No-frills farmers market opens Saturday in Salt Lake City

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Artwork by Steve Johnson frames a scene at the opening day of the 2018 Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City. This year, the arts and crafts section of the market has been eliminated due to coronavirus restrictions.

Goodbye, frills. Hello, basics.

That’s what shoppers should expect Saturday, when Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market opens for the 2020 season.

The extraneous stuff is gone. Thank you, coronavirus.

But the fundamentals will be there, assured Alison Einerson, executive director of Urban Food Connections of Utah, which operates the premier event at Pioneer Park each summer.

Eliminated this year are the food trucks and trailers that sell prepared foods, a move to prevent lingering and large gatherings. Gone, too, are the arts and crafts booths, live music and other entertainment.

Reusable bags are allowed, Einerson said. But dogs are prohibited — unless they are trained service animals for a specific medical condition. (Some people might not miss the four-legged visitors.)

Picking out that perfect pepper, zucchini or tomato will require restraint, because customers cannot handle any products or self-serve items.

The market also will close an hour earlier — running from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday through Oct. 24.

While this year’s offerings are limited, Einerson said, what will be available “are 96 of the best hardcore vendors the state has.”

Consumers will be able to buy fresh-picked fruits, vegetables and herbs; Utah-raised meats, eggs and cheeses; as well as bread, salsa, jam and other bottled and prepackaged items that can be taken home to enjoy.

The focus is less on fun and more on safe and efficient product sales, because farmers markets are considered an essential grocery service during COVID-19.

“It won’t be the social event you are used to," she said. “It will be like going to the grocery store — come in, get what you need.”

And leave.

To that end, Urban Food Connections is asking that only one person per household visit the market each Saturday.

The nonprofit has worked closely with city, county and state health officials to redesign the market for social distancing and other safety measures.

Booths will have a new configuration — facing out toward the street rather than looking in at the park. There also will be 10-foot spacing between vendors, which means your favorite farmer or producers might be in different spots this year.

There will be hand-sanitizer stations placed at regular intervals. Customers also should observe the one-way traffic flow and pay attention to the marked queuing lines at each booth to ensure physical distancing.

Masks aren’t mandated, Einerson said, but it would be great if people wore them. Same goes for cash. It’s not barred, but venders will have touch-free payment options. For their part, vendors will be wearing masks and gloves, she said, and sanitizing regularly.

When the pandemic hit, the Downtown Alliance launched a “Save Our Market” campaign to help cover lost revenue and new costs. So far, it has collected nearly half ($24,000) of its $50,000 goal.

“When we lost half the vendors," Einerson said, “we also lost half our revenue.”

Changes required to make the market safe during the pandemic also have been costly.

From shortages in grocery stores to outbreaks at meat-processing plants — including one at the JBS facility in Hyrum — the pandemic has heightened the appreciation of where food comes from and how it is handled.

“Maybe that’s the silver lining," Einerson said.

Knowing your local producer has always been the advantage of shopping at a farmers market.

“If this drives more people to eat local,” she said, "that is one thing we can say that we have gained out of this horrible situation.”

Farmers Market rules

• Do not attend the market if you are sick.

• Shop quickly and efficiently. Do not linger or gather.

• Look for signs that show where to line up at booths.

• Maintain 6 feet of social distancing between other customers and vendors.

• Wear a mask or face covering (recommended).

• Limit your visit to one shopper per household.

• When possible, use a credit card, debit card, cashless mobile app or exact change.

• Keep pets home — with the exception of service animals that are trained to respond to a specific medical condition.

• Observe one-way traffic flow (signs and arrows will be posted).

• Reusable bags are allowed.

• Customers may not handle any products or self-serve.

• SNAP exchange and Double Up Food Bucks will be available.