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One thing that I whole-heartedly love about the Farmers’ Market is the wide variety of personalities that it brings together. You’d think that it would attract the same type of people, but everyone is different, quirky, and fun in their own way. I think Seth Stinson is probably the embodiment of that. He is always bright eyed and bushy tailed, quick with a joke, and light hearted to the extreme. His unique range of products exemplifies his individuality. Who else sells duck eggs and live fermented foods like pickles and Kim-chi? So, I was absolutely delighted when given the opportunity to go spend a morning with Seth up in Central, Utah. As I pulled into the cabin studded subdivision, it was hard to imagine a farm out here. The rugged, dry landscape seemed only conducive to the gnarly junipers and Pinyon pines that dominated the scenery. As I rounded a corner dense with trees, I veered sharply into Seth’s concealed driveway. As I pulled up to the three story, A-frame house, Seth was standing outside wearing his signature smile and farmers’ market t-shirt. That’s so awesome, I thought as I hurriedly unbuckled to get out of the car. “Hello!” Seth called. “Now, where would you like to start?” he said, wasting no time. “Wherever you think is best. This is your show!” I answered. “Alright, let’s go.” Seth pointed to the right side of the house and we were off.
Immediately to the right of the driveway the terraced gardens began. The retaining walls are compiled out of all kinds of
Roof top sprinkler
bricks, cinderblocks, and huge pieces of wood. Each section contains a variety of plants. By the time we had reached the edge of the house, the rugged natural landscape was replaced with the dreamy, green wilderness Seth has created. “You want to see something neat?” Seth started fiddling with the hose spigot. I looked at him inquisitively. Surely, he knows I’ve seen a hose before, I thought. “Look!” Seth then pointed to the hose that was running up his roof. I traced it to the top with my eyes and by the time they reached the sprinkler mounted to the roof, water began shooting out of it. “It has a 60 foot watering circumference. It’s also completely efficient: water lands on the roof cooling the house, then runs down the roof into the beds below, no water is wasted.” I stood there laughing in the early morning shower. “Okay, that’s enough.” Seth turned the water off. “Let’s go over here.” He began walking down the garden-lined path that leads around the house. If it’s possible to have a Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory moment about gardening, I was having it. Each bed had its own unique piece of art and complimentary variety of plants. More and more levels of the terraced gardens came into view, making the garden visually appear to be 7 feet tall. There was so much to take in I had to stop and start laughing in overwhelm, “Seth!” I exclaimed. He turned around quickly, probably thinking something was wrong with me because I had cut him off midsentence. “This is amazing!” I sputtered, “I mean… How long have you been out here? How did you start all this?” He smiled. Seth calmly explained to me that he had been out in Central for 20 years (which looks like the right amount of time to get a garden like that) and that his parents had always gardened but it wasn’t until he took a Botany class in college that his curiosity and passion for gardening was sparked.
Magnificent Garlic Chives
By this time, we reached the back corner of the walkway where we stood in front of a bed full of Garlic flowers and a wall of herbs. Breaking off a few Garlic Chive flowers, Seth handed them to me. “Here, dry these then plant them and you’ll have your own Garlic Chives. You’ll actually probably need a bag by the time we’re done.” I smiled as I looked down at my flowers thankfully. This is one of my favorite things about gardening: It’s so easy to share and feel connected to each other and history. Now, when I have Garlic Chives in my garden I will always refer to it as Seth’s chives, and I’ll know where it came from. Sentimental and dumb I know. I looked up and realized Seth was up the path a ways. I hustled to catch up. The small, side path came to a huge wall of grapes and opened to a gigantic yard of terraced gardens. “Holy cow!” I said, holding my hand to my brow to shade my eyes. Bed after bed of beautiful tomatoes, fruit trees, and vegetables sprawled out in front of me. “Yep I do what I can,” Seth said casually. I was completely stunned as Seth started telling me the different varieties and ages of the plants. “See those two pear trees there? Through grafting, I’ve made it so I get 5 different types of pears from each.” He said matter-of-factly. “No way! That actually works?” Seth nodded. It was hear that Seth pointed out that he had 27 different types of trees on the property, including a very extensive collection of Utah native plants. “Here let me show you the Jujube tree.” Seth excitedly walked down a side path. “This is the only tree I get fruit from every year because it waits so long to bloom. The other trees are idiots and bloom in March then freeze, but not this one.” I couldn’t help but laugh. It wasn’t hard to spot because the tree was chalk full of exotic looking green fruit. “So, the fruit comes on, I leave it on the tree to dry and then I pick it.” Seth said, while pointing out the male and female Jujube trees he was cultivating. “Wait, you leave the fruit on there?” I repeated. “Yep. The birds don’t know what it is, so I don’t have to worry about them.” I chuckled. Of course, Seth would have a tree that confused birds, of course! Why wouldn’t he?
terraced gardens and the grape wall
This put us down the path that led to the duck pen which is encircled by gardens of leafy greens. “Ok, you see these greens?” Seth said. “They feed me and the ducks.” He grabbed a quick bunch and took them over to a table that already had a chopping board and a knife. Seth quickly chopped up a gigantic salad, took a mouthful and threw the rest over the fence. “I feed them good duck food and organic greens.” He said as he munched. I was mesmerized by the chocolate-golden colored ducks swarming in front of me. “So, you don’t spray?” I asked. “Nope. I don’t. I think the chemicals they put in our food is what’s killing us.” Seth answered. I nodded in agreement as I looked back at the ducks. “What kind of ducks are these? I’ve never seen them before.” I asked. “They are Golden 300’s. They’re called that because they are supposed to lay 300 eggs a year. Each egg can be 3-4 times the size of a chicken egg too.” Seth answered, I asked if they slow down in the winter and Seth shook his head. “As long as they get 18% protein they’ll lay all year long. Want to collect some eggs?” Seth asked unhinging the gate. I nodded an emphatic yes. Seth showed me around the coop and then to some of the hidden nests throughout the pen to collect the gigantic, fake-looking, white eggs. “This is a really clean pen, Seth. I was always told that ducks were super messy.” Seth chuckled a bit, “Ducks are only messy if you leave open water around them. It’s all about how you keep them.” We stood and watched them run around for a bit before Seth told me he had twelve new ducklings up on the porch. He must have read the sheer excitement on my face because he immediately began to lead me to the back porch. When I climbed the staircase onto the back porch, the view opened up to a beautiful panoramic view of the mountains. “Well, that’s beautiful.” I said pointing out. “Yes, it’s really nice. I sleep outside on the top balcony most nights. Until the wind wakes me up.”
Left to right: Golden 300 ducks, Seth making a salad, and DUCKLINGS!!!
Seth led me over to a big blue container and pointed inside. There were twelve of the cutest fuzzy little ducklings I’ve ever
natural fermented goodness
seen all snuggled together. “AWWWW.” I melted as I reached in to touch one. “One of them almost died. It had a really rough journey,” Seth interjected. He then described the painstaking lengths he went to to revive the little girl. In the corner of the deck, over his shoulder, I saw a smoker. I pointed to it, “So do you smoke the ducks?” “What?” He asked. He turned and saw that I was pointing at the smoker. “Oh no. I’m vegan.” He quickly answered. My expression quickly changed. I don’t know why I’m surprised anymore when people say that, but for some reason Seth completely blindsided me. Seth disappeared inside and came out with a bowl of dried apricots, dates, and pine nuts. “This is what I snack on. The pine nuts I harvest from this property, I get about 25 pounds a year.” He stated. “You collect them and roast them yourself?” I asked. “Oh no. I don’t cook anything.” Seth answered. “Wait…” I interjected. Seth watched me patiently as I added everything up in my head, “So you’re not just vegan you’re a raw foodist.” He nodded. “That’s incredible. Why?” I asked. Seth smiled, quoted Hippocrates, and said in a somber tone, “Let thy food be thy medicine.” Seth then ran me through his long list of medical problems that started with him almost dying at 30. He talked about how one doctor took a huge risk and, off the record, told him to cut out dairy. “I’ve been on a journey since then to heal myself. That’s why I eat raw. That’s why I have my Master Gardener and Master Preserver certifications. That’s why I sell my fermented products at the market. My mission is to educate. You’ve got to continually put something in your stomach every meal to heal yourself.” It turns out, your stomach acid kills most of the natural probiotic so you have to up your intake to gradually replace it. “I only use organic vegetables and pink Himalayan sea salt. No vinegar. If there is vinegar in something it’s dead, not living.”
The view from the back porch and Seth’s stainless steel mason jar handles.
We talked for a long time on the back porch. We discussed living off the land, being self-sufficient, his time in the Army, and life in general. We talked about how our food supply system currently isn’t sustainable and the major changes we see coming. All the while, stopping every so often to look out and drink in the incredible scenery at a mile-high elevation. Sitting there on that porch, I felt incredibly grateful and thankful for all the decisions that lead to me getting involved with the farmers market. I have long been looking for answers to my own health issues and it seems that this job continually puts me in the path of awesome, inspirational, community members that gently lead me to a simpler way of living. Even though I’m slow and still teetering about going full vegan, I think it’s essential to always have conversations which make you evaluate your beliefs. Trust me when I tell you that if anyone can make you question everything, it’s Seth Stinson. I thankfully picked up my bag full of grapes, garlic flowers, and goodies and headed down towards the car. I made Seth take one more picture and then loaded up. As I backed out of the driveway, I kept repeating to myself, “That was so awesome!” and smiled the whole way home. You can support Seth every Saturday at the Downtown Farmers Market at Ancestor Square.
The farmers’ market prides itself on being local and seasonal. It’s so interesting to watch the back and forth between these two dynamics because it not only applies to the food but to the vendors. There are people who come later in the season because that’s when their crops start going off, or they stop coming, or they start out as an every-other-week participate until things get going. The farmers let us know. One week they’ll walk up and say they’re done and they’ll see us next year. It is sometimes bittersweet but mostly a pleasant reminder of the need to savor the season. Brian and Janet Linder are a great example. They begin the season coming every other week, starting with eggs, then house plants, and gradually produce. Pretty soon Janet will show every week with boxes full of squash the size of your arm. So, when I started seeing her and her wonderful produce more often, I knew a trek to Beryl was in order. She brought me a hand drawn map and emphasized its importance. I nodded and put it in my notebook thinking that Google Maps would probably be more useful. But it turns out that driving around Beryl, Utah is like stepping into a time machine. For example, there is still only one house per block, an open skyline, and everything is referred to by distance from the railroad tracks. I tried my best to navigate my way to the Linder’s but it turns out Google Maps can’t tell the difference between actual roads and private property access roads. I dug around for the map but it was too late, thanks to that wide-open skyline, Janet saw my distress a mile away and drove out to meet me with a smile. “You were doing so good, then you weren’t!” She laughed through her open window. I tried to blame Google but she just waved me off and turned her car around and piloted me to the Linder’s 20-acre plot.
Brian Linder in the front garden.
As I pulled in I could see Brian’s silhouette out watering the green stretch of garden. A stark contrast when placed in front of the dry, gnarly, natural landscape of sagebrush and cactus. Janet said she had blueberry muffins baking for us and that she was glad I was running a little late because it gave them time to cool. I smiled at the storybook scene of eating blueberry muffins on a farm in the early morning sun. Together we walked over to Brian. As we got closer, the indiscernible green patches he was tending began to come into focus. Huge squash leaves the size of my head stretched out in every direction, littered with pops of yellow flowers and hidden zucchini. A scare crow flapped in the wind beside me. We all stood there smiling at the plants for a minute. “Wow, so this is the garden! It’s huge!” I tried to finagle a picture while Brian walked me through the initial layout and how it has expanded over the years. He pointed out many more crops on the back of the property. It was a lot to take in, so it was decided that while Brian finished watering before the heat set in, Janet would show me around.
Janet and I began walking around the property to the other lush, green patches. “So… how did you end up out here in Beryl? Did
The view from the back of the property.
you grow up in St. George?” I asked. “No, we are both from California. We moved out here in 2012.” Janet answered. Without skipping a beat, Janet started filling in the gaps. In California, she had worked her way up to an awesome job with the school district. “I worked all the time. It was a lot of stress and that’s not good for you.” Janet said. Soon she was diagnosed with Lymphatic cancer. She said, “There was a point during chemo where I just looked at Brian and said I’m done. I want peace. I want to live somewhere quiet where you grow me food, and we can live off the land. This isn’t worth it. So, we moved here and that’s what we do. We try to only eat what we grow.” I stopped and shook my head for a second, as if to make sure I heard that correctly, “Wait… You ONLY eat what you grow?” She nodded. “Ya, mostly. We have gotten to the point where we are mostly vegan now. I don’t really even eat eggs that much anymore.” I looked at her hard for a minute waiting for the ‘just joking’ but it never came. I’ve always dreamed of living that way but either through convenience or lack of self-discipline, I’ve never got there. Janet continued, “I buy some gluten-free dairy-free bread, some nuts, and Veganaise but that’s about it.” So many more questions began racing in my head, but all I could think of was, “What do you eat?” Janet laughed. I’m sure, living in Utah, she gets asked this question a lot.
Janet then humored me by walking through a basic menu: sautéed onions and potatoes for breakfast, a veggie sandwich for lunch, then soups or salads for dinner. We turned the corner to another garden with manicured rows covered by wood chips. “This is the potato field. Brian will just dig some up when we need them.” She said it like it was so simple. “The farmers’ market is a hobby. We only sell our excess. We mainly do this to feed ourselves.” A little stunned, I was struggling to find my next question. It was simple. All of it. So why was I struggling so hard with the basic concept? After all, this is how it had always been. It’s only the last few generations that stopped living off the land. The only thing I could think of to ask was, “Well are you feeling better?” Janet gave me a wide smile, “Definitely.” She started walking to the next plot and telling me that since being there she’s been gradually weaning herself off her medications. We approached the next plot which had a tomato pit and the frames of old trampolines cut in half to form the frame of a green house. Janet told me about Brian experimenting with different frames, hoping to find one that would help the plastic casing resist the harsh Beryl winds, “We haven’t succeeded yet. Every year it gets ripped to shreds. Then we’ll go back to Google, look up more stuff, and try again.” She chuckled. Janet quickly pointed to another little plot and we began to head that way.
“Sorry about the weeds, that’s how you can tell we’re organic.” Janet started explaining all the different crops they had rotated through over the years. “A customer at the market will ask for something I’ve never heard of, so we’ll try and grow it.” She said while foraging through a viney plant. She quickly held out a handful of sweet peas. “Here try these. They’re Japanese and super sweet.” I bit into them and sweet, delicious, crispness exploded in my mouth. I awaited the bitter aftertaste, but it never came. “These are AMAZING!” Janet agreed as she popped off dandelion flower heads and ate them. She then pointed out her strawberry patch and the young fruit trees they had planted. I asked how their season had been. “Hot.” Janet replied, I laughed a little knowing I had set myself up for that. I wondered if they had water issues like so many other farmers I knew. “We have a well so water isn’t a problem for us. The only thing is if we have a bad storm and lose power, we can’t get the water out of the ground. We are actually working on trying to get solar panels just to power the well so we don’t have to worry about it.” I tried to imagine being stuck in a power outage with no electricity and no water and sufficiently freaked myself out. I marveled at how matter of fact Janet seemed about the no-electricity-no-water situation.
left to right: the chicken coop, a group of golden comets, and the potato patch.
We circled back toward the house, and walked the route passed the chicken coop. The coop and it’s caged off areas are the mark of the previous owner who was a Beagle breeder. “I wanted to tear it down, not really thinking too much about it, but Brian’s brother pointed out it would be great for chickens, and it’s actually worked out perfectly.” She then went into a deep explanation of the hierarchy of their chickens. How these roosters attack these ones, how these younger ones liked certain areas but get picked on by the older ladies, and how her little army of Golden Comets roam free in certain sections of the yard. I stood totally enthralled by the flock and their movements. Looking up from here, I see the greenhouse built off of the back of the garage. It is expertly assembled from a hodge-podge of salvaged windows. “Brian collected all of these when he had his hauling business. He’s the kind of guy that you could give htwo rocks and he could figure out how to make a living off them!” Janet joked. I nodded silently in agreement as we approached and looked inside. Brian had finished watering at this point and joined us. He started filling me in. The greenhouse sunflower was a volunteer and no one was really sure how it got there, the broccoli plant actually produced broccoli that year, and the tomatoes preferred it in there. I smiled in agreement.
The inside and outside of the green house
As the three of us stood there looking out on the property Janet suggested coffee and muffins inside. We soon found ourselves around their wooden table enjoying the deliciousness of Janet’s baking. Brian gave me the inside scoop about other facts about the garden. How the woodchips that lined most of the beds were sitting in a pile by a city building for months, finally Brian went in and asked if he could have them if he hauled them away. He hoped it would help with the ground rot that potatoes are susceptible to. A very similar story accounted for the huge pile of wood logs that would eventually be used to provide heat throughout the winter. The more he went on, the more I realized the whole property is a testament to resourcefulness and using what you have. It’s like Thoreau’s Walden, but out here there is no pond. Almost everything is recycled, second hand, or salvaged; and everything serves a purpose. I was a long way from the hyper consumerism and wastefulness of modern life. I began to mentally edit my Amazon shopping cart. Realizing I had been there for almost 2 hours, which was way over my promised 45 min, I hurriedly tried to excuse myself, but there is no rushing in Beryl. We talked a little longer and I was sent on my way with a bag of yellow squash and zucchini. I drove back thinking of everything and vowed to live a little slower, eat a little greener, and to simplify. Come and support Janet and Brian every Saturday at the Farmers Market 9 am -noon at Ancestor Square.
The first time I saw Donny Terpstra unloading his booth at the Farmers’ Market I was in shock, then immediately became suspicious. I thought, there is no way he is growing all of this. The mounds and mounds of fresh, organic, leafy greens and vegetables make Donny’s table look like a set-up from Whole Foods. It’s impressive and delicious. Because of this completely unfounded suspicion, I was relieved by Donny’s cool acceptance to be interviewed. Finally, I was going to get to the bottom of things. The hour drive to Enterprise on Hwy 18 is a slow climb in elevation where the scenery ranges from dramatic red sand to wild green mountain-scapes. After making a few twists and turns through the town I saw a Shoal Creek Berries sign popping out of a wall of trees. I quickly turned right and got about 5 ft into the driveway when I stopped and audibly gasped, “Holy crap”. Shoal Creek Farm is the homestead I’ve dreamed of since a child. Overwhelming amounts of greenery and color protruded from every patch of earth. Beautifully manicured rows of berry bushes wrapped around the house and the flower beds looked like they belonged in a Martha Stewart catalog.
Donny greeted me as I hopped out of my car. “Wow this is beautiful! Is this your place?” I blurted out, ready to dump a thousand questions that were forming in my mind. “Oh no. It’s Darrell’s. Let me get him.” Donny sent his son, who works with him, to go find Darrell Humphrey. Minutes later, he pulled up on a 4-wheeler. I immediately understood why Shoal Creek Berries was the stuff of children’s books. Darrell is the quintessential grandpa figure. A tall, sweet faced, elderly man that welcomed me profusely and launched into stories of the good old days. He told me how the 5-acre farm had been organic since before organic was even a thing. For 10 years he and his wife Karen have worked their land naturally for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. Darrell apologized for how the farm looked, explaining that this season has been particularly hard because of the heat and the terrifyingly low amount of water. I chortled, which received confused looks. I was struggling to make sense of the statement that the green paradise in front of me was not having a good year. It was here Donny pointed out random, empty garden plots and naming the crops they had lost due to drought. Darrell again reiterated my welcome and left with a statement of full confidence in Donny’s ability to show me around. “He’s the brain child behind the greens anyway,” Darrell stated as he started his 4-wheeler and rode away smiling and waving.
Left to right: Blackberry cuttings, Donny with the seedlings, and ‘the pit’
“Let’s start in the pit.” Donny pointed to the sunken structure to the left of me and I trailed behind him like an excited golden retriever. As I walked down the steps, Donny walked me through the construction of the pit, which made zero sense until I got to the bottom step and looked inside. I started freaking out. The pit is 5 ft deep and the retaining wall around the perimeter, keeping it all from caving in, is made out of old tires. In front of the tires are huge, black barrels of water. The water is heated by solar energy, which keeps the pit warm enough to grow year around. Having the structure half buried makes use of the thermal energy from the Earth, keeping it cool in Summer and warm in Winter. I’d like to say I was a professional and kept it together, but that would be a lie. I was pointing at everything and repeating, “Dude, this is AWESOME.” Donny calmly nodded and agreed, saying it turned out pretty cool. He wasted no time as he guided me through the diverse variety of seedlings and greenery contained in the pit. He pointed to a thick, well used, binder on the table. “This is my planting journal. I’ve had it for the past 5 years. I keep track of everything I ever plant, when they get transplanted, what area they’re in, and how well they do.” My face turned red with embarrassment over the fact that I can’t even keep my mail sorted. I followed him down the rows in awe.
I asked Donny why he decided to start an Organic Greens business. “Well I got sick.” Donny shrugged. Looking at me and seeing this answer wasn’t going to stop me from prying, he elaborated. Donny grew up around farming but found his way into concrete work and construction. In his early 30’s he had an accident and when he wasn’t healing right, his normal life got turned upside down. Donny described years of tests, the frustration of not knowing, and mostly the crippling pain. “I was finally diagnosed with a degenerative disease. I moved my family back here to be near my parents while we figured it out. Darrell first hired me as a berry picker but over the years he’s let me take on more and more. Because he knows if I sit still, the disease will put me in a wheel chair.” We stood there quiet for a moment. I was lost in the enormity of the situation, the kindness of strangers, and the literal life that was busting forth out of the ground from such a derailing experience. While I was having an existential crisis, Donny was listing other things to show me, “Let’s go to the greenhouses.” Donny turned on his heals and headed up out of the pit.
clockwise left to right: inside the greenhouses, squash leaves, back lot, and rows of blackberries.
Donny walked me through the next two greenhouses with the same matter-of-fact attitude, while I struggled to keep up. He described building the greenhouses out of electrical conduit and recycled cedar posts. “The first one was a little confusing, but we figured it out. It’s easy once you get it, so you can tell people to come out here and I’ll show them how to do it.” The first greenhouse had rows of chard and huge bunches of kale. Donny explained that they had already cycled through a spinach crop and when they planted a second batch, all the crops would rotate their placement. It was stunning. In the second greenhouse, they were using a method called companion planting. There were long, green rows of tomato plants and each plant was encircled with Romaine, Basil, and Cilantro. Donny mentioned that he sells the Basil to local restaurants and would soon be able to produce 30 lbs a week. To put that in perspective, Basil leaves are as light as a feather. That’s a whole lot of Basil.
As we circled the property, every few steps there was another project that solidified Donny’s farming superhero status. We came upon the compost heap. He led me through the huge vermiculture compost tea operation they had. “If I have a plant that is struggling, a few sprays of this on the leaves and boom! It’s fixed.” He described each layer inside the compost bin and how it filters the compost into the most nutrient-dense plant fertilizer known to man. Then he uncovered the top and dug down to show me the worms and their rich, dark castings. Even I knew I was looking at black gold. We rounded the last corner bringing me back to my car. I was about to leave when Donny said, “Want to see the wood fire ovens.” My eyebrows lifted and my head started involuntarily nodding.
I shut my car door, and again hurried to keep up with Donny and his unstoppable go-go pace. A short distance away, we came upon 3 huge, free-standing wood fire ovens. They were built with broken bits of concrete, insulating layers of sand, and layers of handmade adobe. He then started describing all of his favorite recipes and I stood in complete disbelief at the amount of things this guy gets done. I asked if he gets his ideas off of Pinterest. Donny looked at me confused as if I was talking in tongues. I was flushed with the realization that people like Donny didn’t use Pinterest, people like Donny is who Pinterest is based on. After that, looking around the farm, I saw every project I had ever pinned brought to life and I felt a pang of jealousy.
Donny and the wood fire ovens. One has a face because he was bored.
We said goodbye and as I began my journey home I stopped in the driveway, taking in my final breathes on the property and absorbing its beauty one last time. As I drove home I ran through every twist and turn we had taken on the farm; recognizing that every bunch of kale and Swiss Chard was the product of a life’s work, not just an afternoon here and there, but every moment from sun up to sun down. The piles of food on the market table suddenly transformed into bundles of hours and devotion. I understood now why Donny’s displays look outrageous to a normal person, because Donny is not your average farmer. He’s Super Farmer and we are so crazy grateful to have him in our community. Donny Terpstra and Shoal Creek Berries is a corner stone vendor of the Downtown Farers’ Market and can be found there every Saturday 9 am- noon. They also host u-pick berry events in the fall. You can follow Shoal Creek Berries on Facebook HERE or if you need to place an order you can head over to their website HERE