & More (Triple M Farm), Clinton
From July through October, Mariah’s has a farm stand selling fresh produce as well as cut zinnias and “the largest variety of fall mums grown in one location in Illinois.” Open mostly on the weekends; check their website for hours and use the directions on the website. About 40 minutes from Champaign, and not far from Clinton Lake. Mariah’s also has one of the longer seasons around for u-pick strawberries.
- Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch (3902 S. Duncan Road, Champaign): Imagine a farm stand contained within a larger country store contained within an “entertainment farm,” which is how Curtis Orchard bills itself. Although it is unlike any other farm stand on our list, it fits the description of offering fresh seasonal produce on a seasonal basis (open from July to December). Depending on the week, you may find “just” apples to buy — at least 33 different varieties listed for 2021, some of which you can pick yourself — or you may find fresh sweet corn, peaches, melon, squash, peppers, and more. (The fresh donuts, apple cider, and honey are a bonus! Goats and kittens sadly not for sale.)
Some farm stands have regular schedules and “city” locations. These are most handy for people like me, who enjoy predictability but don’t enjoy market crowds. Remember they are still seasonal businesses by definition, and bad harvests or bad weather (or bad luck) may interfere with these schedules.
ABC Shop (from 2294 CR 1800 E, Arthur, 217-543-2655): Sheldon Raber travels from Arthur to both Savoy and Mahomet and sells a wide variety of produce.
- Wednesday and Saturday in Savoy, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — NEW LOCATION FOR 2021 — 901 N. Dunlap Ave., in the Old Orchard Lanes & Links parking lot, mid-June through August (note that their stand at Danville Gardens Too on North Prospect in Champaign is no longer operating)
- Thursday in Mahomet, noon to 7 p.m. — Route 47, in the Hen House parking lot — May through October
Lingley Bros. Sweetcorn (from 36029 N. 2040 E., Rossville, 217-339-2487 for daily updates): A vegetable farm located in the east Rossville/Hoopeston area. “Lingley Bros. Sweetcorn sells fresh picked sweet corn, tomatoes and green beans daily during the summer. We run five stands (Hoopeston, Danville, Rantoul, Rossville and Attica, Ind.). Owned and operated by Toby Brown and family.”
- Monday-Saturday in Rantoul, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or sold out — “Rt 136 across from Dairy Queen (1040 Klein Ave.) Rantoul Historical Society parking lot.” Check Facebook for updates during sweet corn season for when they are there, and when they are sold out. They guess that in 2021 they should have corn through the middle of September.
Sustainable Student Farm at UIUC (3505 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana): This student group is back to operating its summer Thursdays farm stand on the UIUC Main Quad (near the Illini Union) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Customers can still place online orders by Wednesday mornings for pickup (off Race Street) on Thursdays from noon-4 p.m. “We are a 6.5-acre educational farm where U of I students can learn about growing fresh food. We grow an array of vegetables and fruit using organic practices and provide a space for hands-on learning. The majority of what we grow (90%) goes to the dining services here on campus.”
Finally, some farm stands exist in cyberspace — because 2021!
Market Wagon (11 counties in Central Illinois): Just your friendly neighborhood farm stand IN CYBERSPACE. Shop 865 products from 91 vendors. Orders are fulfilled every Thursday and delivered to your front door, anywhere in those 11 counties, for a flat $5.95 fee. Subscriptions available. A reader says, “I LOVE this service! A farmer’s market delivery that keeps me safe at home.”
Let us know if there’s a farm stand we should add to this list!
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