USU Extension and Central Iron County Water Conservancy District Horticulture and Waterwise Landscape Educator Candace Schaible said the Cedar City Downtown Farmers Market has seen consistent growth since it began in 2011.
“We’ve gained about two new booths per year on average,” she said. “But it fluctuates from week to week depending on how many vendors we actually have.”
Among the rows of fresh, homegrown produce, curious shoppers can find everything from handmade goodies like jellies and jams, to freshly slaughtered, organic meats Schaible said. She said they have made a conscious effort to only have booths that sell foods at the farmers market, and to avoid allowing spaces for crafting and artisans booths.
Schaible said there is a good reason for staying focused on “food only” vending. The ultimate goal of the market, she said, was to educate the community about good, wholesome food – where it comes from, and what to do with it. She said they have a booth for their USU Extension program Food Sense and Nutrition, which was designed to meet their educational goals.
“They choose about three recipes a week made up entirely of food you can find at the farmers market,” Schaible said. “Then they have the recipes there and create the food so that you can sample it while you’re there.”
In addition to the many food sources and educational opportunities, Shaible said that the EBT friendly venue also has live musical performances every week to help get visitors in a good mood and keep them there for the duration of their stay.
Schaible, who has been there from the beginning, said the market began as collaboration between herself, Sara Patterson at Red Acre Farms, and Travis Braun and Mark Baruffi, who, at the time, represented the Downtown Retail Alliance. She said Patterson was the driving force behind the projects inception and that without her the market probably wouldn’t exist right now.
Patterson said she is beyond delighted with the success of the venture and that she is not surprised at the popularity of the market. She said she was driven to help create it, because she felt there was a need to connect local growers to their community.
“Everybody has to eat,” Patterson said. “And we think that the most important thing is the food that goes into your body, because that helps to keep you alive.”
She said that, in her eyes, it’s a win-win situation. Shoppers get quality food that was grown locally, and farmers get the support of the community at large. Additionally, she said the market isn’t just made up of farmers, but also “backyard gardeners” from in and around the community.
“We provide the crates and the canopy,” she said. “And for $5 you can just bring your stuff and set it all up without having to worry about all of the extras you would need.
“So then all people can come to the farmers market and sell their goods, not just people who have farms,” she added.
Patterson said she thinks it is important for people to where their food is coming from, and the farmers market is one way for consumers to get to know the people who grow their food for them.
“When you know your farmer,” she said. “You definitely know where it’s coming from.”
New vendors David and Janet Williamson said they love the time they spend at the market. They said they moved here from Illinois and this is their first season with the Downtown Cedar City Farmers Market, but that they have been frequenting the Year Round Farmers Market that takes place at IFA every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
David said he truly believes we are approaching a time where food security and energy consumption methodologies are becoming very important issues and their practices are coming into question.
“Okay, let me get my tin foil hat out,” he said. “I believe we are coming to a point where we will have to produce our food more locally, because the costs of energy sources that we have available to us are pushing costs to where we won’t want to transport.”
David said the new terrain has presented more than a few challenges for him and his wife, but that they have no regrets about the work they do. He said they had to learn about what foods would and wouldn’t grow in the desert soil, and take extra time in preparing the soil with the proper nutrients to grow them.
The insects have presented quite a problem as well, said Janet, who added that they have no interest in using non-organic chemicals on the food that they grow – leaving them with only one creative option – to manually find and kill each squash bug that invaded their garden using duct tape.
“We wrapped it around our fingers backwards so the sticky side was facing out,” she said. “Leaf by leaf, we did this with each plant they like, and that ranges from cucumbers, to pumpkins, winter squash, to summer squash.”
Patterson said that the love and care that goes into maintaining and harvesting the food sold at the market shows in the foods that are available to the customers.
“It’s just such a variety,” she said. “And it’s so much fun to see what everyone has brought and what other people are growing.”
The Cedar City Downtown Farmers Market is open every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. until October 8 in the parking lot on the corners of Hoover Street and 100 West.
More information is available on their facebook group page, Cedar City’s Downtown Farmer’s Market.