Sandy man gives new meaning to backyard gardening

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7 2012 2:56 p.m. MDT

Elliott Musgrove sells produce to Larry Dean at the Sugar House Farmers Market on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SANDY — He's a farmer without a farm, and every week he sells what he grows at farmers markets in Sugar House and Murray.

Elliott Musgrove had a dream of growing vegetables but no place to do it. So he uses people's backyards around Sandy to grow produce.

"It's like a sharecropper, giving the owner a bit of the produce and taking the rest to the markets," he said.

The owner provides the land, and Musgrove does all the work.

"I install the garden and grow all the starts and tend it all summer long, and the plot owner gets a share in my (community supported agriculture program), my delivery route," he said.

This is his second year growing produce on people's backyards and the first year with his community supported agriculture program. Musgrove grows all kinds of vegetables, including kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and carrots.

So far, he has five small plots that add up to about a fifth of an acre. It's part of SPIN farming, or small plot intensive farming, a technique which operates in small plots close to homes.

"Borrowing the land instead of acres, it's all square feet behind homes and in neighborhoods," he said. "There are lots of young urban farmers in Salt Lake right now."

Musgrove delivers to members of the CSA, farmers markets, restaurants and natural food stores in the Sandy area. He uses his veggie trailer, which is a bicycle with a hitch in the back. It allows him to limit his fuel consumption, which he said is another great part about urban growing.

Musgrove not only delivers local, naturally grown produce, but also provides recipes with the ingredients he delivers. On his website, Elliott's Fresh, he lets his customers know what they can expect in their weekly basket. He also has recipes and photos to update the plot owners and those in the CSA program on the crops he is growing.

Mary Visser is one of his clients. She used to own 25 acres of land and grew hay, corn and potatoes. As time passed, the family couldn't live off of the farm and eventually sold most of the land. She likes what Musgrove does.

"(It's) great," Visser said. "I mean, it's better than plain ground going to weeds."

Musgrove said a lot of land is underutilized.

"What's better than having a pretty garden that's useful, too?" he said.

The owners don't get just what grows on their plot. They get a variety of produce from all of the gardens Musgrove tends.

"As a rule, people are too busy and don't know enough about farming to do it," Visser said. "Elliott is a different kind of person."

Musgrove does all the work himself and admits it's hard work.

"The harder part might be selling the food and just going into the unknown," he said. "The labor is no different than any other job, but venturing into a business I don't know much about is harder."

Musgrove studies a lot about farming. Earlier this year, he did an internship at two small-scale farms in Arizona, where he learned new organic methods and production techniques.

He said it can be overwhelming at times. At some point in the future, he may be able to hire a few people to help out, Musgrove said.

"I have a good following of supporters, marketgoers, neighborhood people stopping by when I'm gardening out front saying, 'Good job. Are you selling the food? Can I buy some?'" he said.

Musgrove sells the produce at the farmers market at Sugarhouse Park from 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays and at Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

"I think it's a contagious trend, and people are super happy," he said.

E-mail: vvo-duc@ksl.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS