Utah’s largest farmers market ‘full return’, expanding in Salt Lake City

Anita and Ron Murphy talk about their produce at an upcoming farmers’ market press conference in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Utah’s largest farmers market returns to Pioneer Park on Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Central Salt Lake City Farmers Market means a lot to growers like Tyler Montague.

In his career, keep real veggiesmakes money by selling to about two dozen local restaurants and grocery stores, and the farmers market makes up at least half, if not more, of his business’ income.

However, it’s not just money that keeps his urban farm afloat. Dealing face-to-face with customers at the farmers market is just a little different—it feels different than a normal business transaction.

“It’s a payoff,” Montague said Tuesday, standing next to a small sample of the variety of vegetables he sells. “We worked in the fields all week, but then we came to the market and people really appreciated it. It was definitely a driving force and a way to connect with the community.”

Keep It Real Vegetables will be one of about 250 grocery or craft vendors at the market this year, starting Saturday through 10, according to Alison Einerson, executive director of Utah Urban Food Connections. held every week at Pioneer Park. operate the market. This year, the market will also bring back bike valet services for those who prefer cycling to parks.

Essentially, the market is returning to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic reduced suppliers and services in 2020 and last year.

“We’re totally back,” Erinson said. “It’s going to be a great year. We expect to be overcrowded again.”

The market is expected to bring 10,000 to 15,000 people to the park each weekend during the summer. Between COVID-19 vaccinations and the total number of people who have recovered from the virus, Einson added that she believes there is enough protection to have a “great, safe year.”

market expansion

Utah’s largest market is also expanding to other days and parks.Utah’s urban food links control smaller Liberty Park Market From East Liberty Park community organizations in the market offseason. From June 16 to the end of September, around 60 vendors will be in Liberty Park on Thursday nights.

This means more market time for both shoppers and suppliers.

Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, is excited about what this means for small businesses. The Salt Lake City Downtown Farmers Market is not just a grocery store, retail and entertainment event, but a business incubator.

He noted that farmers markets helped create Rico Brand Become a full-fledged food company and transform into Sweet Lake Cookies and Lime Juice From a lime juice and cookie stand to a restaurant, there are three locations on the Wasatch Front. These are just a few of the many examples.

“It provides a low barrier to entry for any business to gain access to a broader business and customer base,” Miller explained.

Given that over the past few years, every supplier has struggled in one way or another due to the economic impact of COVID-19, Einson said she is pleased that operations will return to normal Saturday and small businesses have the option to Same goes for Thursday.

This gives them more opportunities to expand into the brick-and-mortar space in the future by selling in grocery stores or opening their own business space.

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s about giving people the opportunity to build and grow a business and expand it to where they want to go.”

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at an upcoming farmers' market news conference in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Utah's largest farmers market returns to Pioneer Park on Saturday.
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at an upcoming farmers’ market news conference in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Utah’s largest farmers market returns to Pioneer Park on Saturday. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who grew up on a farm and his extended family continues to sell at farmers markets, believes the pandemic has really highlighted the importance of what local growers are doing. Shoppers can find some of the produce they’re looking for at farmers markets, as local farmers aren’t as affected by supply chain issues as grocery stores.

He added that experts have long known that, in addition to business, locally sourced food is good for the environment and the community.

“As a family, we have seen firsthand how important these markets are to the Utah economy,” the governor said. “I would also (say) the best food in the world is right here. We have great food in our grocery store and we love what’s on sale there, but if you can go to the farmers market, you’ll get higher quality, More flavor and better opportunities to help support our local economy.”

How Drought Factors Affect Operations

Many suppliers are still struggling for reasons other than COVID-19. Protracted drought conditions in Utah are a concern for growers across the state, threatening to reduce crop production for the second year in a row as many irrigation reservoirs dry up early.

Montague found himself in a better position than some other providers because his business depended on eight gardens connected to the Salt Lake City utility system rather than buying and selling his own water rights. He does have to pay a little extra for his water, but the extra price comes with the added safety of the water he will have this year.

“I definitely have a lot of sympathy for other farmers who depend on irrigation water, which is turning on later and later each season and turning off earlier each season,” he said. “I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed. “

Photos of garlic were shown at an upcoming farmers' market press conference in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Utah's largest farmers market returns to Pioneer Park on Saturday.
Photos of garlic were shown at an upcoming farmers’ market press conference in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Utah’s largest farmers market returns to Pioneer Park on Saturday. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Despite the extra water security, Montague knows he could also end up facing spending cuts if conditions continue as they have been since 2020.Salt Lake City started with the irrigation season that ended last year, in Phase 2 of its water emergency plan. It doesn’t make much sense for his operations. The fourth stage, however, is the eventual shift in residential water use from voluntary conservation to mandatory action.

It probably won’t happen this year, but it could be just around the corner unless Utah gets a few years of rain. This reality is why he has taken steps to prevent any reduction in water usage from impacting the business, installing drip irrigation systems to improve water efficiency. As water resources become increasingly scarce across the state, many rural farmers are adopting the same strategy.

Agriculture and ranching often lead to About 80% of Utah’s annual water consumptionBut the threat of parts of the channel drying up early is why Montague believes all ways to conserve water should be considered this year and into the future.

“The way we water, we need to find ways to transition to drip irrigation,” he said. “(We should also) water at night and (do) other things that help us not waste water.”


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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter covering general news, outdoor activities, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for Desert News. He is a Utah transplant from Rochester, NY.

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