We called the first year a “Farm Experiment” because we didn’t know what the market was like and if we could make anything from it.
In March of 2010, we leased a 4-acre piece of land that had been vacant for 30 plus years with lots of weeds and trees. So with shovels, saws, 1 antique tractor, and a plow, we worked long and hard to prep the land. We focused on corn, potatoes, and pumpkins to test the demand. Beginning from the dust, with almost nothing, it was a true miracle that we made $25,000 that first year.
With a successful year under our belts, we decided plant again that next spring. We invested in a new tractor for ground preparation and tilling.We figured out we needed a better way to sell the produce, since our tent on Geneva Road was not much protection from the elements and required a big setup each day. So we built the original fruitstand in August of that year. And because pumpkins were a best seller the year before, our first ever pumpkin pyramid was constructed that Fall.
We were always testing the market to see what items the people wanted. We had so many people asking for strawberries, so we planted an acre patch and hoped they would be big enough to produce next year. We even got a couple cows for beef. It was the best beef we ever tasted! But expensive to raise. We also started collecting much needed equipment like corn planters, a market truck, & a potato digger.
We put all our focus this year on the SLC farmers market.
We worked hard to design and perfect the displays. The strawberries we had planted last year put on a heavy first crop and our certified organic strawberries were a hit! We built a mobile market trailer for all the big bulky squashes, melons, and pumpkins.We had a late but plentiful harvest of watermelons. We learned that its difficult for people to carry around heavy, bulky items at the markets. With the exception of pumpkins! They would bring wagons, cart them off one by one, or leave them at the booth and bring the car around to load up.
Big changes came this year on the farm. First, we added a new member of the farm family when Richard & Rachel got married! We shifted our focus and made a major renovation to the original fruitstand.It was beginning to look and feel more like a real store. However, we had a major problem whenever the old generator would shut down in the middle of the day. It powered everything in the store! Our next project was to put in permanent electricity that winter.
We had more and more people coming for pumpkins each year. We bought some small pedal tractors for the kids to ride around the patch. Our original tractor ride was a small box (big enough for about 4 people) that was lifted at the back of the tractor by the forklift forks.
We began the season with our first kids program, "Little Green Thumbs". We had our first corn maze designed, planted,and cut. We filled our pumpkin patch with more pumpkins than ever.
But this year was the year we just about lost everything.
Up until this point, we had only been leasing the land. You may be thinking we were crazy for investing in buildings and electricity. But if you talk to any real farmer, you know they work on faith & optimism. No other person would plant thousands of dollars in the dirt and hope for a harvest months later.
The owner of the land originally wanted to build a school but had trouble when the financial crash of 2007-2008 happened. Now at this point, the market had improved and it made sense for him to sell the piece for development. But did we have millions of dollars to compete with the offers?
Unfortunately, farming takes a lot of money, it doesn't make a lot of money. So a devleoper came up with a plan, and the sale ended up being contingent on approval from the city council. We rallied as much support as we could and the meeting lasted until 2 o'clock in the morning. In the end, the city council wasn't happy with the proposed density but reminded us that the only way to really save the piece was the purchase it.They did, however, buy us some time.
It is a miracle that we are still here. Within a couple weeks, we were connected with a man who was looking to purchase a farm.We presented our numbers, plans, and vision for the future. We talked only a few times. And he purchased the 14 acre piece through a charity interested in feeding people in need.
It hit us harder than ever that the farm will only be saved if it's shared. In the end, the thing that made the city council think twice about approving the development was how much public support was in our favor at the meeting. We are so grateful for all the letters, emails, and speeches people gave. Our mission is to share our farm with the community, with kids and families. We want them to learn, eat, play, and grow on the farm for many years to come.
After all the uncertainty, stress, and pressure from the land purchase, we put our whole hearts into the farm. We made more room inside the fruitstand, and built a secondary storage building. In the spring, we raised baby chicks and had a flock of 40 free range chickens for people to chase around and watch on the farm. We held another kids camp that we called "June Days". We suffered major crop losses from drought,and toxic algae in the irrigation water. But we shifted our focus to our Fall activities. We built the entry gate to our Fairgrounds and added 2 new attractions to our pumpkin patch. We also held a pumpkin carving contest!
The store underwent another major renovation in year eight. But our main focus became the Fall Fair. This was our first year charging a gate price once we added three new attractions: our apple slingshot, grandpa's hayride, and our double barrel slides. Amidst all the fall excitement, Richard & Rachel had their first baby!
Big infrastructure improvements (city water and a cooler building) helped us get a good start to the year. Though it ended up being a hard year for selling produce at the farm store, we had great successes at the farmers markets and Fall Fair.We added a 22-foot swing ride and a teacup ride to the fair and invited food vendors each weekend. We had over 10,000 people come through this Fall!