Market Manager Jil Gardella said this is the first time in the seven years since the Downtown Farmers Market at Ancestor Square first opened that a mayor has taken the time to attend the first day in a ceremonial fashion. She said she was not sure what Mayor Jon Pike had planned for the occasion, but that he would address the public at 9:30 a.m.
“I am excited to be down there tomorrow morning,” Pike said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to get people together, bring them downtown, and get them familiar with the venues downtown has to offer.”
Pike said that the little courtyard surrounded by restaurants and shops at Ancestor Square helps to cultivate the perfect environment for family friendly activities that offer the community a sense of unity. He said the Downtown Farmers Market is an outstanding example of exactly how to coax both residents and out-of-town guests into the center of town for some fun, friendly interaction that almost always provokes return visits in the future.
The market opens at 8 a.m., and Gardella said there would be a variety of vendors there to help start the 7th farmers market season off right. From baked goods and jams to handcrafted jewelry, pottery and visual art, she said there would be much more than just fresh produce available for Mother’s Day shoppers to peruse.
Gardella said that over the course of the summer there would be anywhere from 25 to 35 vendors in the tiny town square on a given Saturday, six to 10 of them farmers.
“The produce actually comes in the strongest in July and August,” she said. “So we are the fullest at that point, and that’s when our farmers are bringing really full loads.”
Variety depends on the season, and Gardella said shoppers should take the time of year into consideration when creating their menu for the foods they plan to cook at home. This time of year, there are many abundant leafy greens she said, as well as radishes, lots of fresh herbs and maybe some tomatoes.
“We are still educating the community, especially the tourism related community, that you can’t get corn in May here,” she said. “But we will have tons of it in August.”
Gardella said the farmers who vend at the Downtown Farmers Market are some of the most dedicated people she knows. She said many of them come from an hour or more away, and show up almost every single Saturday.
“It’s not an easy job to sell at a farmers market,” she said explaining that the farmers who come have to prepare their loads usually the night before or in the wee hours of the morning so they could be there on time. She said farmers have to be set up and ready for operation by 8 a.m., so that often means they are there setting up as early as 7/7:30 a.m.
“Then you sell from eight to noon,” she said. “And then you tear down, pack all of your stuff back up that you haven’t sold at your tables and you go back home.”
She said there are no guarantees that farmers will make enough money to cover their time and travel expenses – sometimes they even lose money – but on most weeks, Gardella said the small-town farmers walk away with a fair compensation for all of their efforts.
In addition to the various booths and vendors, Gardella said each week’s farmers market also features live music provided by Southern Utah Songwriters Association from 9:30 a.m. to noon. She said including music by resident artists was a natural fit from the beginning, and it feels good to be able to bring together so many facets of what the community has to offer into what she said she sees a once-a-week event, rather than simply a place for people to pick up their veggies.
“It really is like getting to throw a new event once a week,” she said. “And each week is different, and that is part of what I love about it.”
SUSWA Board Member Gordon Strang said this year’s lineup of musicians highlights some of the best talents in Southern Utah.
The first act up this season is Harry “O”, a veteran musician whose versatile style should find a sound to delight listeners of all ages. Playing original and cover songs from across the generations and genres is a particular specialty for O, according to his website at www.reverbnation.com/harryo.
More information about the Downtown Farmers Market at Ancestor Square is available at www.farmersmarketdowntown.com. See attached PDF for a complete schedule of the entertainment lineup for the 2014 farmers market season.