This month marks the return of summer farmers markets. This popular way of getting fresh, local food to the dinner table is not only good for your health but it’s also good for the local economy and it’s driving growth in Utah’s agriculture industry.
According to the 2017 Agriculture Census data, the US has lost 67,000 farms and 14.3 million acres of farmland since 2012. However, here in Utah, it’s a bit of a different story. While we are losing farmland to real estate development—more than 162,000 acres of it since 2012—Utah actually gained 382 farms in that five-year period.
The majority of these new farms are small and urban, and many of them are cultivating organic products. According to the census numbers, Utah has seen a 63 percent increase in the number of certified organic producers.
One of Utah’s newest organic farms is PaMaw’s Organic Farm in Daniel, Utah. Owned by Kevan and Sherri Nilsson, PaMaw’s Organic Farm grows just about every vegetable you can imagine—except lemon cucumbers. “Turns out people just want basic green cucumbers,” explained Mr. Nilsson.
Scaling back on the number of boutique crops cultivated is one small lesson Mr. Nilsson has learned since he started his life as an organic farmer only two years ago. Prior to that, he spent 45 years as a general contractor.
Becoming an organic farmer is a passion just as much as it’s been an important lifestyle change for Mr. Nilsson and his wife. “We’ve become really health conscious in older age,” says Mr. Nilsson. “With the amount of chemicals and everything they spray for insects… If people really knew the truth about conventional farming, I don’t think they’d eat vegetables.”
Mr. Nilsson’s vegetables are free from pesticides and herbicides and they are certified organic through the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The time and care he puts into the cultivation of his crops is evident to his loyal customers, and every week they show up to buy his produce at the Park City Farmers Market—held every Wednesday from 12 PM to 5 PM from June to October at Park City Resort. “My customers know they’re getting vegetables that were cut that morning or the day before,” says Mr. Nilsson.
The demand for more organic local produce is pushing the popularity of farmers’ markets across the state. Knowing where food is coming from before consumption is becoming more and more important to Utahns, and its shifting spending habits and more people are making an effort to buy local.
Foodies along the Wasatch Front have flocked to Pioneer Park to buy local produce, meats, cheeses, and more at the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City for more than two decades. As the hunger grew for local food, so did the popularity of this downtown staple. Today, the downtown farmers market is a gathering place for thousands of residents from across the Wasatch Front and because of it you’ll find Pioneer Park packed on Saturdays from June through October.
If you still need another reason to buy locally, consider the economic impact. Local farms are local businesses, and when you spend your money at a local business more money is kept in the local economy, helping to create local jobs.
This summer, consider visiting a local farmers market and maybe even make it a goal to incorporate locally grown fruits and vegetables into your family’s meal plan every week. Making an effort to buy local is a move that’s good for you and even better for our local economy.