SALT LAKE CITY — Bjorn Carlson admits that he looks forward to sleeping in next Saturday morning.
For the past 21 weeks, Carlson, his wife, Shanna, and their four children have traveled every Saturday from West Haven, Weber County, to Salt Lake City to sell grass-fed beef from their BlueTree Cattle Co. at the Downtown Farmers Market in Pioneer Park. Saturday was the final day of the market season.
Despite the early mornings, the Carlsons are already planning to return next year, he said.
"It's nice to get the family out. It's a good event, and you get your product out at the same time," he said.
Vendors, organizers and customers said they had mixed emotions about the conclusion of the market, now in its 20th year.
On the one hand, shoppers and vendors had to bundle up to weather the chill Saturday morning. But many shoppers said they will miss the availability of fresh produce and friendly atmosphere of the market, which had been open Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.
"It just makes me sad it's going to be over. I come for the vegetables, mostly," said customer Veronica Meado.
But she also enjoys getting to know the producers, some of whom grow and prepare items not found in local grocery stores. The arts and craft booths enable her to get a head-start on her Christmas shopping.
"If you get to be friends with the vendors, they start giving you better deals," she said.
The market, which features vendors from 19 counties in Utah, helps to create a sense of community in Pioneer Park, said market manager Kim Angeli. It has also been an incubator for some downtown restaurants.
"I really think the market has been a player in creating an identity for the neighborhood," Angeli said.
Shoppers and vendors have increased by about 25 percent over the past five years, she said.
Crowds have thinned somewhat since the school year started, but the relatively warm summer brought some types of produce to market about two weeks ahead of schedule. That helped drive business earlier in the season, Angeli said.
Randi Limb, of Prickly Rock Honey in Wallsburg, was clad in a honeybee costume for the final day of the market. Organizers had encouraged vendors to dress for the upcoming Halloween holiday, "but I think I'm the only one who did," she said.
Limb said the family sold a good deal of its wildflower honey this season.
"The season has been good. We usually do really well, well enough we'll go sit in the freezing weather," she joked.
Vendors and customers alike travel from outside Salt Lake County to be part of the weekly experience. John Kurek, of Tooele, accompanied by his English bulldog, Stella, said he shops at the market every other week.
"I love it. It's just a great thing to come to," Kurek said. "It's a great downtown gathering."
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