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Home / Articles / · Archive / News & Columns /  Flying the Coop Page 4
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Flying the Coop Page 4

Feature: Araucana Hens in Mill Creek. Eight-foot tomato plants in Rose Park. How Plucky Can Urban Farmers Get?

By Chris Adamson
Posted // August 22,2007 - {::NOAD::}Me, My Garden and Costco
src=data/449BBE6E-021E-D69E-7A3370304BA7D31B/userData/Image/070823/jonathan_krausert_Pitchfork.jpg Many Salt Lake City urban “farmers” know one another. Whether that’s because they help the Wasatch Community Gardens from time to time, share the same basic feelings about what people should do to help the planet or that they crave an honest tomato, it’s unclear. Near the intersection of California Avenue and Redwood Road, Celia Bell has cultivated a fertile half-acre for more than three years after learning to farm in an “old-time hippie commune” in the Missouri Ozarks. “I have a lot of respect for the Amish,” she says. Bell was selling her produce in Utah to various outlets, including her neighbors the Wasatch Commons Co-housing, but when she found her best sellers were mainly salad greens, she decided to devote her produce to her family and friends.

“We still show up at Costco,” she admits without hesitation. “I’m not totally self reliant, but we try our darndest.”

Her friend and neighbor, Cari Pinkowski, moved into the area two years ago, onto a one-acre plot. She’s just starting out, only finding time between taking care of her two small children, soil building (for truly organic produce) and constructing a hen house to start a few crop beds and small selection of fruit trees. But she and her husband are working hard to ready a large plot that will sustain their family and perhaps garner them a little money on the side. “I’m interested in lots and lots of people growing their own food and having their own farms,” she says. That’s why she moved to the city’s west side from Sugar House: to find the land she needed.

But Jonathan Krausert’s operation makes even these impressive gardens look meek. He didn’t have to increase his land space to fit his passion. Not only has he managed to cram more edible vegetation in his comparably tiny eighth-acre, but with thousands of gallons of rain water (about 30 barrels) for gardening and use in the house, a solar oven and chickens to fertilize the soil and keep bugs away, he’s like a Sustainable Saint.

“I compared my water bill to my neighbor’s just now. I was shocked because mine was the highest it’s ever been, but his was twice as much, and his is all grass,” Krausert says. “I’m using less water and producing, which to me is a key, important thing.”

Krausert grew up in rural Michigan. His father’s impressive gardening skills fed his and his uncle’s large families. Gardening is in his blood, Krausert says; it was only natural when he began the kind of garden that could give his father’s a run for his money.

“Once you get started early, you’re hooked. That’s it; you’re through. You can’t do anything else,” he says. “I could not live without a garden. If I were in a condo, I would have to have a balcony with big pots on it.”

This kind of gardening is not for the timid, however. One has to have a real passion for it. And although Pinkowski has seen more families make the same move, from Sugar House onto larger plots on the west side to have a go at sustainable living, if consumers continue to demand cheap food, it may not be cost-effective for the average small producer to devote the time, energy and money into a backyard mega-garden.

There are several organic farms in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas that serve the palates of urban localvores. Some of them started out with plots no larger than Bell’s, receiving grants and selling enough produce to expand the business. Even though there seems to be a market for artisan food in Utah, making the transition away from food importing and commodity agriculture to eating sustainably and locally appears to be a long way off in the post-industrial future. >>
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