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)
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 its flags and signs as you drive by on Prospect to see what might be stocked at its roadside stand on any given day during the growing season. It grows flowers, produce, and herbs “IN & FOR the Champaign-Urbana-Savoy community,” steps from its roadside stand. Pay using its cash lockbox onsite or with Venmo, and follow it on Facebook so you know when to drive by. This stand is the main outlet for distributing what’s grown here — it doesn’t get much more homegrown than that.
- Slifer Farm (1085 County Road 2200 North, Champaign): The Slifer family stocks its self-serve farmstand with eggs as well as “extras from their garden” such as blackberries, gooseberries, plums, tomatoes, peppers, flowers … and the occasional penguin! Follow it on social media to monitor availability as well as the “employee of the week.” Honor system payments in cash box or through Venmo.
- 828 County Rd 900N (Champaign): Find this farm stand — from July to the end of the growing season —at the end of the road that is one mile south of the Staley & Monticello Rd/1000N intersection (follow the signs). The stand is stocked on Thursday evenings, depending on availability, and open Fri-Sun. Honor system payments in cash box or “pay it forward.” Offerings this year include numerous varieties of tomatoes and baby tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers, apples, red and white onions, yukon potatoes, and fresh cut sunflowers in a variety of colors and sizes.
- Humbleweed Farm (Champaign): Korean-American farmer Miky sells her produce to bulk buyers as well as at the farm stands at Joyful Wren and Delight Flower Farm.
- Joyful Wren Farms (983 County Rd 900E, Champaign): Located south of Champaign at the SW corner of Duncan and Monticello Rd. Offering eggs, vegetables, and Mad Goat coffee. Open 7:30 a.m. until dusk. Online ordering available and SNAP tokens and vouchers accepted. Follow on social media for the latest.
- 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.
- Mariah’s Mums & More (Triple M Farm), Clinton: From May 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 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 were 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!) 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.
Herriott Sweet Corn (from Sidney): When its corn is in season it sells from the parking lot of Toro Loco, 1601 N. Cunningham Ave., Urbana. Check its social media for daily schedule.
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. It sells fresh picked sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans, blackberries and honey daily during the summer at five stands (Hoopeston, Danville, Rantoul, Rossville and Attica, Ind.). Owned and operated by Toby Brown and family.
- Its stand in Rantoul is closest to C-U. Depending on availability it operates Monday-Saturday, 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.
Sustainable Student Farm at UIUC (3505 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana): This student group operates a farm stand on Thursdays from June through October 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 on Thursdays (May through August). “We operate year-round on 6 acres of seasonal field production and 9,000 square feet of year-round high tunnel production. We grow over 30,000 lbs of high quality, locally grown fruits and vegetables for the campus dining halls every year. We consider education and volunteer opportunities part of our mission.”
Finally, some farm stands exist in cyberspace — because 2023!
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 $7.95 fee. Subscriptions available.
Let us know if there’s a farm stand we should add to this list!
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