Quirky, Quaint and Über-Local
Sugar House’s Wednesday farmers market comes of age at Fairmont Park.
The first Sugar House Farmers Market opened eight years ago on Monument Plaza, next to the eyecatching Art Decostyle limestone obelisk, erected by the Sugar House Business Men’s League and the City of Salt Lake in 1930. The market has since made a few significant changes, both in terms of location and
special events and management. These changes, organizers believe, will promote and strengthen the market’s commitment to community building.
When the market was conceived at a meeting of the Sugar House Summit, in 2009, residents and merchants discussed how to address issues of common interest and concern. Foremost was the need to provide high quality, nutritious food at affordable prices to everyone in the community. The group explored four strategies: grow their own food; start community gardens; join a food network or a co-op market; and start a farmers market. Today, while crafts are sold, food and food products are still the central focus of the Sugar House market.
This summer marks the third season of the Sugar House market in historic Fairmont Park. After leaving Monument Plaza, the market was held for a few seasons in the parking lot of the now-closed Deseret Industries on Highland Dr. At Fairmont, the market has been able to better accommodate the number of people who come out every Wednesday, 5-8pm through September, to take advantage of shopping and entertainment, as well as the growing number of vendors—the market has doubled in size since its first year.
What’s the same, what’s different
Market Director Natalie McHale says that this year, the Sugar House Market is returning to its original vision by increasing programs and events that empower the customers and vendors through education about local food production and sustainable practices.
Another goal for the 2018 market is to be as zero-waste as possible. Organizers are urging patrons and vendors to select reusable or compostable containers and to recycle eating utensils and packaging. They consciously chose vendors who already embrace these practices, who are more eco-friendly, and who are happy to teach by example in order to build on that culture.
For its part, the Market provides a condiment station with seasonings and sauces (vendor products, preferably) and biodegradable eating utensils. There is also a station where patrons and vendors can bring items for recycling.
The season’s main sponsor, Intermountain LDS Hospital, offers a weekly program to promote healthy eating by engaging kids with interactive activities—tasting, then learning where food comes from. There’s a different theme for each activity, and when kids complete the activity, they receive a reward of $2 “produce bucks” to spend at the market.
Still, the most impressive lessons come when people visit the booths. Amy Buchanan, president of the Market’s Board of Directors, uses the phrase “über-local” to describe the Sugar House Farmers Market, and says they encourage neighborhood growers, small urban farmers and local entrepreneurs to participate. While they prefer natural and organic products, they don’t require certification. They ask the farmers to be transparent, and trust that they are honest and forthright.
“It’s really up to consumers to educate themselves,” Buchanan says. She encourages patrons to ask vendors, “What are your practices, and where does your product come from?” Some vendors are backyard gardeners, and all the crafters and artists are local. “Patrons may find that these are their neighbors, and they establish a relationship with them.
“There’s a quirkiness, a quaintness to this market,” she adds. “Lots of customers come at five and stay until eight, and because it’s such an enjoyable place to be, they don’t feel too rushed to have these conversations with the farmers.”
To fulfill their mission to be a community gathering space, the market offers an assortment of free entertainments and activities, making it a date night as well as a night out for families. The new beer garden, sponsored by RoHa Brewing Project, makes it possible to buy a craft beer and enjoy it with a meal or take it along while shopping at the booths. Local musicians perform every week throughout the event. Yoga classes take place northeast of the market, between the stream and the Fairmont Aquatic Center, every week from 6:30-7:30pm. (Bring your own mat.)
The market has benefitted from Fairmont Park’s recent renovation, says Buchanan. Now with more communal space and activity centers, market patrons can also enjoy the park’s other attractions—soccer field, pickleball courts, off-leash dog park, a pond (stocked with trout to catch!), skateboard park, improved lighting and new benches. “We have great neighbors at Youth City, the Fairmont Aquatic Center and the Sugar House Boys & Girls Club.”
And one of the best parts of being at Fairmont? Being able to access the market by train and trails. As Buchanan points out, “Being next to the S-Line trolley and Parley’s Trail Greenway means people are biking and riding transit as well as walking to Fairmont.” And there’s no better way to build community than getting out of our cars.
To see which vendors will be at the Sugar House Market each week, go to http://www.sugarhousefarmersmarket.org