Getting to Know the Hand That Feeds Us

NaNoWriMo Day 6 word count: 10,074

We love the farmers market. And we’re sad that it’s done for the winter.

The market in Salt Lake City runs from mid-June to mid-October, and during that time, we make the most of the market. We make it part of our weekly routine, and we’re rewarded not only with superb produce, but with the relationships we’ve developed with the farmers. They remember us as “regulars” and greet us with enthusiasm every week.

By visiting the farmers outside of the market, we manage to extend the season a tad and ease the transition to winter.

This morning, we made a trip down to Draper to meet up with Diane and Jerry Jones of Cottage Greens Farm (confession: until this morning we didn’t know their names. We referred to them collectively as “Fu Manchu Guy” because of Jerry’s facial hair). They sent out an e-mail earlier this week letting everyone know that they would be harvesting the last of the crops for the year and would be selling them at a field in Draper today. We planned our day around this trip to Draper, but Diane and Jerry were our first stop.

We pulled into the field and parked the car. Diane was behind a folding table laden heavy with baby beets, turnips, apples, bok choi, chard, kale, celeriac, kohlrabi, daikon, baby carrots, salad greens, and other items. Their dog, Layla, greeted us first, excited but wary, especially of the baby. Usually he’s in a baby carrier on my husband’s chest, and it seemed to confuse Layla that he was down at her level.

Diane finished working with the customer who was there before us and then she turned to my daughter. “Look who came to visit us! It’s the beautiful girl!”

Diane gave us the run-down on prices, which items were individually priced, which were per pound. As we began making our selections, she said, “This is where we’re growing next year!” and indicated with a sweep of the arm the field in which we were standing. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

It really is a pretty field. It’s located on a fairly busy road off of Bangerter Highway in Draper, but the trees surrounding it give it a somewhat secluded feel.

“There are lots of deer, too,” Diane explained. “They bed down right in this clearing.”

I was fairly certain this wasn’t a positive thing for a farm field, and I wasn’t sure what to say. I think I settled on something non-commital, like, “Oh!”

“We brought the plow down this morning and my husband’s back there building a garage for the tractor and the plow and things.” We could see a pickup truck and some movement at the back of the field.

We filled our sack with greens and a curly zucchini-like vegetable called a trombetta (I think. I retained the name of it with confidence for about 15 minutes before it started morphing in my brain). As a side note, I love the greens I get from Cottage Greens Farm. They are so fresh and tender and tasty. I’m so glad we get this bonus bolus of leafy greens before winter sets in and I have to make do with store-bought greens.

As we were settling the money part of the transaction, Diane told us about a plan for next year about which she is very excited.

“We’re building high tunnels!” she said. After asking for clarification, we learned that a high tunnel is a kind of long, unheated greenhouse. Diane explained that some people put black water barrels in them to attract the heat of the sun. They will still need to put frost blankets and tarps on some of the crops to protect them when it’s very cold. They won’t be able to grow year-round, but they’ll be able to extend their season to start in March and end in late November. They will be able to grow bok choi, spinach, and other cool-weather vegetables.

Another exciting part of this plan: 90% of it is being funded by government stimulus money. Diane applied for funding through NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the USDA) and their High Tunnel Pilot Project, and Cottage Greens Farm got the funding!

I am so excited for Diane and Jerry. And I’m so excited to know personally people who are benefitting directly from federal stimulus money. It’s so different than it is to just hear on the news about stimulus money going towards different projects around the country.

There’s also something about knowing the people who grow our food. I used to hear people talk about how important it was to know where your food came from, but it’s really only been this year that this has really meant anything to me beyond just an intellectual exercise. This morning, standing in this empty field where next year some of the food will grow that will feed me and my family and that will help my children grow strong and healthy, it hit me. Talking to the people under whose care this food will grow and through whose hands this food will pass to us, I was struck by the sacredness of this relationship. It’s like we’re really in Utah now, and even if we move away, we’ll be taking a part of the land and the spirit of the people with us.

We said goodbye to Diane and Jerry, after I got permission to write about them on my blog. Then we went on to the next stop on our itinerary: In N Out Burger. There are only eight in Utah and none all that close to Salt Lake City. There is one in Draper, though, so we took the opportunity to drop by for a GF/CF fast-food meal (well, GF/CF for me. The kids and my husband enjoyed buns and milkshakes and cheeseburgers). My daughter only liked the bun of her cheeseburger, and made a meal of that, french fries, and a chocolate milkshake. My husband got to eat two bunless cheeseburgers and a Double-Double. My son chowed down on french fries and ketchup. I enjoyed my protein-style hamburger with onion and the fresh and yummy and not-too-greasy fries.

Mess-o-Fries, In N Out Burger, Draper, Utah
Hamburger, Protein Style. In N Out Burger, Draper, Utah

Then we went up to Ferguson Canyon for a final hike before winter sets in. We made it past the granite slabs, but just past where the trail crossed the creek, there was a steep ascent and the surface of the trail became rock and slippery gravel. When our daughter slipped for the third time in about ten feet, we decided to call it a day and head back to the car rather than risk sliding back down the hill on our return. Although 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City said that the trail was under-utilized and so we’d see more wildlife than people, we found the opposite to be true. The trail was hoppin’, and not with bunnies and chipmunks. Well, what the book actually says is, “Although it teems with life, humans are a minority species, making it easy to enjoy the canyon’s cozy solitude.” I suppose that’s open to interpretation, but we didn’t experience much that I’d call “solitude.”

A few maple leaves cling to the branches in Ferguson Canyon.
Rock climbers scaling a "granite slab." Apparently, Ferguson Canyon is a popular destination for rock climbers.

All-in-all, though, it was a very enjoyable day, aside from my daughter skinning her knee when we were within sight of the car on the way back. In the evening, we made nut burgers (from Feeding the Whole Family, of course), which my daughter declared “much better than In N Out Burger.”

One Reply to “Getting to Know the Hand That Feeds Us”

  1. do you know about the indoor farmer’s market this year? 1050s State tues 4-7 and sat/sun all day. i was thinking of a trip to drake family farms (goat’s milk) soon? should we get the girls together. . . AFTER nanowrimo?!

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