Features and Occasionals

Seeds & Sawdust: Urban Farm & Feed

By Chris Gleason

It’s been great to watch the fast growing locavore movement blossom here on the Wasatch Front. It has grown so much, in fact, that it’s getting hard to keep tabs on all the new restaurants, stores and organizations. By contrast, I remember the bleak old days—I mean like seven or eight years ago—when people thought a Rhode Island Red was some kind of wine imported from New England.

Not in 2014—we’re a pretty saavy bunch, now. “You mean you don’t have birds?” you may hear from one of the Chickeratti, accompanied by a raised eyebrow.

Anyway, things are getting better all the time for fans of sustainable food. Just this week I made a great discovery: I’m talking about Urban Farm & Feed, which just celebrated its one year anniversary. It is exactly the kind of place I’ve been yearning for.

In a nutshell, Urban Farm & Feed combines the best of a year-round farmer’s market with the broader vision of helping to educate and empower its clientele. It is hip, funky, and down-to-earth. These folks have both style and substance —good values and a good vibe, you might say.

The store is the brainchild of Maryann and Marty Alston, who are veterans in the urban farming/local food scene. Three years ago, they started the Farmer’s Market at Wheeler Farm, and they also operate and organize similar markets at Gardner Village and Thanksgiving Point. These markets have been quite successful but, by nature, they’re seasonal ventures, so the Alstons conceived of a year-round store where people could buy local produce and more.

The store, Urban Farm & Feed, is bright, colorful and quirky, but it has a real backbone, too: The prices were really reasonable, and the selection pretty darned good for mid-December. In addition to featuring the produce of numerous local farmers, they leased three acres of land and grew produce last season for their store. They also keep 70 chickens for egg production.uff5

A major part of Urban Farm & Feed’s focus is to provide supplies, resources and education to help people do for themselves. They offer classes on a broad range of topics ($25-60); their Farm School slogan is “You don’t have to live on a farm to live like a farmer.” They even offer occasional classes for kids at no cost.

They also carry tools for your urban farming needs—items you’d previously have to order online, or travel to several stores to obtain and they repair services for tillers and power equipment (See sidebar.)

A guy came in during my visit with a big box of honey from some nearby hives. He and Paige struck up a long conversation that lead to teh idea of holding bee-keeping classes.

I talked to staff member Paige Collett, a knowledgeable, friendly and laid-back woman.

I spoke with Maryann about their first year; she very satisfied overall. She credits the store’s success to the built-in customer base and established relationships that they have made over the past few years at their farmer’s markets. Without this pre-existing network of clients and vendors, she imagines it would have been an uphill battle.

For their second year, the store will be rolling out lots of new ideas. In early 2014, they will have a locally milled, GMO-free chicken feed available. They will also have an all-inclusive backyard chickens course, instructions, chickens and a coop. They will also begin carrying bee-keeping equipment.

This is the type of store we really want to succeed. Pay them a visit next time you’re in the neighborhood.

Tools for the urban farmer:

• Supplies for cheesemaking, canning and poultry raising (including chicks and feed)
• Gardening equipment and tools
• Compost, hay, straw, alfalfa
• Equipment kits for beer, kombucha,
cider and mead
• Tractor rental

Foods I found at Urban Farm & Feed:

• Locally grown fruits and vegetables
• Grass-fed beef, pork, chicken, and lamb
• Small-batch artisan-packaged foods: jams, hummus, salsa, candy, breads, pies, pickled vegetables, sauces, syrups, spices
• Farm-fresh eggs (organic, cage-gree, pasture-raised, and backyard)
• Raw honey
• Locally milled flour, oats, wheat, and mixes
• Locally produced cheeses, milk and sour cream
• Various arts and crafts from artisans in Utah

Chris Gleason is a woodworker, a fiddle player in an old-time stringband, and the author of 10 books on sustainability and DIY topics, including Wood Pallet Projects (2013, Fox Chapel Publications). He lives near downtown Salt Lake City. Read his blog at http://www.seedsandsawdust.com.

This article was originally published on December 30, 2013.