The excitement level for Holly Byers-Stewart was off the charts Saturday during opening day of Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market in Pioneer Park.
“Yeah! It’s market season,” she cheered after sipping an apple-cider slushie. “I come every year on opening day. I love it.”
The state’s premier summer market is celebrating its 27th season with nearly 200 food producers and vendors and 100 artists and craftspeople. It continues every Saturday through Oct. 20 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The market doesn’t have any major changes in 2018, organizers say, but it has added a handful of new producers and booths including urban farmers Amanda Theobald and Elliot Musgrove, owners of Top Crops, and raw honey producer Ross Burningham of Burningham’s Bees in Bountiful. (Say that 10 times fast.)
Burningham’s table is right next to Burningham’s Fresh Fruit Pies, run by his brother Ron Burningham of Brigham City. It’s one of several longtime favorites at the market along with Vosen Breads, Week’s Berries of Paradise and Sun River.
The first day of market business is part celebration, part reunion, and marks the official start of summer in the capital city as farmers and producers reconnect with each other and their customers after a monthslong winter hiatus.
“Sometimes we get caught up in doing the work,” explained Brit Welsh from Beehive Cheese Co., “but when we get to the market, it’s fun and we are able to connect with customers and remember why we do it.”
Brandy Pedroni brought her adult children and grandchildren to the market, saying it was worth the drive from Eagle Mountain.
“We look forward to this all winter,” she said. “We’re just excited to finally get fresh produce.”
“I like the sheer size of it all,” added her son Shane Pedroni, who joked about the large number of hipsters at the market.
Indeed, the market attracts everyone from babies in strollers to senior citizens in wheelchairs — and every hipster, millennial, baby boomer and dog owner in between.
By 10 a.m., the longest lines were at the Buzzed Coffee Truck and the Sweet Lake Limeade stand.
But farmers on the north side of Pioneer Park were doing a brisk business selling early spring crops including rhubarb, radishes, kale, salad greens, peas and beets.
“It’s just a happy environment,” said Dave Keller, who was working in the Wilkerson Farms booth from Orem. “We just look forward to it.”
Zoe’s Natural Garden owner David Chen and his family have been selling produce at the market for 20 years. Most of the vegetables go to restaurants and a community-supported agriculture program. But Chen says he continues to have a booth at the market because he likes the face-to-face interaction with the community.
“Now with technology, we don’t interact as much with people,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t even know what they look like.”
No one travels a greater distance to participate in the market than Alual Kuol Majok. She spends winter in her homeland of South Sudan, but returns to Salt Lake City every summer to run Am Bor Sudanese Cuisine.
“This is my second home,” said Majok, who has been running the popular food booth for 13 years. She returns, she said, “because people support different cultures and food.”
Majok has a devoted following who can’t wait for the market to start just to get a taste of the couscous topped with spinach, the lentils and rice, and meat- and vegetable-filled samosas.
“Sometimes, the only reason I come to the market is to get this food,” Wendy Dang said. “As the weather gets warmer, I start looking forward to it.“