Bringing Fresh & Local to U

Have you ever experienced the perfect peach? Firm flesh with an intoxicating perfume almost as exquisite as the flavor? It is something that can’t adequately be described with words. The perfect peach is still warm from the sun because it was picked the same day you bite into it. To experience this peach you need to know the farmer who grew it who can tell you how they protected the blossoms from that late spring storm and nurtured the soil in the fall to create this peach just for you. To experience this peach, you have to come to the farmers market.

This year, the University of Utah Farmers Market celebrates its 12th season. The market, managed by the Sustainability Office, links local growers and artisans with the campus community and provides access to fresh, healthy, local produce and unique arts and crafts. Dozens of vendors attend the market each week. At our Edible Campus Gardens stand you can even purchase produce grown right here on campus. More than 5,000 people walk through the market on an average Thursday, thanks to its central location on the Tanner Plaza between the Union Building and Student Services Building.

If you haven’t been to the U Farmers Market, there are a number of features that make it unique. All students of the U are eligible for our Double Your Dollars program, which provides students with twice as much money to spend on grocery items (produce, packaged items like cheese or honey, etc.). Last season, the Double Your Dollars program helped more than 600 students access fresh, local food. This year’s Double Your Dollars funding has been expanded through the generous support of the market’s presenting sponsor, Harmons Grocery. As a family-owned and locally run grocer, Harmons has a reputation for investing in local producers and bringing fresh local flavors to your table. This year they will be sharing some recipes for easy, nutritious, affordable meals, as well as low carbon meals and hosting cooking classes for students.  With two locations close to campus serviced by public transit (Emigration Market and City Creek) Harmons Grocery is easily accessible to students and employees.  Additional market sponsors include University of Utah Health, KRCL, Ray Olpin Union, ASUU and Raclette Machine.

This year, for the first time, scholarships are available to cover booth fees for new food businesses. Only vendors that have been established in the past 24 months are eligible to apply. Priority is given to vendors from underrepresented groups. This year’s scholarship recipients are Bee-Craft & Icy Mountain. Bee-Craft produces high-quality natural honey and other beehive products. Icy Mountain is a new gourmet shaved ice truck that offers unique toppings and flavors. The market is still accepting applications from produce and packaged food vendors. Students and employees are encouraged to apply, and vendor fee discounts are available to university students and employees. Applications are only accepted online.

Regular market attendees will be pleased to learn that many of last year’s favorite vendors will be returning. New vendors will be offering a wide array of delicious food and beautiful crafts.

So, mark your calendar for Thursdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. starting August 22nd so you can meet the farmer who has grown a peach just for you.

Sprouting Upward

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Farmers Market co-manager. Originally posted on August 14, 2017.

In 2008, the Sustainability Office and several campus partners came to a conclusion: The university needed better access to healthy and local food options. To meet this need, the partners launched the University of Utah Farmers Market. Organizers sent invitations to students, administrators and even residents of neighborhoods adjacent to campus, explaining their goal to “bring fresh, local food to the campus in order to help build healthier, more sustainable lifestyles.”

Ten seasons later, the popular market excels at connecting students, faculty and staff with local farmers and food purveyors. But even more so, the market has become a space for community, where students hang out and interact with small business owners from the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. This year’s market kicks off at Tanner Plaza, west of the Union, on Thursday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and takes place every Thursday through Oct. 5.

I first participated in the Farmers Market in 2013, where I witnessed firsthand the powerful link between food and community. The market is a staple of the fall semester, and campus members come back year after year to frequent their favorite stalls. It can look like seeing old friends, or in some cases, even like seeing family. Searching through the records of the past 10 seasons, I learned that some vendors, such as Tagge’s Famous Fruit & Veggie Farms and Jensen Farms, have been part of the market since the very beginning. Perennial favorites Tamales Tita joined the market in 2012. Other early vendors are now better known for their brick-and-mortar stores, such as Tulie Bakery and Skewered Thai. And newer vendors are branching out beyond traditional farmers markets — you can grab a Bubble & Brown pastry at Three Pines Coffee downtown or get some Salsa Del Diablo on your sandwich at The Bagel Project. For this fall’s market, we have accepted 25 vendors — some new and some returning.

In celebration of the 10th season, we are broadening our community focus by inviting more nonprofit organizations and campus partners to join the market to better highlight local opportunities and resources. Groups including the Green Urban Lunchbox and Enterprise CarShare will be part of the market, and campus entities including (but not limited to) Student Success Advocates, Student Equity & Diversity and Career Services will be in attendance.

We’re also keeping our original mission to increase access at the forefront of our market. The Double Your Dollars program will return for its fifth season, thanks to support from University of Utah Health. Double Your Dollars provides students with a $1-to-$1 match for students and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase produce/food items at the market. Participants purchase tokens from the Market Manager’s Booth and can spend those tokens on grocery-like food items, including (but not limited to) fruits, vegetables, honey, salsa and baked goods. More than 400 students took advantage of the program last year.

When I took over management of the University of Utah Farmers Market in 2015, I was reminded of the service the market provides the campus community. I watched consumers interact with producers, which is so often lost in our faceless food system. I listened to producers describe where ingredients are grown, which is regularly hidden by lists of indecipherable ingredients. The market is a place to eat local, real food, and just as important, a place to gather. See you Aug. 24.