Summer is just around the corner, and here in Utah, that means local fruits and veggies are popping up in grocery stores and farmers markets around the state. I decided to go straight to the source, and spoke with a few of our favorite local farmers to learn about what they’re excited about this year.
David & Danielle Stirling – Stirling Farms
Sam Day – Day Farms
Jack Harward – Harward Farms
First things first, what are your primary crops?
David & Danielle Stirling – Watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, grapes, cherries, pluots, apricots, tomatoes, and corn
Sam Day – Lots of peppers, but they specialize in bell peppers and shishitos, sweet corn, and specialty melons
Jack Harward – Sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins
How did you get into farming?
Most (96%) of farms and ranches in the United States are family-owned and operated. The USDA classifies family farms as “any farm organized as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or family corporation. (1) And many farmers come from a family or long line of farming. The farmers I spoke with were no exception! Sam grew up on a farm, started growing when he was little, and never stopped. He also pursued degrees in crop and plant science. Jake started growing corn on his grandfather’s cattle farm when he was 12 years old and said, “I think my parents just wanted to keep me out of trouble.” David and Danielle, are 5th generation farmers!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Jake starts the day by spreading fertilizer. Everything they plant is on raised beds, and they have a machine that makes the bed, fertilizes, drops protective plastic, and plants the seeds. This time of year, he’s spending a lot of time preparing soil and working on irrigation. All the farmers I spoke with operate small farm stands, in addition to selling to local grocery stores, and manage a u-pick business. The u-pick fields are typically used for specialty or one-off items like unique stone fruits, corn, pumpkins, and berries.
Why is it so important to support local farmers?
Sam told me that local produce is simply higher quality and better tasting. “When you go to the grocery store and you aren’t buying the local product, and you buy a tomato that was picked green or sweet corn with a harder kernel that lasts longer, you recognize the difference.” He explained that local farmers can grow produce that accounts for things like Utah’s high elevation and drier climate, they can leave produce on the vine longer to improve taste and nutrition, and they’re always searching for new varieties that taste better.
What’s something you want readers to know about local farmers?
Danielle told me that, “we feel an incredible responsibility to be stewards to the land and practice good agricultural practices.” This sentiment was echoed by all the farmers I spoke with. From conserving water to the responsible use of pesticides and fertilizers, they all stressed that taking care of the land is a farmer’s top priority.
“Nothing is more important than children knowing where their food comes from.” From education on the farm, to YouTube videos and field trips, every farmer talked about the importance of ensuring that children and adults alike understand where food comes from and who grows it.
What produce item are you most looking forward to?
Sam – Sweet corn in July
Jake – New onion varieties, popcorn on the cob, and our homemade salsa
Danielle – Peaches, and she shared her favorite way to eat them:
- Cut peach in half, gently spoon out the pit
- Drizzle with butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg
- Broil for 3 minutes
- Once it starts to create a crust on top, remove from the oven
- Serve with a dollop of ice cream and caramel sauce