SLC • People's Market reaps cult following as 7th season nears end.
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Just a couple of miles from the bustling and crowded Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park is another neighborhood market of a decidedly different vibe.
The People's Market at Jordan Park (1000 S. 900 West), has been a Sunday fixture in its west Salt Lake City neighborhood for seven years and a place to go for anyone who wants fresh produce and handmade crafts without the anxiety of the city's bigger markets.
"My husband and I come here every Sunday, and we call it our church," said 40-year-old Melissa Snyder, who was there Sunday to buy tomatoes. "This is our favorite market. It's just the feeling it's out in this beautiful park, and because it's smaller, I've gotten to know the vendors."
The People's Market started as a neighborhood yard sale in 2004 by now-Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa and has since grown to a farmers market that hosts 20 to 40 vendors every Sunday from June to October.
"When word got around that this thing had some legs, we started to get some sponsorships," he said. "It's started to grow a following. People who are regulars there recognize each other and have started to build friendships outside of the market."
The season's last week will be Sunday, Oct. 21 when the market will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then the same group who hosts the People's Market will hold its annual Holiday Market Dec. 8 and 15 to sell goods.
The ambience certainly is low key and relaxed at the People's Market compared to the crowds and energy of its more well-known Salt Lake City market at Pioneer Park, which is held on Saturdays. On Sunday, customers were milling about the more than dozen vendors while a guitarist was singing folk music in the center of the park. Earlier, belly dancers were performing.
Vendors included farmers selling fresh vegetables, fruits and even locally-grown walnuts. Others were showing off crocheted hats and accessories. Volker's Bakery from Kamas was selling artisan breads and pastries. There were even tents offering palm readings.
"We like to have a good assortment [of vendors]," said market manager Janae Trujillo. "The only thing we're strict on is that nothing is reproduced that it all is handmade and sold by the makers."
Larry Proctor, 59, has been coming from Tooele every Sunday for four years to sell his fruits and vegetables at the People's Market. He's not a farmer since he only grows his produce on 12 acres behind his home. "It's an out-of-control hobby," he said.
The maintenance mechanic says he now gets followers coming from as far away as Heber City and Stansbury who come to that particular market to buy his produce, which includes tomatoes, apples, cabbage and a variety of peppers.
"I'm never going to be rich from it, but it does pay for itself, and most hobbies don't," he said.
One of the advantages of the People's Market is that it sells fresh organic produce that's not widely sold in the neighborhood, said Robbi Poulson, the president of the market's board of directors.
"There's a lot of fast food places in the neighborhood and not a lot of organic foods, produce or food-producing plants that are sold in grocery stores here," she said.
Snyder said she prefers to buy her produce at the market instead of grocery stores "because I know they're grown by real people, not in a hothouse," she said. "I know how much work it is for these people to grow them."
Best of all, the market has created and strengthened new relationships in the community, said its founder, LaMalfa. He said a 2009 survey by the organizers showed that not only did $100,000 in money change hands in one season at the market, but it also spawned 40,000 conversations among the people who go there, he said.
"That was the statistic that gave everyone a sense of pride," he said. "We are building connections with people just by being there."