As the summer heat wafts over the Utah Valley, farmers markets are popping up across the sun-baked Wasatch, providing Utahns with fresh produce, artisan crafts and a respite for the hot summer days. Vendors from across the state gather to support local commerce, community and fresh food in numerous locations, offering some variety to summer recreation across the state.
In addition to the sanctuary from the heat, the local markets offer an outlet for local growers to sell their goods, a growing vitality in a struggling economy. One such farmer is Ben Hogan of East Farms, who sells at the Salt Lake Downtown Farmers Market.
“I think it’s a good outlet for farmers,” Hogan said. “They bring fresh stuff down to Salt Lake. It gives people the opportunity to eat what I get to eat every day.”
Hogan, dedicated to the family-driven business of East Farms, is an advocate of local commerce.
“I think it helps support the local community. It’s contributing to the state; it keeps it all right here at home. ”
Hogan said he loves growing corn and tomatoes, but said this isn’t unusual for farmers. “They’re everyone’s favorite thing to grow.”
Farmers markets offer not only produce, but creative crafts as well. For instance, artisan Steve Bateman creates jewelry out of silverware. Starting in 1976, he made his first spoon ring in a high school art class, and he hasn’t stopped since. Bateman said he loves the ambiance that surrounds the Salt Lake Farmers Market.
“It’s a great place to people-watch, if nothing else,” he said. “People are in a great mood and get to appreciate what I do.”
Bateman, like Hogan, is passionate about local commerce.
“Every dollar that someone spends at my booth goes right back to the local community,” he said. “Nothing goes away. That’s a healthier economy than if a large percentage of the profit goes to another city or state.”
Bateman said he encourages any who are curious to see serving-fork octopus bracelets, vintage spoon rings and earrings to come, reminding that “it doesn’t cost anything to look.”
Salt Lake isn’t the only city to engage in the farmers market push. Lee Olsen and Josh Sullivan are growers who sell at the Bountiful Farmers Market and have an equal passion for freshness in their produce and local economy.
Olsen — the soil expert, according to Sullivan — said his primary reasons for participating in the market are “food, freedom and responsibility.”
As to who he works for, Olsen said, “I work for my future children. I haven’t met them yet.”
Sullivan, a Weber State University student, said he loves the community emphasis on the market.
“It’s a fun community environment,” he said. “It’s fun to sell produce and what not. Sometimes we trade things with other vendors around us. It’s important to support local independence. We’re the only growers at the Bountiful Farmers Market that are actually from Bountiful.”
Sullivan prides himself on his cucumbers. “They’re probably my favorite thing to eat.”
Farmers markets are prevalent across the Wasatch Front. A list of local market locations, vendors and hours is available at www.utahsown.utah.gov/farmersmarkets/.