Visit The Downtown Farmers Market @ Ancestor Square
By Julie Hunter
Mother’s Day weekend marks the eleventh annual opening of the Downtown Farmers Market in Ancestor Square. This launches a new season of weekly gatherings for area growers, artisans, craftspeople, performers and the community, each Saturday morning.
Originally cultivated by Nicki and Randall Richards, owners of the Painted Pony and George’s Corner restaurants in Ancestor Square, the Downtown Farmers Market began as a forum for sharing their collection of local resources for the freshest herbs, produce, artisan cheeses and more. Over the last decade, the Market has grown into a community institution, expanding to cover all of the Ancestor Square grounds and parking lot.
“We now have dozens of vendors each week come from throughout Washington and Iron County,” says Market Manager Jil Gardella. “Numerous farmers and growers offer things like farm-fresh eggs, local honey and a wide range of seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs.”
Every week, organic growers and artisans make the trek from Enterprise, Cedar City, Kanab and other cities, here to St. George. They bring with them the freshest collection of produce, seedlings and other locally produced and crafted items, such as cheeses and grass fed, organically grown beef, lamb and pork.
Organic growing and small farm practices are typically known for having the highest quality produce and best flavor. However, the timing involved in bringing these items to the Market plays a significant a role in retaining flavor, as well as overall nutritional value. Since the Downtown Farmers Market features growers from St. George and nearby communities, the produce brought in each Saturday has at times been harvested as early as the morning of – resulting in nutrient values being far greater than that of produce purchased through traditional grocery store channels.
“Every day it’s off the vine, it loses nutrients,” Nicki says, explaining why timing is so crucial pertaining to food quality. “Our Market farmers pick their produce right before they bring it to the Market. The produce you buy here is literally right off the vine.”
Nicki and Randall are known for selecting ingredients at this high-level, as well as for incorporating their own gardens into their restaurants menus. With the emphasis on high-quality ingredients and fresh and unique flavors, their menu’s have earned them numerous awards over the years, and created a following of dedicated patrons who come for dining experiences unique to each season. Many of their most popular and memorable dishes are locally grown either in their own gardens maintained for the restaurant, or purchased from growers who adhere to sustainable practices. One example of a notable dish is the Seasonal Heirloom Tomato Salad – a guaranteed daily sell-out for its entire three-month run every year!
While they have enjoyed having access to this high-standard level of ingredients for their restaurants, Nicki and Randall are passionate about giving area residents the same opportunity for use in their own kitchens and homes. The Market also features producers of baked goods, jams, and jellies, as well as artisans offering felted purses, pottery, lotions, soaps and jewelry featuring beads, stones, copper, silver and more.
Breakfast treats and coffee are usually available to purchase for market-goers, and musical artists perform each week from 9:30am until 12:00pm. Stillhouse Road will be the 2018 opening day musical guest, and other local favorites such as Dulce and Jerry Seare will perform throughout the season.
The Downtown Farmers Market opens Saturday, May 12th and runs through Saturday October 27th. The Market features new hours this year – 9:00 am to 12:00 noon – and will be open every Saturday, rain or shine. EBT/Horizon Cards are accepted.