West Valley City • As the wind blew, announcing the arrival of a storm in Centennial Park, organizers of the West Valley City Farmers Market taped cardboard faces with silly expressions and funky hair to a table to prevent them from flying away.
Children had assembled them in a city class meant to teach them about healthy eating and growing food. After that, the kids received a token to get a piece of produce from the market.
After a few years without its own farmers market, West Valley City partnered with Good4Life Markets, which manages a similar initiative in Herriman, to offer local food options to residents.
Every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. through Oct. 13, more than 40 vendors gather in Centennial Park, offering prepared foods, produce and crafts.
“There are a lot of farmers markets on the east side all the time, but there’s nothing on the west side,” said Ana Valle, a West Valley City resident who took her nieces to the market on a recent Thursday evening to check out the space and try something from a food stand. “I think it’s just a great thing for West Valley. We need this. As a community, I think it is very important to have something like this to bring us together.”
That sense of community is what Natalie Rollinson and Denise Christiansen, owners of Good4Life Markets, had in mind.
“It’s not just about making a dollar. It’s about giving something back to your community,” Rollinson said. “So when you have a good product that’s coming from a really small business and starting out, it’s family-owned, we want to support that. Everyone wants to be able to support their own family. And this gives them the opportunity to do that.”
Although the market debuted in early July, Rollinson said, some vendors have already made meaningful connections with customers, calling them by name.
Many products are available, including fruit, pickles, hummus, Mexican salsa, honey candy and sticks, poultry, soap and a range of crafts. Plans also are in the works for entertainment from various West Valley City cultural groups.
Food vendors accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits with an option of using the Double Up Food Bucks program, which allows customers to double their dollars up to $30 at farmers markets.
“For $30 that they might spend for honey or bread or candy or baked goods,” Christiansen said, “they get free $30 in fresh produce.”
Apart from food, there are also options to get your hands dirty and grow plants, or use products made just a few miles away.
Go Biochar, a regenerative soil solution processed on the west side, offers a water-saving alternative for farmers and small gardeners. John Webster, its owner, bakes sawdust and wood chips into biomass that, when mixed with soil, acts as a sponge and nutrient retainer.
“It’s been a really fantastic experience. And it’s great to support local,” he said. “We source everything and make it and sell it here. So like we’re super hyper-local. My shop is like 40 blocks north of here.”
Kellie Hoecherl, owner of Hush Hush Farm, held on to her tent, protecting it from the wind. Next to her, people got closer to pet her goat, Licorice. Hoecherl has a farm with 11 goats and makes handmade goat milk skin care products.
“It’s been amazing. I’m just hoping that this storm doesn’t blow us away here in a second, but it’s a good environment,” she said. “I love the shade. Had a lot of people come through. This is my first time in this market, and so far I’m loving it.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.