Words and photos by Kyle Strayer
“We Grow Gardeners” is painted inside the vividly decorated and modified school bus that houses the mobile Urban Greens Market part of the time. This slogan is apt for the market, considering the intentions of the organizations which have allowed it to prosper.
I took a visit to the Market last week, to learn more about the organizations that run it and where all this great food is coming from. (Reminder, you can find the weekly schedule here),
The Urban Greens Market is program overseen by Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department in partnership with the local non-profits Green Urban Lunch Box, Real Food Rising, (a project of Utah Community Action), and Utahns Against Hunger.
Its goal is to provide affordable, fresh produce in areas along the west side of Salt Lake City, which are classified as food deserts by the USDA.
Each of the non-profit partners have slightly different missions but are coming together to rejuvenate farming for the next generation, and provide access to healthy food for more people.
For The Green Urban Lunch Box, the issue is our dwindling supply of farmers. With only 9 percent of farmers in Utah under the age of 35, the need for new farmers is greater than ever.
They’re addressing this gap by providing a farmer training program, with 24 garden spaces around Salt Lake City. Many of these gardens are located in the revitalized backyards of seniors, manned by garden apprentices in the training program. Another source of the local produce for the Urban Greens Market comes from Salt Lake City’s FruitShare program with over 1, 400 registered trees across the Wasatch Front. Owners of fruit trees donate their excess produce and volunteers harvest what would have otherwise gone to waste.
Finally, the Urban Greens Market also gets its produce from Real Food Rising’s local farm. This organization works with youth across the area to learn hands-on skills related to organic farming, water usage, and sustainability. They also learn job-training skills. All to serve the mission of alleviating hunger in our community.
I visited the market on a Friday at the Sherwood Park location when The Green Urban Lunchbox’s bus was in rotation as the farm stand (it alternates with the table-and-tent set-up by Real Food Rising on other days).
The bus is hard to miss– it’s a full-length school bus retrofitted into a pop up market stand. Colorfully painted, with a skylight ceiling and garden beds in the place of seats, the bus is bursting with the atmosphere of a mini farmer’s market.
Stepping on-board, I was encouraged to try out some of the smaller produce items like grapes and cherries as I strolled through, inspecting the selection. The amount of produce for sale is shocking, considering the majority of it is grown right here in Salt Lake City.
The price is unbeatable for pristine organic foods. I picked up 2 avocado at $1 each, 5 limes for $1 and two handful of pears for a grand total of $4.50!
Payment is easy as the market takes cash, credit card and all locations will accept SNAP/EBT and Double Up Food Bucks. One of the goals of the market is to be extremely accessible to the surrounding community to increase the demand for locally-grown foods. The goal is to one day expand from just a mobile market, to a full on farmer’s market that becomes a regular commerce place for the community and a permanent solution to the food deserts in the Glendale and Poplar Grove areas.
For this to happen, the Urban Greens Market will need support of the community. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go check it out! The schedule can be found here or simply text “MARKET” to 51555 for updates. SLCgreen is currently doing a promotion for the market; bring a friend or sign up for the text message alerts to receive a free Urban Greens tote bag!
See you there!