When you get involved in community-oriented events, you start seeing how intertwined the community really is. Everyone knows somebody who knows somebody who makes something and so on. It’s not uncommon for artisans or farmers to recommend people to me saying things like, “You should call them, they do (insert something random and amazing here).” So, when one of our talented art vendors, Hannah Gabrielsen, asked if her sister could sell baked goods, I wasn’t surprised and was more than happy to oblige. However, what did catch me off guard was when Laine Gabrielsen, the younger sister, showed up with a full-blown farm set up slinging eggs, fresh chickens, onions, sourdough goodies, and a sign heralding tours of their farm. I walked up to the booth, “Wow, so you’re a farmer not just a baker! You do tours?” Laine smiled and nodded. Hannah chimed in, “You should see the farm sometime. It’s literally the happiest place on earth. She has goats.” I laughed but set a reminder in my phone to schedule a visit to New Harmony. Over two months later, I finally got a chance to visit Five Fingers Farm and it was worth every second of the 40-minute northbound journey on the I-15. I pulled up to the beautiful hand painted sign and unlatched the gate. As I drove up the gravel road, I could see Laine’s silhouette waiting for me at the end of the driveway next to what looked like a huge white boulder. When I got closer, I realized the boulder was a gigantic white dog. As I opened my car door, the great white beast met me face to face. “Hi!” Laine piped, “This is Murphy. Just push him aside.” Murphy, a Great Pyrenees-Newfoundland mix, did not move until he received his mandatory hello snuggles then quickly circled back to Laine’s side; a post he maintained for the duration of my visit.

The Farm

Laine, Murphy, and I began to stroll around the farm. “Have you lived here your whole life? How’d you end up in New Harmony?” I asked anxiously. “My mom grew up gardening and my parents (Todd and Liz Gabrielsen) moved all over California, then to Salt Lake and about 10 years ago my mom just really wanted to move back to a small town and work the land. They began looking and found this place.” Nine years ago, the property was in foreclosure, had only a house on it, and was filled with junk. “Every oil change the man ever made was sitting in buckets out back,” Laine said, pointing to a patch of land near where the present day greenhouses are. “On top of all the physical trash we had to remove, the soil showed every sign of erosion and overgrazing. Our main focus since then has been to rebuild the soil. If the soil is healthy, everything else is.” I would soon realize how serious she was. Everything at Five Fingers Farm is about soil.

We meandered down the green, open path that led down to the various pens of livestock. Hens, Guinea fowl, and roosters all paraded before us, moving in glistening feather ripples down the lawn and clucking in their various dialects. It was difficult not to start daydreaming about living there. “So, these guys just run around all the time?” I said, gesturing at the menagerie of birds in front of me. “Yep!” Laine answered, “All of our birds are free range. They play a huge part in rebuilding the soil,” She went into a deep breakdown of the biochemical makeup of chicken poop and how it’s good for immediate pasture use but needs to be broken down for garden use. “We also look at them as the clean-up crew. They will come in and get rid of pests and prevent a lot of diseases from spreading… Also, they’re just happier and healthier running around.” Laine smiled. I asked if they were organic. “For us organic isn’t the end all be all. I mean, there are chemicals we won’t spray, but for me to feed them organic I’d have to have it shipped in across the country and by that time the carbon footprint alone isn’t worth it. It’s our belief that local is better.” I wanted to bow to her but thought that would make it weird, yes local is better, I echoed in my mind. “The chickens live the way they were meant to live, we feed them what they’re supposed to eat, no soy, from a local supplier that we like. I think that’s good enough.” Behind me was a stainless-steel table that Laine pointed at matter-of-factly, “This is where we do the slaughtering, we’re all open air which keeps it super clean.” She explained that they had learned how to process their own birds from a New Harmony old timer and were committed to growing the operation but still doing it right. I was a little stunned. No smell, no stains, no waste. Just a calm red barn and a beautiful morning.

I stood and stared at the beautiful red barn for a minute, wondering if it was for events or for actual use. Almost as if she read my mind, Laine pointed at the barn telling me about how it was, in fact, used for animals in the winter, and that it too played a part in rebuilding the soil. “We use the manure as fertilizer, but instead of mucking out the stalls and breaking our backs every day, we do what’s called deep bedding.” First, they put out straw and when the animals have done their business to the point of needing new straw, they scatter grain across it, then start over. “When it needs to be turned, we let the pigs in there and they’ll turn it looking for the grain.” Almost as if on cue, the pigs in front of us started squealing for our attention. “Ah, the pigs!” Laine said, as we got a little closer to the raucous pair, “You see how their snout curls up right there? It makes a perfect little shovel.  We also move them around to different areas of the farm and they turn the soil for us.” The back portion of their pen had been expertly tilled in huge rows. “I mean we could buy a tiller and do it ourselves but this way we get bacon out of it,” Laine shrugged. I couldn’t help but giggle, “Bacon is good.” The two pigs, sourced from Ivins, bounced along the fence squeaking their side of the story. It was all I could do to resist reaching in the pen and ruffling them like puppies. “Be careful they bite,” Laine stated. I kept my hands to myself.

The pigs. chickens running a muck, and the glorious Bucket the Buck.

As we turned, we were met with the greenhouses and Bucket, their buck goat. “Almost all our animals are named after Shakespeare characters,” chimed Laine, as she made the introduction. I asked Bucket to smile for me and snapped a quick picture. As Bucket and I sat there ogling each other, Laine walked me through the history of how they went from dairy cows to goats. She explained that they had better luck processing it, but there were some failed experiments. I must admit, at this point we were less than half way done with our farm tour and I was flabbergasted by Laine’s knowledge and commitment to the farm. I felt a little jealous of the fact that she’s found her calling so young but simultaneously felt super grateful to her for sharing her passion. We left Bucket and headed to the two greenhouses behind him. I asked if they were store bought or custom. “These are custom built by a friend of ours. We told him that we wanted greenhouses and he said that he had figured out a design that could withstand the winds that come through here. So, we put them in and they’ve been perfect!” She cracked the door and my jaw dropped as we were greeted by a tomato forest. “Holy crap!” I exclaimed as I stepped in. “Ya, they love it in here!” Laine smiled. I learned that most diseases that affect tomatoes are wind born so the greenhouse keeps them protected. It also plays a huge part in keeping them safe from the farm’s grasshopper invasion, which had wiped out several plots already.  We moved to the next greenhouse. “This is our Fall greenhouse, so we’ve just planted it.” There were different crops of arugula, spinach, beets, and cabbage. “Do you guys live off of what you grow on the farm?” I asked. “Probably about 40- 50% of what we eat comes from the farm, but I would say 75% of what we eat is local. We like to support our other local farms too.”

the view of the Five Fingers

We stepped out of the greenhouse into the mid-morning sun, where we were rejoined by Murphy, and began to walk around the pasture. As I followed Laine, she started pointing out the water drainage patterns on the property. She showed me the berms they had built to keep the water from flowing straight off the property. I asked them if they had water rights, acting like I had a clue what I was talking about. “Yes we do, but wells are notorious for going dry around here. That’s why it’s so important to have good soil. If the soil is good, it will hold the water. If it’s not, the water just runs off.” As I trailed behind her she would point to little things around us, saying phrases like, “Do you see that? That’s a good sign!” and “Look! That wasn’t like that a year ago.” When we turned to start heading up to the orchard, I looked up, “WOW.” The Five Fingers of Kolob were glistening in the sun. “Ya, it’s beautiful.” Laine sighed. “Is that where the name comes from?” I asked. “It’s one of the reasons,” Laine answered, “There are also five of us in the family and my mom wanted us to know that there is no shame in working the land with your hands.” Beautiful, I thought. She unhinged the gate in front of us, and Laine, Murphy, and I walked through into the orchard filled with grapes, peaches, and apples. The grasshoppers had left their mark here too. The apple trees were full of fruit but missing all their leaves. I pointed to a brand-new structure being built and asked if they were putting in a tiny home. “No, my brother is building a shed, but we are totally inspired and want to build a tiny house next,” Laine laughed.

Here, we crossed the lilac hedgerow into the huge garden, which quickly became my favorite spot on the property. Beautiful, lush, green foliage cascaded out of every raised bed. Tall, healthy rows of plants trailed down one side. Laine pointed out that in this area they practice no till gardening. The reason why is to preserve the fungi systems that run through the soil, making it easier for the plants to get the nutrients they need. We walked through the rows of gigantic squash and other plants to the bench swing, “Ah, this is my favorite spot!” Laine exclaimed, “Every farm needs a spot where you can sit down and look out and enjoy your hard work.” She sat down and began to swing, smiling completely content. We traded spots and I realized that Laine’s sister really was telling the truth: Five Fingers Farm really is the happiest place on earth. It would make everything worth it to be able to sit down every evening to that view.  As we started down the rows, Laine started sharing her favorite fermenting recipes for beans and cucumbers. We came upon the cinderblock root cellar her dad put in and Laine mapped out what she hoped would be a future berry bramble.  As we approached the house, Liz was out and about with a basket of fresh vegetables. She was wonderful and excited and insisted I take a loaf of bread and some tomatoes. Two things I never turned down.

clockwise from the left” Laine in the Fall greenhouse, tomato forrest, apple trees with no leaves, and some of the garden

I began my long drive home with my car filled with the scent of fresh bread and admiration for Laine and her family. I ran through all the projects they had going and all the work the 20-acre farm takes and how it truly is a family effort and a life’s work. I left the farm feeling like I had a better understanding of life in general and couldn’t wait for Saturday to buy one of Laine’s chickens. Laine sells most Saturdays at the Downtown Farmer’s Market at Ancestor Square and you can follow her on Instagram HERE, be sure to reach out and schedule your own tour!

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 sunflower patch they harvest for seeds