Back to the soil: Families look to local farms to provide healthy options

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 14 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

La Nay Ferme in Provo hosts a farm-to-table dinner for visitors to experience the options of healthy growing and eating Friday, Aug. 3, 2012.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Marsha Bradbury blames the vegetables.

She's a 64-year-old pancreatic cancer survivor who has been gardening all her life. Her modus operandi in avoiding a potentially deadly cancer is to grow any food believed to have cancer-fighting attributes.

"I like heirloom varieties and things you can't buy in the grocery store," Bradbury said. "I try to grow a variety of bright colors and if it comes in purple, I grow it." 

She isn't a food purist or a vegetarian, but Bradbury said she likes knowing where her food comes from and what's been used to cultivate it.

Bradbury isn't the only one who appreciates healthy, home-grown fare; the farm-to-table movement and the rise of Food Network programing is credited for putting the focus on healthy eating. And the growth of farmers markets is providing an avenue for locally grown produce to reach consumers in more and more cities and towns.

Farmers markets registered with the USDA surged 17 percent from 2010 to 2011 and another 9.6 percent in 2012. More than 7,800 are currently operating on a weekly basis throughout the country, with even more small communities also hosting crop exchanges and neighbors sharing produce grown in their own gardens.

Utah opportunities

Clinton Felsted, 40, planted his first crops at La Nay Ferme, in east Provo, last fall with the sole purpose of sharing it with others.

"I always thought I was a healthy eater, but it is very difficult eating healthy food in America," Felsted said, adding that it has been "a process" to identify all the food myths circling the media. "The more I have learned about food, the more I am focused on farm-fresh food."

Lay Nay Ferme sells shares of its land in exchange for fresh produce and operates under a concept known as community supported agriculture. The price works out to be $25 a week for a full bag of whatever is in season, said farm manager Barbara Fuller.

The farm focuses on growing a variety of greens — lettuce, kale, chard, spinach — but boasts more than 40 different vegetables and dozens of varieties of each. It also supplies at least four local restaurants with fresh produce on a weekly basis.

In order to grow and become a year-round produce option, Felsted said more members of the community "who are focused on being healthy and eating healthy food" need to participate. That's an opportunity for families to not only get healthy, but teach children healthy eating habits.

"Most people don't realize that lettuce can taste so good and that all lettuce is not iceberg variety," he said, extolling the virtues of his farm-fresh produce.

"You feel better when you're eating healthy," said local SLC Foodie blogger Becky Rosenthal. She touts local foods as the best option, shares recipes for healthy cooking and often highlights local restaurants that are supplied by local farms.

"Fresh foods have better flavor, and I once met a farmer who told me produce that is living has more nutrients than produce that has to travel long distances to get to you," Rosenthal said. "Local produce, even grown in your own garden, has been living or in the ground recently and provides fresh and rich nutrients to your body."

She said she's noticed more restaurants offering fresher ingredients, including some that advertise buying their produce from local farmers markets.

"There are a lot of farms that are within an hour drive of the city," Rosenthal said. "People can visit them and see it for themselves. Some even let you pick their produce."

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