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Murray • On the first day of the 2016 Murray Park Farmers Market last week, shoppers moved through the Chavez Farms booth at a steady pace, a few buying small bags of corn and cherries, but several walking away with full boxes of tomatoes, peppers and peaches for eating and preserving.
"It's the best market for us," said Uriel Chavez, while he replenished the quickly dwindling table of fresh fruits and vegetables grown at the family farm in Orem. "We've tried different markets, but people who come here buy a lot."
In Utah's growing family of farmers markets, Murray's rendition is not only the oldest sibling celebrating its 35th anniversary this year but also is the no-nonsense one, with a modest "produce first" personality that has endeared it to customers and vendors.
It's younger and flashier sister, the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City, tends to get more attention by offering all the bells and whistles art, crafts, food, live music.
The Murray Market is happy to exist without all those things; although to many customers, it has more attractive features: It is a two-day market, running every Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; it's centrally located in the Salt Lake Valley; and offers plenty of free parking.
"It's all business and no B.S.," said regular customer Nancy Maxfield Lund. "You can come buy fruits, vegetables and bread and get out."
Planting seeds • The Utah Farm Bureau launched the Murray Market in 1981, when a group of growers, who didn't have enough produce to sell to larger grocery stores, asked for help getting their fruits and vegetables to consumers, said Susan Furner, director of administrative services.
The first Murray Farmers Market was held at the original Farm Bureau building on 5300 South near Interstate 15, she said. It stayed there for more than a decade before moving to the Salt Lake County Fairgrounds and later Murray Park, where it has been for about 15 years.
During that time, the Utah Farm Bureau has kept the same "vision and focus of connecting consumers to farmers," added Julia Misiego, member services coordinator. Only farmers who grow produce in Utah are allowed to sell at the Murray market, she said. "We don't allow brokers or people who buy out of state and then sell it to customers."
That is one of the reasons the Murray market opens in late July or early August each year, two months later than some.
"Utah's climate doesn't really allow for a lot of produce in June and July," she said.
Even the vendors who sell honey, breads, jam, tamales and other food products have to be the actual producer.
It's a formula that has worked well during the past three-plus decades, as the market has grown from just a few growers to 56 this year, said Furner. There are 70 vendors altogether.
As the popularity of the Murray Market grew, the Farm Bureau added a second market. Initially, it was located in Sandy, but has since moved to South Jordan. That market kicks off this Saturday.
Attendance at both markets continues to grow, said Furner. In Murray, the market averages about 1,500 people over two days; while South Jordan gets more than 800.
They are among dozens of Utah farmers markets from Brigham City to Zion.
"When we started there weren't any other markets," said Furner. "So it's neat to see them in other places."
Market love • A few Utah farmers who helped open the market still participate, including Roberts Family Farms in Layton.
The heavy focus on farmers is the reason for the longevity, said Michelle Roberts, whose husband Devin is a sixth-generation farmer. "It's all produce and farmer oriented," she said.
Heather Peeters, who operates Murray Market Gardens and Solstice Spices, agrees.
"It's my favorite market," she said. "It has such a comfortable feeling. People are here to buy produce and go home and cook it. They're on a mission."
The Murray Market also attracts a diverse group of customers, thanks to farmers such as Chavez who speaks fluent Spanish and vendors like Roberto Bedolla, who sells homemade tamales at his La Salsa booth.
"You really do see all different ethnicities here," said Allyson Shayne, who has been a regular customer at the Murray market for more than a decade. "I grew up in South America and coming here makes me really happy because it reminds me of home."
Kendra Hawkins remembers coming to the Murray market as a child with her mother Teresa Reese and grandmother Colleen Nielson. On opening day last week, the three visited again, only this time they brought the family's fourth generation, Hawkins' two boys, ages 1 and 3.
"It's fun to explain to them where their food comes from," she said, "and have them pick it out themselves."
To Market in Murray
The Murray Park Farmers Market, which recently opened for the 2016 season, is celebrating its 35 anniversary, making it Utah's oldest farmers market.
Where • 296 E. Murray Park Way, Murray
When • Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., through Oct. 29.
More • The Utah Farm Bureau also sponsors the South Jordan Farmers Market, Saturday only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m near the city park, 10695 S. Redwood Road. Opens Saturday, Aug. 6 and runs through Oct. 29.
Details • utahfarmbureau.org/Agriculture/Farmers-Markets