Brock Mayer prepares the vegetable beds at Castle Valley Farms on Tuesday, April 12. Castle Valley Farms is just one of many vendors that will be selling local produce and goods at this year's Moab Farmers' Market, which runs from April 21 through Oct. 20. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

Buying your produce from farmers markets is a good way to cut out the middleman, and you get to know the person who is growing your food. Many markets, like the one in Moab, are also festive events with prepared food for sale and free live entertainment.

This year’s Moab Farmers’ Market season starts on Thursday, April 21 – opening at 4:30 p.m., and closing at 7 p.m.

For the first market of the year, Castle Valley Farms manager Shawn Speidel predicts that his farm will have beets, arugula, kale and some salad mix available – as well as fresh baked bread and pastries. As the season progresses, customers can expect a wide range of fruits and vegetables, he said.

Other market vendors include Kaki’s Kitchen, S. Sidwell Originals, Desert Sunset, the Youth Garden Project, KaadzBeadz and Gardens, Country Store Deals, Early Morning Orchard, Sundial Medicinals, Roan Creek Ranch and Desert Valley Bath Bombs.

The Southeastern Utah District Health Department is organizing the farmers market for the second consecutive year, after previous organizers, who had run the event for more than a decade, sought to pass on the responsibility to someone new.

“I got to thinking about it – what a good thing for the health department to do,” said Orion Rogers, the health department’s public information officer. “Making sure that people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables fits right into (our) mission of providing services that promote health.”

Taking that ideal a step further, the farmers market will be accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits this year.

The health department received a grant for Double Up Food Bucks, a program that stretches food dollars for fruits and vegetables for low-income clients. Patrons will be able to swipe their SNAP card for up to $10 and receive an equal amount of tokens to spend on produce, Rogers said. Farmers will receive full payment for their produce.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, the market’s offerings include flowers, honey, dairy products and locally raised meat. Additionally, you’ll find lavender products made from locally grown lavender, as well as herbal medicines, and arts and crafts. The Youth Garden Project will also be selling spring plant starts, according to YGP Executive Director Delite Primus.

The market also often offers services such as knife sharpening and chair massages. Live entertainment includes music, dance troupes and taiko drummers.

Castle Valley Farms is one of the main vendors, and is known for its various types of tomatoes, which will be ready later in the season, Speidel said. The farm will also have bags of wheat, eggplant, squash, peppers, carrots, turnips, spinach and various fruits.

The farm does not use pesticides and strives to create healthy plants that do not attract unwanted insects, Speidel said. There is a school on the property – DayStar Adventist Academy – where students work on the farm, Speidel said.

The farm is currently seeking funds to install a 72,000-square-foot greenhouse – in addition to a 19,000-square-foot greenhouse it currently operates – to provide more fresh produce in Moab throughout the winter months.

The Moab City Council helped make the farmers market possible by waiving various fees for setting up booths on city land, Rogers said.

Locally grown produce, other goods available on Thursdays at Swanny Park

“Making sure that people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables fits right into (our) mission of providing services that promote health.”

When: Thursdays, 4:30-7 p.m., April 21 to October 20

Where: Swanny City Park, 100 West and Park Drive

Information: 435-259-5602; www.moabfarmersmarket.com

For more information, go to www.moabfarmersmarket.com, or call 435-259-5602