One of the most popular summertime destinations in Salt Lake City is the Downtown Farmers Market. You can find flocks of locals at Pioneer Park on Saturday mornings from June to October. While there are a number of markets around town, it is probably the largest and best known.
The market is a foodie’s paradise. It is the perfect place to get the best fresh produce and delicious food from local vendors. With almost 200 booths, it can feel a bit overwhelming to the inexperienced visitor. I got together with my foodie friend, Candace Payton, to give you nine tips to navigate the farmers market like a true foodie.
- Plan out your visit – It’s good to walk the entire market before buying anything to get an idea of who has the best selection that week. The farmers market now posts a vendor map online. Take advantage and check out who will be there before you even show up.
- Time it right – Your farmers market experience is all about timing. Show up right when it starts to get the best selection of produce, and to beat the heat. Come as vendors are closing up to find better deals as they try to get rid of their stock.
- Find some good deals – Some people swear by haggling, but the goods are generally pretty reasonably priced. However, you may be able to find a discount by buying in bulk. Buy a dozen tomatoes and you might get one free. Or get a whole case of raspberries and you’re likely to get a price break.
- Come hungry – I’m sure you’ve been told never to go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. I believe the exact opposite rule applies at the farmers market. One of my favorite parts is the local vendors selling ready-to-eat food. Get a tasty breakfast, lunch, or snack to tide you over while you buy some amazing produce!
- Stock up your wallet – Always have some cash on hand for the market. Some vendors accept cards, but cash is always appreciated and often the only way to buy.
- Try before you buy – It’s always a good idea to take a taste of produce before buying it to ensure freshness. It’s also nice when you’re thinking about getting a new variety to see if you like it or not. Just don’t be that person who samples everything then buys nothing.
- Bring a reusable bag – A large, reusable bag is good for the environment and helps you avoid lugging around multiple bags all day.
- Avoid a parking nightmare – Salt Lake City has some great options to get to the market. The Planetarium TRAX is about a block and a half from Pioneer Park and in the free fare zone. If you have your own bike, there is a convenient bike valet in the southwest corner of the park. GREENbikes make it easy to ride from many locations downtown to the station just north of Pioneer Park. I recommend an annual pass for just $75 so you can ride all over the city year round!
- Ask the experts – Ask the farmers about their produce! They know what is good for eating and what is good for cooking. They’ll usually even give you ideas for new ways to use the products. This can be especially helpful if you’re interested in trying something new.
Just in case you need a little bit more help to get started, here is a list of a few of our favorite vendors at the market.
- Cook’s Family Farm – Arguably the best selection of produce at the market, Cook’s is probably your best bet if you get there late but want a specific type of produce.
- Salt Lake County Jail – It might surprise you, but the jail actually has some of the most consistently high quality produce available.
- Liberty Heights Fresh – Our go-to for specialty produce, LHF will have less common varieties of produce often available out of the typical season.
- Ranui Gardens – If you love garlic, go to Ranui.
- Volker’s and Bubble & Brown – Some of the best and freshest pastries you’ll get in SLC.
- Sweet Lake Limeade – This limeade is a staple at the market, and the perfect refresher after a few hours in the sun.
- Cru Kombucha – Yes, we know it is an acquired taste. But if you like kombucha, you’ll love Cru.
- Raclette Machine – In all fairness, we can’t really recommend this one yet as it is new to the market. But when you hear melted Alpine cheese you can’t help but get excited about it.
Derek Deitsch is marketing director for Cuisine Unlimited and a contributor for Salt Lake magazine.