January 23, 2016

Hidden Farms Grow in Glendale Backyards

Coleman Riedesel cares for kale, swiss chard and tomato plants in one of the Backyard Urban Gardens on Cheyenne Street between California Avenue and Van Buren Ave.   Photos by David Ricketts Coleman Riedesel cares for kale, swiss chard and tomato plants in one of the Backyard Urban Gardens on Cheyenne Street between California Avenue and Van Buren Ave.   Photos by David Ricketts
Coleman Riedesel cares for kale, swiss chard and tomato plants in one of the Backyard Urban Gardens on Cheyenne Street between California Avenue and Van Buren Ave.   Photos by David Ricketts|Coleman Riedesel cares for kale, swiss chard and tomato plants in one of the Backyard Urban Gardens on Cheyenne Street between California Avenue and Van Buren Ave.   Photos by David Ricketts|| Coleman Riedesel cares for kale, swiss chard and tomato plants in one of the Backyard Urban Gardens on Cheyenne Street between California Avenue and Van Buren Ave. Photos by David Ricketts|Coleman Riedesel cares for kale, swiss chard and tomato plants in one of the Backyard Urban Gardens on Cheyenne Street between California Avenue and Van Buren Ave. Photos by David Ricketts|| |||
By The West View

There is an unassuming street on the West Side where this year alone a swath of urban farms and gardens will churn out more than 25,000 pounds of produce. It’s a street where residents have taken a vein of unusually undeveloped land and built a community of small business owners, modern-day homesteaders and food system advocates.

It’s in this neighborhood where B.U.G Farms is growing and thriving. Backyard Urban Garden Farms was started in 2010. The model is simple: take unused urban spaces (mostly backyards) and farm them. The produce is then sold through a weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription, at local farmers markets and to local restaurants. The idea is that by using intensive growing practices, on small pieces of land, we can earn money farming, without initially having to raise money to buy a large chunk of land.

In the beginning B.U.G. had plots all over Salt Lake City, from East Millcreek to the University to Sugar House to everywhere between. A few years ago, B.U.G. Farms got its first large plot on the West Side along a dream-of-a-street called Cheyenne that shoots off the south side of California Avenue.

Why so dreamy? Why the need to consolidate? Well, this particular section of Cheyenne Street has not been subdivided like much of Salt Lake City. The street has many homes that sit on half-acre, or larger, plots, making it, in the city, unusual but ideal for urban farm plots.

And so it has been in the past few years that B.U.G’s presence along Cheyenne has grown, with 2015 being the first year that the entirety of its operation is now on the West Side, with the hope being to cultivate even more land.

Beyond the excitement and allure of large lots, people are discovering this neighborhood because it’s centered in many ways on community.

On Cheyenne Street alone, Slam Ranch runs a quarter-acre market farm that sells at the International Rescue Committee’s Sunnyvale Farmers Market, located in South Salt Lake; urban homesteaders, Celia and Kevin Bell, longtime Cheyenne Street residents, and beacons of all things related to food production; M & M Farms focuses on producing for restaurants on an acre of urban farm sandwiched between Wasatch Commons Cohousing and neighbors on Utah Street; Wasatch Commons’ community and personal gardens and fruit orchard; and countless other backyard gardeners with the time and passion to grow their own.

It’s the kind of reclamation of community and repurposing of land that is creating ripples throughout the greater community, in many ways inspiring a citywide urban farming movement. And B.U.G. Farms is lucky to be surrounded by a welcoming community that is as excited about growing food as we are.

Who knew that when the Bells moved to the neighborhood 10-plus years ago that their presence on the street would bring the attention B.U.G. Farms and M&M Farms to the neighborhood? And, that they would connect the neighborhood, community and the food produced here to the larger Salt Lake community?

In 2015, B.U.G. Farms has 100-plus CSA members receiving weekly or biweekly shares of produce all coming from this neighborhood. B.U.G’s customers live all over the Salt Lake Valley, but most live within 10 miles of the farm. And while “local” means a lot of things these days, it’s hard to imagine a community and a mission more local than the one that’s settled in along Cheyenne.