It’s Saturday morning, and the dappled sun shines on an array of produce, ranging from radishes to asparagus and from leafy greens to root vegetables. A pair of weathered, calloused hands places his delicious fruits of the Earth into your shopping bag as he smiles a wrinkly smile, showing off a lifetime of working under Utah’s sun.
You continue on to purchase everything on your shopping list of local produce, meats, and cheeses while at Pioneer Park, which has played host to the Downtown Farmers Market since 1992, when it was launched by the Downtown Alliance.
The Downtown Farmers Market is one of the longest-running and largest markets of its kind in the country. Nearly 10,000 patrons—sometimes upwards to 15,000—from all walks of life come together to stroll the vibrant market every week during the summer.
It’s certainly become a tradition—one that’s centered around food, yet offers much more.
The search for fresh and local is easy. There’s a mix of vendors from more than 100 farms and ranches from within 250 miles of Salt Lake City. Compare this to the market’s first year, 25 years ago, when there was but four vendors.
The benefits of such a robust market featuring local produce are many: It increases direct access to fresh foods; it promotes community-based food production; and it minimizes environmental impacts of long-distance food transportation.
The Downtown Farmers Market has expanded its operations from 19 days a year to 46 with the inclusion of the Harvest Market on Tuesday evenings and the Winter Market at Rio Grande. The latter is held every other Saturday during the colder months. Opportunities to shop local are offered year-round with these additions.
To ensure that products sold at the markets are in line with the market’s guidelines—namely grown by small and mid-sized farms within 250 miles—the Market has established a vendor integrity protocol and systems, thereby ensuring you get the very best of what’s around.
Once upon a time, farmers markets were only frequented by chefs stocking up on the freshest ingredients for their restaurants. This has changed, and markets are now not only a place for tourists to get a feel for the flare of an area, but also a place for community to congregate.
The walkways are bustling with shoppers and the community comes alive for a few hours each Saturday—it’s the most ideal way to kickstart your weekend. Furthering the vibrant experience, there are buskers (street musicians) playing at every turn, happy dogs being walked, and families coming together over locally-grown food. It’s a hub, and this is where you’ll catch up with old friends, coworkers, and your neighbors.
It’s a real treat to meet the farmers and makers of the edible delicacies we flock here for. These are people whom have dedicated their lives to growing plants and raising animals with best practices in mind. You can also find makers of things such as world-class hummus, jams, breads, and more. Don't miss the Olde World cake bread from Mozdykuchen (pictured above).
The early-morning chill has burned off, and the sun hits your back as your attention draws to the glorious smells of coffee and biscuits from Dottie's Biscuit Barn (pictured above). This is your version of heaven. On Saturdays, you’ll also find oodles of ready-to-eat meals in the food alley—everything from the state’s best biscuits to wood-fired pizza to darn-fine lattes.
After you’ve shopped for produce and eaten breakfast, make time to stroll around the Downtown Art and Craft Market, located on the south half of Pioneer Park. The Art and Craft Market, a juried show, features purveyors of artistic, decorative, and usable wares and goods; many make for the perfect souvenir, gift, or treat for yourself. With nearly 130 local artists during the season, there’s surely something for everyone.
The Downtown Farmers Market is held at Pioneer Park (300 S. 300 West) every Saturday, beginning June 11 and running through October 22. Hours of operation are 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
For more information, visit the Downtown Farmers Market website.
Photographer's Note: The content found in this story was originally commissioned by the Utah Office of Tourism and has been adapted for 13% SALT.
If you love the market like I do, you might also like a previous 13% SALT article, Meet Your Farmer.
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.