Here’s a fun fact about the greater Champaign County area—we have some of the richest soil in the world right here in east Central Illinois. You can thank the glaciers during the ice age for creating this prairie, which in turn gives way to a bounty of ingredients that we enjoy summer to fall. Check out our top ideas to experience these fresh, local flavors!
- Eat a meal on the farm—If you want to get the most of local ingredients, what better way to enjoy them than on the farm where they were grown. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery sets up the ultimate dining experience in rural Champaign, hosting dinners and pop-up events throughout the year. Their “Dinners on the Farm” series runs from late May into early December, showcasing seasonal ingredients alongside their award-winning goat cheese. Long tables encourage a sense of community, so you can share in this slow food experience with strangers who will soon become friends. Just down the road, Willow Creek Farm supplies ingredients to several local restaurants, and also invites guests to their farm monthly to enjoy the season’s best in an unmatched setting.
- Dine out at a restaurant sourcing local ingredients—One of the many-reasons that we are an award-winning culinary destination is our use of local ingredients at our restaurants. Many in the community pride themselves on staying local whenever possible. A trio of restaurants in our area exclusively source ingredients from Willow Creek Farm in Urbana—The Wheelhouse in St. Joseph, the Pink Pig in Ogden, and the new Hank’s Table in downtown Champaign. Located off the Kickapoo Rail Trail in St. Joseph, the Wheelhouse has not only fully embraced a bike theme, they’ve embraced the use of sourcing local ingredients. Chef Ryan Rogiers regularly evolves the menu to feature seasonal flavors that menu has something for every palate, including the kids!
- Drink local beer—We know that there are countless options for craft beer across the Midwest, but Riggs Beer Company in Urbana has a unique story behind their brews. The Riggs brothers, Matt and Darin, grew up on a farm about 20 miles Southeast of Urbana where they harvested corn and soybeans from their family farm dating back to 1874. You’ll be happy to know they’re still using their own grain in this authentic, local operation. In their two years of production, they’ve used over 21 tons of Illinois Riggs grown corn, wheat and barley and are currently working with the University of Illinois a selecting special varieties of grain ideal for brewing. They’re also 90-100% solar-powered, so you can feel good about drinking their popular Hefeweizen in their tap room or beer garden.
- Visit a Farmer’s Market— Market season is long awaited after the winter. They aren’t just a way to purchase local ingredients. Our local markets are experiences, with dozens of local farms, entertainment, tastings, and an opportunity to run into friends and neighbors. Urbana’s Market at the Square, with nearly 70 vendors each week, showcases local and regional growers from flowers to produce to locally-raised proteins. This Saturday morning market is enhanced by chef demonstrations, art at the market, kids’ programs, and so much more. With a market happening nearly every day of the week, it’s easy to get your hands on fresh ingredients.
Living local is simply our way of life in the greater Champaign County area. Discover the bounty of fresh ingredients and agricultural experiences for a relaxing weekend getaway! Visit Champaign
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