By its very nature, placemaking is a regenerative act—a reclamation of that which was lost or forgotten. This may seem like an odd segue into a blog about the Downtown Farmers Market, but the truth is that farmers markets catalyze placemaking in the same way that a quaint neighborhood shopping district does.
Before the Downtown Farmers Market began, the area around Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City was an area most people tended to avoid. Aside from a small handful of pioneering business owners and residents, most of Salt Lake had written the park off as overrun by all things nefarious. It's probably fair to say that for many of the city's residents, the park didn't exist in any meaningful way.
That began to change as the Downtown Alliance "reclaimed" the park for its summer farmers market in 1992. For over 20 years, SLC residents have witnessed this transformative process in full force: Both in the investment made to clean and prepare the park for events like the Downtown Farmers Market and the Twilight Concert Series, and in the way residents, business owners, and developers have come to see this once forlorn area of the city as something valuable.
During this 20-year span, the areas around Pioneer Park have become neighborhoods in their own right. The vibrant, warehouse-inspired Pierpont neighborhood is home to eclectic bohemians like the folks over at SLUG Magazine, and Old World-style artisans like Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Carlucci's Bakery, Bruges Waffles & Frites, Pallet, The Rose Establishment, and Jade Market, among others. On the southern side of the park you can find Salt Lake City icons Tin Angel Café, Especially for You Flowers, and Western Nut Company.
The positive effects of farmers markets on cities and neighborhoods are innumerable. The food is locally grown—or, as is often the case, produced by local businesses. The farmers and artisans who sell there have a vested interest in using sustainable practices, because they live in the communities where they work. They also bring their own passion to what they do, growing heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables that you'd be hard-pressed to find in grocery stores.
Overall, this dynamic represents everything good about the local movement. But we should also always be aware of the placemaking nature of our very own Downtown Farmers Market. Without the market, Pioneer Park might still just be a place people avoid. And in Salt Lake, we don't want those kinds of places—we want more places like the Downtown Farmers Market, places that feel like neighborhoods and homes.