Downtown Farmers Market
A pair of weathered, calloused hands places a pound of red, ripe heirloom tomatoes in your shopping bag, and with a smile that showcases a lifetime of working under Utah’s sun, the farmer says, “Thank you very much.”
Your shopping list of local produce, meats, and cheeses is nearly checked off as you stroll down the lanes of the Downtown Farmers Market. The early morning cold has burned off, and the sun hits your back as your attention draws to the glorious smells of coffee and pastries. This is your version of heaven.
Such is a typical Saturday morning at Pioneer Park, which has played host to the Downtown Farmers Market since 1992, when it was launched by the Downtown Alliance.
Now, it’s one of the longest-running and largest markets of its kind in the country.Nearly 10,000 patrons — sometimes upwards of 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. Their tables are posted throughout Pioneer Park, each with inviting spreads offering everything from non-GMO peas to homemade bread.
For Utahns and visitors alike, 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 local business; 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 great 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 SLC 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, as many patrons walk and bike to the market — 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. Make sure to pick up a jar or two of local honey, because, after all, Utah is the Beehive State.
Art and Craft Market
Another bonus on Saturday is the Downtown Art and Craft Market, located on the south half of Pioneer Park. The Art and Craft Market features purveyors of cool artistic, decorative, and usable wares and goods; many make for the perfect souvenir, gift, or treat for yourself. With nearly 150 local artists during the season, there’s surely something for everyone. Even if you’re not shopping for anything, it’s fun to travel up and down the stalls to view the wares and get inspired. What’s more, located in the middle of Pioneer Park is the Music at the Market, a program that highlights local bands and gives attendees excellent tunes for free.
Harvest Market: Tuesday Evenings August–October
If you are exploring all of the other adventures that Utah has to offer during your weekends, fear not, because from August to October, the Downtown Farmers Market opens a Tuesday evening expansion.The Tuesday Harvest Market is for those who need a midweek produce fix. This is a more casual, low-key affair since the Art and Craft Market is absent, but it’s easy to stick around and partake in the amenities, such as the free 6 p.m. community yoga class or a game of Bocce ball presented by Beehive Sports and Social Club. You can even share a frothy libation with friends in the Craft Beer Garden.