...but wait, we're still enjoying the 2017 season, isn't next year a ways off? Farmers and market managers will immediately tell you, no. The next season feels like it will start about 5 minutes after the last, and this time around we're very excited for that. Thanks to the tireless work of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (plus Illinois farmers and local food advocates who have been lobbying our state representatives) there are two big reasons to get excited for the 2018 farmers' market season in Illinois.
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13 weeks down, 11 to go. We've hit the halfway point of Season 3 at the Champaign Farmers' Market, and I'm just going to cut to the chase and say the season has surpassed all expectations. I'll be honest, last year was a struggle. Attendance was down a little from the first season, a few new vendors who started the season full of excitement, didn't finish out the summer with us.
It's that time of year again! The trees and grass and gardens are exploding with green. The weather has warmed up (kind of), and we can feel summer rapping at the door. And the best part of all this just might be the anticipation of juicy berries, crisp asparagus, flavorful tomatoes, gorgeous greens, and all the other delicious, energizing favorites we can soon expect to find at the farmers' market.
We're entering our critical third season at the Champaign Farmers' Market. Critical third season is a phrase I'll be using a lot in the coming weeks and months. Research shows that farmers' markets who make it through 3 seasons are far more likely to succeed and truly become a part of the community.
Last week, Cara issued her radish challenge, and over the weekend I wholeheartedly accepted. I picked up some gorgeous misato radishes from Blue Moon Farm in Urbana, and pulled out my new woodland creature and barnyard animal cookie cutters (from an unorthodox approach to Christmas cookie season over the holidays).
Last week I spoke on a panel at the Illinois Specialty Crop, Agritourism, and Organic Conference in Springfield. It was the final session of the Farmers' Market Vendor Boot Camp block, and the panel focused on the different types of advisory boards farmers' markets around Central Illinois use. We talked a lot about the different ways we all get input from our vendors and other stakeholders to build a successful farmers' market community.
Another season has wrapped up, and it's time for reflecting, and more importantly planning what's to come in 2017.
The weather may not feel like it, but November is indeed upon us. Which sadly means the end of outdoor farmers' market season in this neck of the woods. The Champaign Farmers' Market concluded its sophomore season on October 25, which means it's now time to reflect on the past six months and dive into planning Season Three.
Last week I got to witness a perfect storm moment: all the things I've been working so hard to accomplish with our farmers' market wrapped up in one family encounter. We had held a promotional drawing the previous week to draw more Parkland College students out to the market. One reason I had worked so hard to get Parkland students out was knowing that a significant number of the student body receive SNAP benefits.