The coronavirus may have stopped outdoor concerts, parades and festivals, but it hasn’t robbed Utahns of at least one beloved summer tradition: farmers markets.
In 2020, growers will continue to sell their bounty in city parks, squares and shopping centers from Logan to St. George and dozens of points in between.
Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park, the state’s largest offering, kicks off its season Saturday.
The Cache Valley Gardeners’ Market in Logan opened in May.
“We didn’t even think about canceling,” manager Mary Laine said. “Farmers didn’t stop growing food, and they need the support.”
The sentiment seems to be similar around the state, with most markets expected to open in the coming weeks.
There are a few exceptions, including the Park Silly Sunday Market and markets held on the University of Utah campus and at the Veterans Administration building in Salt Lake City. They’ve canceled their summer seasons.
“Farmers all over are feeling like their day has come,” said Regan Emmons, the coordinator of Utah State University’s Farmers Market Promotion Program. Just like grocery store workers, ”people are appreciating them on a new level.”
She said disruptions in the food chain and outbreaks at meatpacking plants — like the one at the JBS facility in Hyrum — have heightened the importance of farm work.
Shopping at a farmers market “is one way people can support local,” Emmons said, “and have a little bit of control about what they are eating.”
Of course, while markets are continuing, they will be operating differently due to pandemic.
To open, they must follow a new set of guidelines developed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, designed to meet state health orders and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, said Linda Gillmor, director of marketing and economic development.
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.
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.
There will be separate entrances and exits to control crowds; booths will be 10 feet apart, and customers will have to line up in front of their favorite booth and stand 6 feet apart to get what they want.
There will be hand-sanitizer stations at regular intervals — but no food samples.
Shoppers’ actions — and attitudes — about the changes will determine how successful markets are this year, Emmons said. “Following the rules and bringing a lot of patience are important."
Vendors will have to do more work, too, because customers cannot handle any products, and there can be no self-serve items.
Urban gardener Tyler Montague, of Keep It Real Vegetables in Salt Lake City, said he and co-owner Holiday Dalgleish don’t mind the extra work.
“The flow might be more orderly and mellow,” he said, especially at the Downtown Market, where people crowd around the booths. “Some people stopped shopping at the market because it was so chaotic.”
The changes might bring back those people.
What isn’t changing at farmers markets is the fresh food. Consumers will be able to buy fresh-picked fruits, vegetables and herbs; Utah-raised meats, eggs and cheeses; and breads, salsas, jams and other bottled and prepackaged items that can be taken home to enjoy.
On Thursday, one of the Keep It Real urban gardens was filled with produce from spring greens and kale to baby carrots and fresh herbs.
Like most growers, Montague and Dalgleish pick the produce just hours before it’s brought to market.
“We’re hoping people come out and support us,” he said. “It’s the safest, freshest food you can get.”
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 for Salt Lake City Downtown Farmers Market — 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.
Where to find a farmers market
Salt Lake City
Downtown Pioneer Park • 350 W. 300 South, Saturday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., June 13-Oct. 24.
9th West/People’s Market • 1060 S. 900 West, Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., June 28-Oct. 11.
New Roots/IRC Office • 221 S. 400 West, Wednesday, 4-6:30 p.m., July 8-Oct. 7.
Liberty Park • 600 E. 900 South, Friday, 4 p.m.-dusk, June 12-Oct. 9.
Salt Lake County
Murray Park (Utah Farm Bureau) • 202 E. Murray Park Ave., Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m., July 25-Oct. 24.
New Roots/Central Park • 2797 S. 200 East, South Salt Lake, Wednesday, 4-6:30 p.m., July 8-Oct. 7.
South Jordan (Utah Farm Bureau) • 1600 Towne Center Drive, South Jordan, Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Aug. 1-Oct. 17.
Sunnyvale Park • 4013 S. 700 West, Millcreek, Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., June 27-Oct. 24.
Wheeler Farm • 6351 S. 900 East, Murray, Sunday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., June 7-Oct. 25.
Bountiful City Park • 200 W. 400 North, Thursday, 3 p.m.-dusk, July 30-Oct. 8.
Brigham City • 6 N. Main, Saturday, 4-8 p.m., June 20-Sept. 26 and Oct. 16.
Cache Valley/Logan • 199 N. Main, Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., May 9-Oct. 17.
Cedar City IFA store • 905 S. Main, Saturday, May-October, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; November-April, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Kaysville, USU Botanical Center • 875 S. 50 West, Thursday, 5-8 p.m., June 9-Sept. 27.
Ogden • Grant Avenue and 25th St., Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., June 20-Sept. 12.
Price • 100 E. 100 North, Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., July 24-Oct. 31.
Provo Pioneer Park • 600 W. Center St., Saturday, 9 am.-2 p.m., June 6-Oct. 31.
Spanish Fork • 40 S. Main, Saturday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., Aug. 1-Oct. 31.
Springville • 110 S. Main, Monday, 5-9 p.m., July 6-Oct. 26. Closes at 8 p.m. in October.
St. George at Ancestor Square, • 2 W. St. George Blvd., Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon, May-Oct. 9.
Summit County • 900 Round Valley Drive, Park City, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Syracuse • 1891 W. Antelope Drive, Wednesday, 5 p.m.-dusk, July 8-Aug. 26.
Torrey • Center and Main, Saturday, 4-6 p.m., July 18-Oct. 31.
Vernal/Ashley Valley • Library Plaza, 134 W. Main, Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., July 4-Sept. 26.