The Downtown Farmers Market restores our hope
We all need hope. I personally find hope for humanity—and the earth—in an unlikely place: the weekly farmers market. Where else can you trace food to its source—to a specific farmer, cow, hillside or orchard? Where else can you escape the grip of consumer capitalism and connect with fellow gardeners, neighbors and small-business owners?
To go to the farmers market is to travel back in time, to exist in a world before supermarkets, one where “whole foods” are the norm, not the name of a chain bought by Amazon.
As a former coffee vendor at Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market—the place we started La Barba Coffee before expanding to brick-and-mortar locations—I relished the old-fashioned generosity in the post-market swaps among vendors: A limeade for a cup of coffee? A bag of beans for a wood-fired pizza? Where else can a food merchant exchange goods without the medium of currency?
In an age where eateries are designed to be scaled, grown, franchised and/or replicated across multiple locations, there’s something humbling about encountering individuals and companies who’ve yet to embrace high-end marketing to sell their wares.
The products speak for themselves—and you can taste many of them right at the market. The concept is not new; it’s a return to a centuries-old tradition of buying and selling in small public markets and villages before industrialization, pasteurization, refrigeration and frozen foods paved over America’s culinary landscape.
Every city used to have some type of a public market, and many still do. But even in cities where public markets were abandoned in favor of supermarkets and malls, local farmers markets are making a strong comeback.
Bringing Rural to Urban
There are now dozens of farmers markets that have cropped up in Utah, but the Downtown Farmers Market, created in 1992, is the largest in the Intermountain West and the second oldest in the state (after the Utah Farm Bureau’s Murray Market).
As a program of the Downtown Alliance and the Urban Food Connections of Utah, it hosts three events: In the summer months, there’s the Saturday morning farmers market and the Tuesday evening harvest market—both at Pioneer Park. In the winter, from November through April, there’s a weekly winter market, on Saturdays at Rio Grande Depot.
“Our motto is: We bring the rural to urban,” says Alison Einerson, director of markets for Urban Food Connections of Utah.
Started five years ago as a 501(c)(3), Urban Food Connections’ role is to advocate for sustainable regional agriculture, community-gathering places, nutritious local foods, and consumer education. “We’re about restoring the connection between people buying and people growing the food,” Einerson says.
Many mainstay downtown restaurants and small businesses got their start as vendors at the Downtown Farmers Market including Rico’s, Sweet Lake Limeade, Laziz, Amour Spreads, Beltex Meats and Vive Juicery to name a few. Einerson says the market’s goal is to help build small businesses, to assist vendors in honing their product and find distribution, and maybe—when they’re ready—to send them off to start their own store.
The First Line of Shopping
But even with all the noble goals of the farmers marketplace, many wonder if its offerings are priced competitively. “The idea that food is more expensive at the farmers market isn’t true,” market manager Carson Chambers says. It bothers him that people think of farmers markets as trendy and elitist. “It really comes down to value,” he says.
“What are you spending your time on?” Einerson adds. “What are you valuing? You can’t live without food.”
Both Einerson and Chambers say market produce in season is pound for pound about the same price as you’ll find anywhere else. Even meat is cheaper than that in other national specialty outlets. Even still, they say, real foods have a cost. While supermarket farm produce shipped from Mexico and California may sometimes be more affordable, it is not always as wholesome as local agriculture, both in taste and carbon footprint.
Chambers notes that the Downtown Farmers Market participates in the Utah SNAP/EBT program. “People who are on food stamps can come and get wooden tokens to spend at the market,” he says.
Now in its 27th season, the Downtown Farmers Market gathers more than 100 farms and ranches from within 250 miles of Salt Lake City and includes vendors from 16 Utah counties. It features free live music and hosts weekly events, including a farmers market club for children with activities where kids can earn $2 to spend on produce.
On the drawing board are plans for a year-round public market to be located either west of Rio Grande Depot or at the Utah State Fairpark, with a decision hoped for by year’s end.
In the meantime, for this year, the market will deal with construction within Pioneer Park to make room for a new soccer field. Einerson and Chambers aren’t worried, though. It’s likely that dogs and strollers will remain the most controversial aspects at the market. “We do our best to make it the best farmers market around,” Einerson says.
Farmers markets represent the “first line of food shopping,” Einerson says, where produce is fresher and more nutritious than at grocery chains and with a smaller carbon footprint. Dollars spent here go back into the local economy, she adds. An aphorism they shared stayed with me: “Pay your farmer now or pay your doctor later. It’s your choice.”
Downtown Farmers Market
350 W. 300 South, SLC, 801-328-5055
Consider biking to the market and using its free bike valet or GreenBike station. Pioneer Park is two blocks from a Trax stop. There’s also free parking at The Gateway with a validation from the market.
Saturdays through Oct. 20
8 a.m.-2 p.m.
In season in July
Put ’Em Up!
Preserve your summer bounty to enjoy all year ’round
By Darby Doyle
One of the saddest sights of summer is opening the fridge crisper drawer and finding a molding pile of strawberries or slimy bag of cucumbers. Fast-forward a few months later, and we’re bemoaning Styrofoam-textured tomatoes.
Beyond the issue of food waste and the expense of purchasing out-of-season food from far-away lands, it seems a shame to have such beautiful and tasty produce only available during Utah’s relatively short growing season. Back in the days before dependable freezing and refrigeration, our grandparents had the long-term preservation game figured out with a combination of canning, pickling, fermenting and dehydrating fresh fruits, vegetables and meats to last them through the lean winter months.
Fortunately for Utahns, these methods never went out of style, and there are plenty of experienced food preservationists ready and willing to share their wisdom. From the basics of making jam to bottling your own fruit wines or advanced techniques such as pressure canning meat and soups, these courses have you covered. Offerings are listed by course provider, so check their websites for class changes, times, advance registration requirements and fees.
Summer in a Jar
Downtown Alliance & Urban Food Connections of Utah
Program director and canning guru Alison Einerson recommends the Summer in a Jar food preservation workshops as an excellent hands-on experience for learning basic food safety procedures for waterbath canning, freezing, drying and pressure canning. In partnership with Slow Food Utah, Wasatch Community Gardens and Salt Lake County’s Urban Farming program, each class is limited to 16 students. Be sure to check the website for registration and class details at UrbanFoodConnections.org
Pickling at Harmons City Creek
Fermentation and Pickling at Harmons Holladay
All About Tomatoes at Harmons Holladay
“The Quickle” refrigerator pickles at Pioneer Park Market
Salsas at Harmons City Creek
All About Tomatoes at Harmons Holladay
More classes to be announced soon.
Lifelong Learning Classes
University of Utah
Opening up a U of U Lifelong Learning class catalog each season is glimpse into Utah living with subjects from dark sky photography to home gardening, urban chickening, foraging or fiction writing. In collaboration with local businesses, instructors also cover some often-overlooked aspects of food preservation, like the ancient art of making fruit wine and how to grow and preserve herbs. Be sure to check website for registration, class details and more class options at Continue.Utah.edu
Preserving Fresh Herbs at Red Butte Garden
How to Make Fruit Wine at Salt City Brew Supply, Sandy
Canning Hop Shop
Utah State University
A collaboration with USU Extension and Utah County businesses, there’s no registration required for these classes. Check website for times and class details: Extension.USU.edu/masterfoodpreserver/index, or call 801-851-8479
Juice to Jelly class, IFA Provo
Salsa demonstration, The Mending Shed in Orem
More classes to be announced soon
Master Food Preserver
Utah State University
Ready to dive into the deep end of the food-preservation pool? Through Utah State University’s Master Food Preserver series, students can enroll in half-day seminars on specific subjects such as principles of food-canning safety, pressure canning meats and soups, dehydrating and freeze-drying, fermentation, and basic pickles and fruit preserves.
Courses will be held July 31-Aug. 2 in Kaysville’s Utah House classroom. Advance registration is required for the full course or for half-day sessions: Extension.USU.edu/masterfoodpreserver/index
July 31, Morning
Canning Principles + Tomatoes
July 31, Afternoon
Canning Fruits and Pie Filling
Aug. 1, Morning
Pressure Canning Meats and Soups
Aug. 1, Afternoon
Dehydrating, Freezing and Freeze-Drying
Aug. 2, Morning
Jams and Jellies
Aug. 2, Afternoon
Pickles and Pickled Products