Farmer market 01192015

Shoppers check out informational booths in August 2011 the Market at the Square in Urbana.

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URBANA — Organizers plan to hold Urbana’s Market at the Square this year but may alter the format to encourage social distancing.

“We’re going to try to get the best, biggest, most robust market we can, but it’s also going to be a safe market,” Urbana Economic Development Manager Brandon Boys said at Tuesday’s advisory board meeting. “First and foremost, we will comply with the governor’s executive order.”

The stay-at-home order, which currently runs through April 30, specifically lists farmers markets as essential businesses, but the Illinois Department of Agriculture told the Illinois Farmers Market Association that social distancing should still be maintained.

The popular Urbana farmers market runs in the city-owned parking lots outside Lincoln Square Mall on Saturday mornings between May and October.

“The current order actually expires before the market. So we’re going to be looking at what kind of executive order are we operating under,” Boys said. “It’s more likely that we will have to restrict the number of vendors (and) the kind of vendors to those who are considered essential under the order.”

Right now, organizers are waiting on guidelines from the farmers market association, due this week, and from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

“We’re in a little bit of a wait-and-see position,” coordinator Bryan Heaton said.

Last week, Heaton sent a letter to vendors with three options for how the market could run: no changes; fewer vendors; or vendors only allowed to do prepaid orders available for curbside pickup.

A group of vendors including Blue Moon Farm, Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, Moore Family Farm and Sola Gratia Farm submitted a letter encouraging organizers not to choose the third option.

“As much as 60 percent of our sales in the summer are walk-ups,” they wrote. And “customers tend to order less online than they will buy at a market.”

Heaton said officials will wait until April 15 to make a decision.