Selling produce when Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market was at limited capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “thankfully, was going OK,” according to Tyler Montague of Keep it Real Vegetables.
“We had loyal customers who still came to support us even during the pandemic,” Montague said Tuesday, at a news conference to promote the market’s upcoming summer season starting this Saturday, June 4. The market — situated in Pioneer Park, at 300 South and 300 West in downtown Salt Lake City — will be at full capacity for the first time since 2019.
“We’re hoping even more people will now come back out,” said Montague, who staffed a demo booth full of fresh bagged greens at Tuesday’s news conference at Pioneer Park. “It’s a safer venue. It’s outside, in the sunlight and the fresh air. So hopefully people feel safe, and we create a safe environment for everyone to come do their shopping.”
The 2022 version of the market will boast a full food fairway with some 300 booths, as well as the art and craft market returning in full force. The market will run Saturdays, from June 4 to October 22, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Gov. Spencer Cox, speaking at Tuesday’s event, said that as someone who grew up on a farm — and whose wife, Abby, grew up on a ranch — he’s looking forward to bringing his family to the market.
“We have seen firsthand as a family how important these markets are to the economy,” Cox said. “We want people to come together to support farmers and local artisans.”
Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, praised the collective spirit and sense of community the market creates.
“Not only that, the market is a remarkable incubator for small businesses,” Miller said. “It offers a low barrier for any business to gain a broader business and customer base. Time and again, I hear stories about local businesses that began at this very market and then went on to grow into full-scale operations.”
The market will hold its 31st season this summer. It started in 1992, in part as a way to activate and reclaim Pioneer Park from crime and drug traffic.
That’s not the only park where Urban Food Connections, the group that organizes the Downtown Farmers Market, will be working this summer. Allison Einerson, the group’s executive director, noted that UFC will be overseeing the Liberty Park Farmers Market, which starts on June 16 and is open Thursday nights from 4 p.m. to dusk. The market, in its fifth year, can be found on the park’s east side (approximately 680 E. 1040 South in Salt Lake City).
“We were able to take over operations for Liberty Park market this year,” Einerson said. “It’s a great neighborhood market, previously run by East Liberty Wells Council. They asked us if we would step in and take over, and we’re really thrilled to do that.”
There are enough markets going on along the Wasatch Front that a grower like Montague sometimes has to choose. He’s not participating in the Liberty Park market because of a standing commitment at Wheeler Farm in Murray. And, as an outdoor grower, he didn’t participate in UFC’s indoor winter market at The Gateway.
“I’m an urban farmer here in the city. So I have eight gardens, comprising about an acre-and-a-quarter growing area,” he said. “I do everything all organically by hand.”