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The Downtown Farmers’ Market is all about keeping things as local as possible. The more commerce we can keep here in the community the better in our opinion. We love finding more and more ways to make the local option the most viable one. It only makes sense that this commitment would soon extend passed our own mouths to include our furbabies as well. This gap is merged by Steve and Connie Sutton, the pet-loving couple behind Dewey’s Dog Treats. Steve shows up most weeks with his signature straw hat, Connie sports her warm smile, and Duey the dog by their side. Every time I have a moment at their booth I get sucked in by how beautiful their displays of look: biscuits, doggy cupcakes, and dehydrated sweet potato curls meticulously arranged on a gigantic bone shaped table.  Intrigued and not really knowing anything about dog treats, we went back and forth trying to arrange a behind the scenes peek that didn’t cause to much of a disruption to their business and life. The perfect opportunity finally presented itself one Monday evening and I excitedly drove to the Sutton’s home to take a gander at what goes into making some of the prettiest baked good I’ve ever seen.

“You made it!” Connie said opening their front door wide to let me in. Steve smiled and greeted me as Duey ecstatically bounced

Little Duey dude

around in welcome. A second caramel colored dog lingered coyly in the corner. “That’s Shiloh. She is very shy.” Steve commented. I was quickly led to the kitchen where I participated in the mandatory visitor treat giving to the pups, and where the heart of the Dewey’s Dog operation resides. “WOW!” I said looking at the wall of plastic organizers labeled with different treat offerings. “This looks so professional!” I said walking over to the racks. “Yes, we’ve been at this for a while and have really streamlined our process,” Steve explained. “How long have you been doing this?” I pressed. “Well Connie has had a long-time interest in wholesome dog treats and made her first batch in 2008,” Steve started, “At that time we also looked into trying to find a side business we could do for ourselves. This was right after the recession. With a little bit of research, we found out that during the recession the only industry that wasn’t affected was the pet food industry. So, we started messing around.” Around 4 years later after testing and perfecting their recipes they kicked off their doggy baked good at the Tuachan market, joining the Ancestor Square Farmers’ Market the next season. “We’ve been at the Downtown Farmers’ market every season since then, except for the two years we had the store. There’s no place like Ancestor Square! You can quote me on that.” Steve laughed. “Oh I will!” I retorted.

left to right: Packaged treat, Steve and Connie, and dried ingredients.

“So where do you come up with your recipes?” I asked wondering if cooking for dogs was remotely similar to cooking for humans. “It started out with a lot of research,” Connie said thoughtfully, “I wanted to make something that was gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and egg free. This led me to a recipe from the Great Depression called whacky cake. I used that as a jumping off point and started experimenting testing the treats out on Dewey and Shiloh. The original recipe has oil in it, but we don’t use that.” “Do you want to see our 3 main ingredients?” Steve smiled. He then went into the pantry and brought out two gigantic bags of Bob’s Red Mill rice flour and gluten free all-purpose baking flour and set them on the counter. From there he walked over and grabbed a container of organic peanut butter and set it in front. “These form the base of our treats. We also dehydrate all the other ingredients ourselves.” I followed Steve over to the industrial shelf where he pointed out the homemade jerky, dried apple slices, bananas, and sweet potato curls. “You guys make your own jerky?” I asked. “Yep! London broil.” Connie answered unphased. Looking at the containers on the shelf then to the cooling racks on the counter, the sheer amount of labor that went into every treat was beginning to dawn on me.  “So, Connie will take those ingredients and grind them down and make different flavors. She’ll also do that to get the coloring. We use Carob as a dog safe chocolate flavoring.” He pulled out a container of little square treats whose color immediately conjured up visions of gingerbread. “That’s so cool.” I whispered as I inspected the treats. Steve continued without missing a beat, “Connie also makes all the colored frosting herself. It’s a tapioca-based frosting and let’s say we need a red, she’ll dehydrate cranberries crush them down and there you go.”  I turned back to Connie who was standing quietly in the kitchen smiling. “This is a lot of work.” I blurted out idiotically. They both laughed.

fresh apple fritters, labels, training treats, and homemade bones.

“Yes it’s a lot… Connie does 98% of it and she does it all by hand. All the cutting, all the decorating, all of it.” Steve added. Connie smiled modestly. Steve then told me that he was developing a mechanical roller to at least help with getting consistent thicknesses and alleviating some of the manual labor. “So do you guys only do this to sell at the farmers market? Or do you sell other places?” I asked trying to mentally tally up the amount of Connie’s life spent in the kitchen. “No we have the online store and we sell at a couple places throughout the city. One of our main partners is the Best Friends Animal Society we’ve worked with them for over 4 years.” Steve then walked me through starting out with a dozen bags here and there, then growing to making 200 bags every 6 to 8 weeks. “We couldn’t have picked an industry with more competition. There are a lot dog treat brands out there, but we rely on the quality of our product. Which made it really exciting when we started outselling the competition,” Steve said. I nodded in agreement thinking of homegrown tomatoes versus store bought. Quality is always noticeable. Then it struck me: 200 bags by hand. I turned to Connie, “How long does an order like that take you to make?” She laughed probably at the visible distress on my face, “If I hit it hard around 2 weeks. They need to be as fresh as possible because the only preservative is citric acid but I do try to anticipate our customers as much as I can.” “When you say 2 weeks, is that all day for 2 weeks or is that pacing yourself?” I asked trying to organize my thoughts. “That’s 2 weeks all day, every day.” Connie chuckled half exasperated half amused, “But it’s my passion so it’s worth it. And I love how many rescues this has gotten us involved with.” Steve nodded in support, “It’s insane in here when we have orders but we love it.” We stood in the kitchen in a moment of imaginary overwhelm at the amount of work that was waiting just days away. “Hold on. You guys also make special occasion dog cakes, right? Where does that fit in?” I questioned. Connie explained that they seek out dog bakeries when on vacation because it’s a hobby and their business. On a trip to California, they stumbled on one that was printing pictures of dogs on cakes. “I freaked and asked the lady how she was doing the pictures. She walked me through it and I was sold.” Connie and Steve then recounted some of their customers and their crazy, fun stories. They’ve done birthday cakes, adoption cakes, and K-9 police dog retirement cakes. “People order the cake then we meet them locally for the pick-up. At some point, we get to meet the dog and learn more about them. It’s been so much fun,” Connie grinned.

Dewey’s dog cakes

Duey sauntered over to me and nudged my hand with his sweet little black face. “Hey Duey…” I said stroking his ears. “So his name is spelled d-u-e-y and the company is d-e-w-e-y right?” I clarified while gently running my fingers behind the pup’s half bent ears. “Yes because he’s not the original Dewey. This is the original Dewey,” Steve pointed to a wood burned portrait of a very different dog. “It’s actually a crazy story how we ended up with him.” Steve looked at Connie to fill in the gaps. Connie explained how they had rescued the original Dewey when he was 2 from a shelter in Vegas and had him for 13 years, “I couldn’t take that dog anywhere. People recognized him and would stop us, he also had this signature tail wag that was so unique. After he passed,” Connie sighed, “I swore no more dogs.” Two weeks later, a video from B.A.M. showed up in her timeline. “It caught my eye because this dog was doing the same thing with his tail that Dewey did. About a minute into the video they said his name was Duey and I knew it was a sign.” Connie called that afternoon. Duey had been admitted to the shelter with a crushed hip joint, whoever ended up taking him would have to commit to the surgery and the 12 weeks of rehab. Connie and Steve volunteered without blinking an eye. “We worked very closely with Woof out in Santa Clara and he’s made a full recovery.” Connie finished. “Well it looks like everyone’s made a full recovery!” I added. We laughed for a minute. “YES!” Steve added. We all looked at Duey and I shook my head at this dog’s sheer dumb luck that he stumbled broken into probably the most perfect home he could’ve dreamed of, eating gourmet treats all day. Those feelings were immediately followed by gratitude for people like Steve and Connie who take care of animals and give them good homes. Duey had no idea what I was thinking but was happy to be there.

Duey hanging out with Dewey

We continued chatting, I found out that Connie and Steve have a long history of adopting and fostering animals. Way back in the day before they were married, Connie lived in Huntington Beach, California and had become locally known as ‘The Dog Lady.’ “People would move and leave their animals, I would foster them and try and find them homes. At one point I had 12 dogs!” Connie exclaimed. Several stories later it became so crystal clear that the reason so much love is poured into these treats is because Connie and Steve love animals so much. We talked about the store and the absolute draining chaos of managing a physical location. “You want to see something cool?” Steve coaxed us into the front room where a huge carved dog head hung on the wall. “This was the old store sign made by Rorr Productions from Salt Lake. It’s based off a picture of Dewey.” I stood there examining the beautiful hand carving and detail. Connie then showed me a picture of Duey laying on the couch below the sign. How perfect, I thought, old and new hanging out together. Steve and Connie then gave me a gigantic stuffed dog that also used to be part of the store to take home to my son. As I said goodbye and loaded up, I again found myself so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to see behind the curtain. To meet these people and see the amount of love and work that gets poured into every product makes me proud to be a part of the St. George community.

You can purchase Dewey’s Dog Treats at the Downtown Farmers’ Market on Saturday or at Best Friends animal shelter. You can also place orders for treats on their website deweysdogtreats.com local pickup options are available. You can also find them on Facebook HERE.

September has brought the love of Fall to the forefront of everyone’s mind. Even at the market, while we are peddling peppers and popcorn on one end, bat ornaments and Fall themed portraits fill the other. Although some people will tell you that pumpkins are the end all be all of Fall, I will argue that nothing signals the change of season more than the luscious apple. This might cause a riot but fresh cider, dunking for apples, and apple pie defined Fall way before the invasion of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Apples come on right when Fall starts and carry on throughout the season; unlike the ‘orange trash gourd,’ as my husband calls it. So, imagine my overwhelming delight, when Little America Orchard made their triumphant return to the St. George farmers’ market. They are a certified organic orchard from New Harmony. Being that close and that intriguing I basically demanded an interview upon meeting them. As I headed up on Tuesday, the gloomy weather threatened to ruin my trip, but I stayed positive and persevered.

Google Maps fervently tried to convince me to cut through the cemetery to get to Little America Orchard. When I refused, it directed me further down another side street that promptly ended, leaving only an unmarked gravel lane in front of me. I began to drive up it, thinking that the apple tree lined fence was a fortuitous omen. Almost as if Google sensed my thoughts, it gently chimed that this was not the orchard I was looking for and to continue further up the road. Slowly I gained elevation and popped out on the top of the hillside above the surrounding orchards. I gasped. The trail like road had opened up to a 360-degree panoramic view that reminded me of The Lord of The Rings with the Pine Valley Mountains shooting up directly to my left and epic red rock faces protruding in alarming detail to my right. I lifted my foot slowly off my brake and continued to drink in the scenery. As I slowly rolled onto the magnificent 40-acre plot that is Little America Orchard, I found a place to park and lifted myself, and my dropped jaw, out of the car. Tammy Michie opened the house door and called to me smiling. She hurried out to greet me, at which point she motioned to the orchard and said Gary Suppe was just out there picking up apples and would be up in a second. We stood there talking for a minute as we watched the red pickup circle back to the house.

The view off the property

“Man, this is like a story book! Do you just walk out on to your porch and scream ‘YES!’ every morning?”  I looked dumbfounded at Tammy. She laughed, “Pretty much! It’s so beautiful here,” Tammy said motioning to the orchard and house, “but all this is Gary.” The red pickup truck pulled in beside us and Gary stepped out. We walked around the truck to meet him, and as we shook hands he motioned to the full flatbed of ‘ground apples.’ “They’re beautiful,” I said as I started to snap pictures. “Ya, I’ll take these and dump them out back for the deer to eat. We don’t use ground apples ever.” Gary stated. I looked at the apples again, some of them were rotten but most of them looked, for lack of a better word, perfect. My mind then immediately jumped to the delicacy of apple fed venison and had to pull myself back to reality. “Well… what do you want to see?” Gary asked. “Everything.” I quickly responded, “I’m nosey.” He laughed a little and nodded then began walking up to the back building. As we approached some stacked apple boxes and a row of tables with a few scales, Gary began explaining their routine, “This is where we do all our processing. We do everything by hand. We pick the apples, clip them, clean them, sort them, then clean them again, and weigh them.” Because they do everything by hand, they can meet special orders and do custom weights. I peered into the boxes overwhelmed by their blush colored contents, then looked up, “Wait… Just the two of you? Or do you have help?” Without a moments hesitation Gary repeated my statement, “Just the two of us.” I raised my eyebrows and looked back over my shoulder at the 250 apple trees. Gary seemed to read my mind, “It’s hard, you know? You can’t hire people when you don’t know how much you’ll make off the apples.” I asked how long his work days were, and he said during long summer days he’ll go out before the sun and come in after dark.

I turned back and mindlessly reached in the box and grabbed an apple for closer inspection. The skin was so beautiful and

The cider press

perfect I could see little reflections on the surface. “Wow,” I said, “This really is a beautiful apple. Is it waxed or something?” I looked up at Gary. His answer was already waiting for me, “No. I don’t use anything like that on my apples. I mean I could use a wax and still be considered organic, but I won’t. That’s just who I am.” I knew he meant it. This also got us talking about the fact that Little America Orchard is USDA certified Organic. A process that you don’t go through unless you are patient and 100% serious. He walked me through the seemingly endless paperwork, the bi-annual visits from inspectors, and the rigorous testing. “Sometimes I roll my eyes and wonder why I do this,” Gary’s tone suggested he was only half joking.  He quickly pointed to the bushel behind the table and explained that these were the cider apples. “Do you want to see the cider press?” Tammy asked. I nodded emphatically. Gary walked me over to a door that opened onto an industrial stainless-steel wash basin and uncovered a beautiful, massive, old-fashioned cider press. “WOW!” I squealed. “Is it a hand press?” “Yep, like I said we do everything by hand. We’ll probably start doing cider here at the end of the month.” I started to salivate.  I helped him put the cover back on the press, and trailed behind him out the door to join back up with Tammy. We stood out front for a second, when Tammy pointed up the hill and asked if I wanted to see the cooler.

 

Now, obviously, when there is a cooler on an apple farm, it should be no surprise when said cooler is full of apples. I still was surprised. I was even more shocked when Gary pointed out that, “These are only Galas, when the other varieties start coming on, you won’t even be able to walk in here.” I was positively giddy. Even in a cooler, the fresh delicious apple-y scent permeated everything. Not the synthetic Bath and Body nonsense, but the real stuff. My lizard brain was going crazy as Gary closed the massive door. We turned and looked back at the orchard and began to walk down. “So how many other varieties do you have?” I asked. “Gala, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Cameo, Pink Lady, and Braeburn,” Gary answered quickly and precisely and started listing why he chose these five. He also went into detail about their staggered growing seasons. I was struggling to get my chubby fingers to type fast enough on my phone, I made the note to try voice recording from here on out. Gary told me that he had bought the trees out of Washington in ’03 and as part of the ‘Certified Organic’ process, he had to have them inspected upon purchase. “Wait, I thought you said you started in ’09?” I stopped. “That’s the first year we got fruit off the trees. That’s the first year we certified the fruit. The process started way before that.” I was beginning to see the true scope of the never-ending paperwork Gary had mentioned. “You said this was a childhood dream, did you grow up around apples?” I asked. Gary then described growing up in upstate New York and every October visiting the orchards: doing the U-picks, drinking cider, and being swept up in the spirit of apple season. It wasn’t hard to imagine the magic of those apple orchards when I looked across at Gary’s own little apple filled paradise.

The boxes of beautiful Galas, Gary and Tammy outside the cooler.

As the three of us stepped across the threshold into the orchards, the thought crossed my mind that this was probably hands down the most beautiful orchard in Utah. Gary spaced the trees farther apart than average (13 ft. to be exact) to help mitigate the spread of disease. Dark, lush rows of clover run under the trees to, “Fixate nitrogen into the soil for the trees.” Gary said while reaching up to grab an apple. “Let me show you this one. It’s been so incredibly dry this year that the grasshoppers have cleaned the leaves off of all these trees.” Gary mumbled, in between bites of his apple. “See watch, he knows everything about these trees. He’s out here all the time.” Tammy whispers and nods supportively.  I laughed, recognizing this mindset anywhere. It’s something that only happens when you work the same piece of land over and over. It becomes a family member. You do everything in your power to help it succeed and love it even when it’s being difficult. It’s absolutely beautiful to see this connection first hand. Gary finally made it to the row of grasshopper vandalized trees and showed me the raw exposed branches. He then pointed to a few stray apples on the ground. “My chore today is to clear the ground so the rabbits and ants don’t come in.” He joked finishing his apple. “So, a lot of what you do as an Organic grower is proactive.” I commented. “EXACTLY!” Gary answered, “I do everything I can to stop the problem before it starts, because the stuff I spray with every 10 or 15 days you can pretty much eat.” We walked through row after beautiful row. The fruit ranging in color from blush to gold to green to pink against the gray skies. Gary pointed out the different shades, saying things like, “You won’t see that in a chemical apple.” When I asked him to elaborate, he told me about all the different chemicals you can put on a tree not just pesticides. “You know that cooler up there? Big orchards will have a bunch of them. They’ll fill it with apples and put a chemical in there commonly called ‘smart fresh’ seal it up, and as long as it stays sealed those apples will keep for up to two years.” My stomach turned, and I think from the look on my face, Gary could tell he had sold me.

Clockwise from the left: Gary inspecting grasshopper damage, apples, apples , and more APPLES!

We circled back toward the house and Gary mentioned that he had to feed his gigantic Koi fish. “What?” I stopped. “Do you want to feed them?” He asked. “Yes, yes I do.” We walked around the deer apples and talked about food and farming. He pointed out neighboring orchards and ponds. We approached the gigantic man-made pond and he whistled for the Koi to come. As he sprinkled the food pellets hundreds of mouths and different patterns emerged out of the water. I laughed and tried to get pictures. “Do you have these for fun?” I chuckled. “No, I sell them too sometimes. Mostly to places in Vegas, but they’re fun.”  He explained sizes to me and patterns and then we walked back toward the house, where Gary disappeared into the orchard again and Tammy took me around the house. While we were standing on the deck, I turned to her and said, “Well what if I never want to leave?” Tammy laughed and understandingly said, “Everyone says that.” I smiled at her and thanked her for sending me off with a few bags of apples. On the way out, I stopped a record breaking five times to take pictures. I smiled all the way home. When I unloaded, I cut up an apple to share with my son and husband. I am not ashamed to admit, that after my first bite I immediately took all the pieces out of their hands and grabbed the plate and ate my apple alone in a corner. They’re that good.

The beautiful orchard

If you would like to get your hands on some apples from Little America Orchard, they will be selling at the Downtown Farmers’ Market at Ancestor square for the rest of the season or you can reach them at littleamericaorchard@hotmail.com or by phone at (435) 414-5554.