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, in local social media groups, 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 gentleman on Airport Road SOUTH of town on the east/left side across tracks” (for sweet corn)
- “Our farm stand is located south of Champaign on County Road 900N (one road directly to the south of the Staley & Monticello Rd/1000N intersection — follow the signs). We stock the stand every Thursday afternoon/evening so it is open from Friday until Sunday so long as there is produce ready to stock the stand with. Leave money for the produce you take in our cash lockbox (honor system) or pay it forward if you don’t have cash. Vegetables and fruits grown at the property include tomatoes and baby/cherry tomatoes, both hot and sweet peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, and fresh cut sunflowers.” Email Mike H with questions.
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.
- The Urban Gardens Company (3009 S. Prospect Ave., Champaign): Watch their flags and signs as you drive by on Prospect to see what might be stocked at their roadside stand on any given day during the growing season. They grow flowers, produce, and herbs “IN & FOR the Champaign-Urbana-Savoy community,” steps from their roadside stand. Pay using their cash lockbox onsite, and follow them on Facebook so you know when to drive by. This stand does seem to be the main outlet for distributing what’s grown here — it doesn’t get much more homegrown than that.
- Delight Flower Farm (driveway entrance to farm, 1472 County Road 500 E., Champaign): Follow on Facebook to see what is available at its 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 the Urbana market, as well as supplying several local retail outlets.
- Meyer Produce (southern edge of Villa Grove): Follow on social media or subscribe to its weekly newsletter to see what is currently in season and when occasional sales take place on the farm. “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.” In 2022 Meyer Produce is collaborating with a family member who bakes — look for homemade pies and pastries made from its produce at farmers markets.
- Mariah’s Mums & More (Triple M Farm), Clinton
From July through late September, 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 its 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 — 30+ different varieties listed for 2022, some of which you can pick yourself — or you may find fresh sweet corn, peaches, tomatoes, melon, squash, peppers, and more. (The fresh donuts, apple cider, and honey are a bonus!) New for 2022: Oberweis ice cream in the store. Goats and kittens sadly not for sale.
Some farm stands have regular schedules and “city” locations. These are most handy for people 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 County Road 1800 E, Arthur, 217-543-2655): Sheldon Raber travels from Arthur to both Savoy and Mahomet and sells a wide variety of produce from area farmers.
- Wednesday and Saturday in Savoy, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — 901 N. Dunlap Ave., in the Old Orchard Lanes & Links parking lot, mid-June through August (and Saturdays in September)
- 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, green beans, blackberries and honey 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 times, and when it is sold out.
Sustainable Student Farm at UIUC (3505 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana): This student group operates a farm stand on summer Thursdays on the UIUC Main Quad (near the Illini Union) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Customers can also place online orders by Wednesday mornings for pickup (at the Fruit Research Building south of Windsor and Race in Urbana) on Thursdays from noon-4 p.m. “We are a 5-acre educational farm where U of I students can come learn about growing fresh food. We grow an array of vegetables and fruit using organic practices and are a space for all kinds of hands on learning. We also sell produce to the dining services here on campus (about 90% of what we grow).”
Finally, some farm stands exist in cyberspace — because 2022!
Market Wagon (11 counties in Central Illinois): Just your friendly neighborhood farm stand IN CYBERSPACE. Shop 978 products from 58 vendors. Orders are fulfilled every Thursday and delivered to your front door, anywhere in those 11 counties, for a flat $6.95 fee. Subscriptions available.
Let us know if there’s a farm stand we should add to this list!
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