You could say Appenzell Farm started in 2008, when Jesse Corbridge and his mother Barbara read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and decided to dedicate their 10 acres to the sustainable farm movement. You could say that the Appenzell Farm really got it’s start a year later, when Jesse’s grandmother leased her fallow 70-acre lot to the farm.
Or you could look farther back in time, to 1947, when Jesse’s great-grandfather left Appenzell, Switzerland to settle on the family’s acreage in Cache Valley. A food scientist who immigrated to Utah to work for a local cheese company, he kept the farm as a hobby, as did his son, and Jesse’s mother, before Jesse himself was ready to take it to the next level.
Jesse’s parents, Barbara and Don Corbridge, help out, as does Jesse’s wife of one year, Rachel, but Jesse puts in the majority of labor on the farm. Starting with meat chickens and laying hens, as well as a small herd of about 20 Angus cows, Jesse has embarked on a journey toward sustainable agriculture, learning by building on his hands-on experience. Growing up, he notes that he would help with chores such as pitching hay or moving irrigations systems, but wasn’t deeply involved. “It’s been a journey of learning on my own, by researching other farms that have posted information online and reading books.” Most recently Jesse has been taking extension classes from Utah State University on farm business and has begun collaborating with other farms that follow the same farming philosophy.
The farm has grown, and continues to grow. Currently, Appenzell offers produce, poultry—including turkeys —and beef through CSA shares during the growing season. If you’re already considering where to get next year’s Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas roast, take note: Jesse hopes to soon be able to offer shares year-round.
The operation hasn’t gone off without hitches. The Corbridges tried raising rabbits, finding a way to raise them on pasture like the rest of the Appenzell animals. However, while the Corbridges have an approved and inspected poultry processing facility on-farm, and in most of the country rabbits can be processed alongside chickens, in Utah, they are classified as red meat and require a separate processing facility. So for the time being, Appenzell’s rabbit husbandry is on hold.
Likewise on hold are plans for pork: The Corbridges received a Slow Food micro-grant in 2011 to build the shelters and new fences that they would need to start raising pigs. However, a skunk attack that same year wiped out 100 of their turkeys as well as part of their chicken flock, putting a significant financial strain on the fledgling farm, and preventing them from producing the matching funds to purchase the breeding stock.
In the meantime, they’ve partnered with Utah Natural Meat to provide the pork that rounds out their meat-based CSA shares, but Jesse continues to work with Slow Food, and hopes to be able to move into pig husbandry in the near future as the farm continues to grow.
Demand has increased through world of mouth, with nearly half Appenzell’s customer base coming from nearby Utah State University although a few dedicated souls will drive up from Park City or Salt Lake. The Corbridges continue to focus on land management and farming practices that will yield the fresh and chemical-free food the customers demand.
While Appenzell is not currently organically certified, they are committed to using organic techniques, humane treatment of their livestock, and sustainable stewardship of their land. Jesse anticipates that some areas of production may be ready for organic certification by next year. “Our produce is grown in full compliance with organic standards, but we haven’t yet made the investment in being certified. The rest of the land is pasture, and we’ve been growing that organically, so that will be easy.”
Certification of Appenzell’s poultry may prove more difficult; the high price of organic feed necessitates a huge increase in the cost of the final product. But Jesse feels confident about the future of the farm, and is committed as much to the journey to sustainable agriculture as to the destination.
You can learn more about CSA shares on the farm, stay abreast of the Corbridges’ doings, and learn more about the Appenzell philosophy at appenzellfarm.com.
Regular readers of CATALYST are aware of the myriad benefits of eating locally, but if you haven’t been sure where to start beyond attending your weekly farmer’s market, we’ve got you covered: For the next year, in partnership with Slow Food Utah, CATALYST will be bringing you info about local resources for eating well. Slow Food Utah is a chapter of the national Slow Food USA organization, itself part of a global grassroots movement that aims at providing food that is, in all ways, better—for the people eating it, for the people growing it, and for the land base it comes from. Thanks to a micro-grant program sponsored by Slow Food Utah, locally focused projects that increase biodiversity, provide access to more healthful food, or contribute to our community’s knowledge base are springing up on farms, community gardens, and backyards all across Utah. Whether you’re looking to connect with local farmers, or are considering your own farming project, CATALYST will be bringing you profiles of the recent recipients of Slow Food Utah’s micro-grant program to help map out the local farming landscape.