Provo Farmers Market helps kick start small businesses

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Editor’s note: This story pairs with another titled “Local farmers markets participate in federal nutritional aid program.”

Katrina Kimball finally found a doctor with new advice about how to relieve her son’s dry, itchy skin after years of watching him struggle. She needed to stop using store-bought manufactured soaps made from detergents and instead use old-fashioned, handmade lye soap.

Katrina Kimball, owner and soap-maker at Sego Lily Soap, makes a bath bomb at her store in Spanish Fork. (Abby Hay)

She then took this information and found the lye soap to be much more gentle on all of her children’s skin as well as her own and began making her own handmade soaps. Eventually, she started selling soap to a few close friends and family members, but after a while, she became ready to grow her business even more.

In 2012, Kimball began selling her soaps and other handmade products at the Provo Farmers Market, where she gained much of the success she has today.

Kimball is one of many local entrepreneurs whose business got a kick-start from the Provo Farmers Market.

“We’ve grown like crazy through the Provo Farmers Market,” Kimball said. “Every year it’s just gotten better and better.”

The connections she made at the market led her to wholesalers, a local hotel and a few stores that carry her products.

“So many people found us at the farmers market, and now a lot of them spread it through word of mouth,” Kimball said.

She had enough consistent clients to open her own shop, Sego Lily Soap, in Spanish Fork two years ago.

Downtown Provo’s development analyst and Provo Farmers Market board member Chad Thomas said the market provides a great benefit to the entire community and supports the growth of local businesses.

“There’s some really cool stories and some really cool companies who actually got their start at the Provo Farmers Market,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the market supports not only the business of local farmers but also the business of local craftsmen.

“Provo is the city of starts,” Thomas said. “Utah is a very unique market. There’s a lot of people always looking to do something that they’re passionate about, and the Provo Farmers Market really provides that avenue.”

Pete Tidwell, a Provo-based baker who has won Food Network’s “Cake Wars” competition twice, got off to a good start with his company, The Mighty Baker, thanks to the exposure he gained at the Provo Farmers Market.

Tidwell signed up as a vendor in 2013 for the Provo Farmers Market. He sold Dutch stroopwafels, cookies, brioche and fresh-made fruit preserves.

“Every week we seemed to get busier and busier, and we’d sell out a couple hours early,” Tidwell said. “And then we went through the whole summer and got busier and busier and established our Instagram following through that.”

Tidwell’s business has been so busy since the summer of 2013 that he hasn’t had time to return as a vendor, but he hopes to reappear occasionally this summer.

Barbara Martel, who owns and runs Martel Farm with her husband, said produce isn’t the only product available at farmers markets. (Provo Farmers Market)

Barbara Martel owns and runs Martel Farm in Lindon with her husband and has sold her produce at the Provo Farmers Market since it began.

She sells peaches, pears, apples, nectarines and occasionally almonds and walnuts. Martel said she doesn’t advertise for the market, but finds a lot of success just by showing up with her produce.

“I think it’s a lot of fun for people to go to the market,” Martel said.

Martel said produce isn’t the only product available at farmers markets.

“There’s a lot of different things,” Martel said. “It’s crafts, food trucks, waffles, and pizza and all kinds of fun stuff.”

The market relies heavily on vendors who sell items other than produce largely because most produce is harvested more frequently toward the end of the season. Quinn Peterson, Provo Farmers Market manager and executive director for Downtown Provo Inc., said most of the produce vendors don’t begin selling their food until the end of July.

The market also features service and political providers, non-profit and community organizations and performers. In recent years, nearly half of all vendors at the Provo Farmers Market specialized in arts and crafts, according to Peterson.

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The above pie chart shows the percentage of vendor types anticipated to be at the Provo Farmers Market during late summer 2017 based on past years. The numbers were given by Provo Farmers Market manager Quinn Peterson. (Abby Hay)

Peterson said he hopes BYU students will come to the farmers market so they can be exposed to the various opportunities downtown Provo has to offer.

“BYU students really struggle to realize what is here in the community. They don’t recognize what restaurants, retail and entertainment exist downtown in Provo,” Peterson said. “The farmers market allows them to come downtown and see that there are fun things happening.”

 

 

BYU student Kira Johnson tells about her experiences at local farmers markets. 

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