When John Borski of Borski Organic Farms began selling his produce at the Downtown Farmers Market, the market consisted of just a handful of farmers selling produce on the north sidewalk at Pioneer Park.
That was twenty years ago, the Downtown Farmers Market, which opens its 24th season Saturday, now occupies the entire park with more than 250 vendors. The market still connects residents to local farmers and their produce, but the vendor list has expanded to include bakeries, prepared food and beverages, packaged foods and local artisans.
“In the beginning it was a real building process in figuring out what were doing,” said Borski. “Since there has been a total evolution of the market.”
Borski was a relatively novice farmer when he began selling at the Market. Noticing a demand for organic produce, Borski became one of the Market’s first organic farmers.
“When I started there were two or three organic farmers, now there are 20 to 30,” said Borski.
Like the Farmers Market, the neighborhood and the park that house it continue to evolve. Interest in the neighborhood has grown. The Twilight Concert Series, weekly summer concerts that attract up to 50,000 attendees, moved to Pioneer Park in 2010.
Residential development is increasing in the neighborhood as well. The Broadway Park Lofts, a 82-residential development directly north of Pioneer Park, sold all but unit in its first year. Garbett Homes is constructing the 360 Apartments, a six-floor 151-unit project directly west side of Pioneer Park.
The Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake launched the first phase of the Station Center redevelopment project in April. The City is developing five parcels on two blocks directly east of the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub, and a block west of Pioneer Park.
Even Pioneer Park itself is set to change. The City is gathering public input on a proposed redesign of the park that includes the Market in the four design proposals submitted to the City in February.
The Farmers Market has had an impact on the local economy as well. Several farmers attribute participation in the Market accounting for up to half of their family’s income. Additionally, many vendors who began selling their products at the market (Bagel Project, Rico Brand, Bruges Waffles and Frites, Lick’d Popsicles to name a few) have moved to brick and mortar businesses, contributing year-round to the local economy.
New to the Market this year is the Education Station, where local chefs, master preservers and nutritionists will teach market-goers how to prepare meals from ingredients sourced at the Market. This mobile kitchen is designed to enhance the farm-to-table connection popular in restaurants, allowing home cooks to restaurant quality dishes while supporting the local community.
The Market will continue to accept food stamps through the SNAP Alternative Purchasing Program that seeks to improve accessibility to fresh food for lower and fixed-income consumers while increasing revenue for farmers and food producers at the Market. Patrons using SNAP can purchase produce with double SNAP benefits through the “Double Up Food Bucks” program. The program is made possible through a federal grant and a partnership with Utahns Against Hunger.
The Market is open Saturday mornings, beginning June 13th, at 8 AM and Tuesday evenings, beginning August 4th, at 4 PM in Historic Pioneer Park, Downtown Salt Lake City.