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C-U Outdoor Farmers Markets Will Open, But With Changes

The Market at the Square is held in the Lincoln Square Mall parking lot in Urbana.

This weekend marks the opening of Market at the Square, Urbana’s outdoor farmers market held in the Lincoln Square Mall parking lot. Although it will open as scheduled, there will be social distancing measures in place to protect shoppers and vendors.

For one, all shoppers are required to wear masks upon entry and are required to maintain a six foot distance from others. Vendor booths will be spaced further apart from each other. Vendors will accept both cash and credit, but may refuse to issue change for cash. They will also continue to accept SNAP benefits. The market won’t include any community engagement, such as live music, art-making or educational programs.

“Market staff will be there to gently remind people to watch their distance and to keep moving through,” says Bryan Heaton, the market’s coordinator.

Heaton says he’s looked to the Illinois Farmers Market Association for guidance on how to safely operate a market during the pandemic. He says he’s also worked with the Urbana Business Association as well as The Land Connection, which operates the Champaign Farmers Market, to implement these safety measures. 

“It’s a cultural and social and economic icon for Urbana, and I’m really happy that it’s able to go forward, especially under these guidelines that will make it significantly safer to shop there,” he says.

Although it won’t be the same kind of community gathering space, Heaton says there’s still value in attending the market, including supporting the farmers that rely on the market to sell their goods.

“I think that’s going to be one of the hardest things to adjust to. Not being able to go out, hang out and socialize with people,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a difficult process for everyone involved.”

For those who are wary of attending in person, some market vendors are offering online ordering and curbside pickup. 

The Champaign Farmers Market, scheduled to open May 19th, will implement similar social distancing measures.

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Dana Cronin

Dana Cronin

Dana Cronin covers food and agriculture for Illinois Newsroom. Her work has reached both national and regional audiences through WILL's partnership with Harvest Public Media, an ag-focused Midwest reporting collaborative. Prior to Illinois Newsroom, she worked at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C. and for other member stations including KQED in San Francisco and 91.5 KRCC in Colorado Springs, CO. ➤ DCronin@illinois.edu@DanaHCronin

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