By FRED KRONER
Mahomet’s newest business venture is one without a storefront.
A Farmer’s Market will start a 14-week run next month.
The event will be held just off of Main Street on Fridays — rain or shine — from 4-7 p.m. in the parking lot to the west of the community building and to the east of the Cornbelt Fire Station.
The return of a Farmer’s Market — which has been in hiatus most of the last decade — was the brainchild of Chamber of Commerce director Walter Pierce before he was even on the job.
“When I had my first interview, I wanted to bring some ideas,” Pierce said, “so I put together a list that Mahomet didn’t have.”
At the top of his list was a Home and Garden show, which the Chamber pulled off on April 7-8 at the high school. Pierce’s second item was a Farmer’s Market.
“They (Chamber board members) told me to prioritize,” Pierce said.
The Farmer’s Market will debut on May 25 and will be held 14 Fridays in a 15-week period. The lone exception will be Aug. 24, when Main Street will be closed for the annual Mahomet River Festival. The Aug. 31 Farmer’s Market will be the final one of the season.
“We could have space for 20 booths (each with an 8-foot table),” Pierce said.
Pierce has an assortment of vendors who have committed or who are hoping to participate.
One who would like to be on site is David Wickboldt with Central Illinois Aquaponics, from Bellflower.
“I love the idea of the market and we will be involved if we can,” Wickboldt said. “I’m leaning toward doing it if I have enough product.”
Aquaponics supplies three grocery stores — Mahomet IGA, Common Ground Co-op and Harvest Market — as well as Silvercreek Restaurant, in Urbana. Wickboldt is also committed to the weekly downtown Champaign Farmer’s Market.
“I’m just not sure we will have enough product,” Wickboldt said.
One area business who will make sure her table is well-stocked is Terri Burdick, from Great Harvest Bread Company, in Champaign.
“I came from a town (Rockford) that had a Friday night Farmer’s Market and it was the heartbeat of the community,” Burdick said. “Everyone started their weekend at the Market.”
Great Harvest will sell its breads and cookies at Monticello’s Farmer’s Market (Thursdays, 3-6 p.m.) and Urbana’s Market on the Square (Saturdays, 7 a.m.-noon) again this year. She and her staff are looking forward to adding the Mahomet venue in the middle of the others.
“My staff loves being at the Market,” Burdick said. “They all want to, so we have to alternate.”
Burdick especially enjoys the feel of the Farmer’s Market.
“The Market is a different pace,” she said. “People are usually not in a hurry and are willing to have a conversation.
“It’s an opportunity for us as vendors to see people and bring business to the community in a different way.”
Burdick said, “there’s nothing we take to the Market that hasn’t been popular,” but she is not concerned about running out.
She has a solution in the case her supply gets depleted.
“We’ll take orders and have it the next week,” Burdick said.
A Mahomet business owner who is looking forward to the Farmer’s Market is Lucky Moon Pies and More owner Emily Kroner.
“Every well-rounded community should have a Farmer’s Market,” she said. “It brings people together.
“There’s something about shopping outdoors in the warmer weather. It’s good to shop local and see what people produce out of their land or through their crafts. I appreciate the Chamber working to get this off the ground.”
Kroner and her staff plan to offer “individually wrapped and ready to eat baked goods,” each week in addition to some whole pies.
Beyond that she said, “I will get feedback from the public and see what they might like.”
Another committed vendor is Seymour’s Terri Easton, a beekeeper who plans to have a supply of honey.
“I hope to supply enough part of the summer for others besides my family,” she said. “This is a new venture for me, so I’m not sure what to expect. I hope to find another person to join me.
“I plan to open the hives next week to see where we’re at with the supply of honey.”
From Pierce’s perspective, the key is to have an assortment of vendors.
Besides fresh produce and vegetables, as well as baked goods, he hopes to have a vendor with fresh flowers, another with fresh eggs, another with olive oils, plus homemade ice cream on two weeks in June and two in July.
“I’ve reached out to people and everybody I’ve talked to has been receptive,” Pierce said. “If you have the staples, people will come out.
“We still have room for more vendors.”
There will be seasonal vendors such as ones selling sweet corn and melons. There will also be space set aside for crafts or businesses such as LulaRoe.
Pierce said vendors will each set the price for their merchandise.