July 13, 2022 Written by Melissa Fields

While more than 40 farmers markets dot Utah from north to south, few compare in size, variety and festivity to Urban Food Connections of Utah’s Downtown Farmers Market, held weekly in Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park. Following two seasons of pandemic-dictated capacity limitations, this summer market’s inimitable communal vibe is back in force, fueled by the almost 200 local vendors who display there every Saturday.

Over its 31 years—and particularly through the last two difficult years—one of the ways Downtown Farmers Market organizers have kept this beloved event thriving is by constantly seeking out new vendors. This year is no exception. Following is a brief introduction to two new faces to the market, along with a familiar one offering a new twist on a multigenerational staple.

 Tucked within the suburban sea of homes in Draper is Fine Tilth Farm, owned and nurtured by Joaquim Hailer. Though most of his neighbors’ backyards are inhabited by grass, shrubs and the occasional pool or tennis court, Hailer uses his to grow food, consisting mostly of greens and roots vegetables. He began urban farming as hobby, but when his crops outpaced what he could eat and give away, Hailer opened his popular neighborhood farmstand. That effort quickly expanded to the Sunday Market at Wheeler Historic Farm. This year, Hailer decided to add the Downtown Farmers Market to his outlets, where his picture-perfect, produce—artfully displayed in in baskets and bins labeled with crisp black and white signs within the Fine Tilth booth on the north side of Pioneer Park—have been a huge hit. “We’ve been really busy this summer,” Hailer says. “I really like having a full display and so, for the time being, I’m focusing on [the Downtown Farmers Market] and the one at Wheeler Farm, at least until more of my crop comes in later in the summer.”

Prior to launching Arete Gelato at the Downtown Farmers Market earlier this summer, Braun Myers worked as an intake specialist at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (formerly UNI). There he witnessed firsthand how integral food is to mental health recovery. “That time was a real inspiration in bringing my gelato to the public,” Myers says. “Eating ice cream holds nostalgically positive feelings for just about everyone.”

Whether or not food can cure the blues is up for debate, this is certainly true: Myer’s lusciously creamy gelato is what I imagine nirvana tastes like. Part of that is likely the high-quality, locally sourced ingredients he uses to churn up each batch: Rosehill Dairy cream, Cox Honey, Black Rifle Coffee, Sicilian pistachios and Ritual Chocolate. But what really brings Arete Gelato home is Myers’ über-creative flavor combinations. “I really like coming up with combinations people have never had before,” he says.

Myers ensures that his deliciously traditional classics—honeycomb, pistachio and chocolate—are always on hand for each Saturday market (as well as the Thursday evening market at Liberty Park). The rest of the custom-made portable freezer he fills with unexpected—and irresistible—flavors like rosemary ricotta with a blackberry reduction swirl, pineapple passion fruit with chili oil, raspberry rose herbal tea sorbetto, brie honey fig, peanut butter and strawberry jam and maple with a caramel soy sauce swirl. 

If the Downtown Farmers Market were to have so-called anchors, Pyne Farms would certainly be one of them. The Pyne family has grown tree-ripened apples in the Payson area for more than 40 years, and is a stalwart vendor at the market, occupying two booth spaces at the northeast corner of Pioneer Park. There, the Pyne family offers a changing menu of various apple varieties throughout the growing season, including Braeburn, Elliott, Gala, Rome, Jonathan, Golden and Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. The Pynes also grow and sell tart cherries, concord grapes, pears, peaches, nectarines and apricots. (Check out Pyne Farm’s Instagram page for latest on what they’ll be stocking at the market each Saturday.)

A few years ago, the Pynes decided to expand their presence at the market to the interior of the park—the area reserved for prepared food vendors—to offer apple slushies, a refreshing frozen drink made with no added sugar or even ice. And then this year, since no one can subsist on cold drinks alone, the family introduced homemade apple cider donuts, which are, in a word, dee-lish! Each of these apple-infused, fried-to-perfection gems have a slightly crunch cinnamon-sugared crust encasing a beautifully pillowy cake center. “Donuts are a big thing at orchards in the east and I thought the market would be a great place to try them out,” says Kent Pyne. 

The Downtown Farmers Market is held in Salt Lake City every Saturday, rain or shine, at Pioneer Park (350 W. 300 South), 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., through October 22. Urban Food Connections is also hosting a NEW weekly farmers market on the east side of Liberty Park every Thursday, 4 p.m. to dusk. Visit the market’s Facebook page to find out what’s fresh and other details.