Draper • Imagine just-picked spinach, acorn squash and mushrooms, seasoned with fresh sage, rosemary or thyme all locally grown in January.
David and Jill Bell, owners of Bell Organic Gardens, are founders of Utah Farms CSA, a group of 19 farmers and processors who offer locally produced food in what officials say is the state's first year-round crop-sharing network.
The growers are able to take advantage of the state's diverse climate and topography to provide veggies year-round, said David Bell, with growing plots from the Idaho border to southern Utah. Producers are in Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, Box Elder, Cache, Weber, Tooele, Millard and Washington counties.
Since November, about 85 households have signed up for the CSA short for community-supported agriculture with little or no advertising.
Utah Farms CSA allows members to purchase a share of crops, which are delivered to designated pickup locations. For $5 more each week, home delivery is available to customers in Salt Lake County.
Unlike most community-supported agriculture programs, Utah Farms CSA doesn't require members to pay up-front charges, according to Jill Bell. Customers may pay monthly. They also may skip deliveries and opt out at any time.
This winter, the Bells and other growers have been using cold frames used as far back as America's colonial era and other inexpensive devices such as unheated greenhouses and low tunnels to extend the growing season.
"Some of the old-time farming practices are coming back as a simple way to produce nutritious food in the winter," David Bell said. "At the same time, people are beginning once again to value local foods because of their freshness and flavor."
Seth Winterton, deputy director of Utah's Own, which pushes local products, said he believes this is the state's first year-round CSA.
"The biggest issues local producers face are problems with distribution," he said. "This is going to open up a real opportunity for local farmers and entrepreneurs to provide Utahns with fresh, locally produced products."
Benefits for all CSAs include fresh vegetables and fruits, a varied local diet and reduced transportation costs. The agricultural networks also support local farmers, particularly those in urban areas where growing plots are being turned into housing tracts and strip malls.
Salt Lake County lost the last of its milking cows six years ago when the century-old O-Day Dairy moved from Draper to Payson.
"CSAs are important in getting fresh, local foods to people," said Therese Meyer, head of the nonprofit Great Salt Lake Research, Conservation and Development Council, which promotes land and water management. "There's a lower carbon footprint, less refrigeration, less shipping, less transit costs and more local jobs. And, people who take the time to join a CSA also eat more fresh fruits and vegetables."
The Bells also have their own CSA, supplying 425 customers with fresh vegetables such as beans, Asian greens, kohlrabi, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, peas and Swiss chard, as well as providing fresh produce and herbs to restaurants.
The couple started out as backyard gardeners while living in Salt Lake City more than 12 years ago. After growing more tomatoes than they could eat, David asked a close friend who happened to be the sous chef at Log Haven if the restaurant could use some homegrown tomatoes. When the chef at Z'Tejas also bought their produce, the Bells looked to farming as their full-time occupation.
The Bells purchased a half-acre lot in Draper and started an organic farm. The move wasn't much of a leap. David's grandfather had been head of the California Polytechnic State University's agriculture department in San Luis Obispo and later owned a sugar beet farm on the Utah-Idaho border. Jill grew up in the farm country of South Dakota.
Today, the Bells farm 25 acres in Draper and Sandy. They plan to continue operating their own CSA as well as Utah Farms CSA.
From now through March, Utah Farms CSA will provide a weekly mix of five or more products, including winter squashes, pumpkins, pears, apples, potatoes, onions, garlic, free-range eggs, honey, cheese, bread, jam, sprouts, popcorn, mushrooms, hothouse tomatoes, pistachios, sweet potatoes and turnips.
In May, the weekly mix will be expanded to include hummus and early-spring greens.
Twitter: @DawnHouseTrib Utah Farms CSA
The crop-sharing network offers fresh, locally produced food year-round. Here are costs and locations:
Pickup/$30 a week:
Salt Lake City • 350 E. (Blair St.) 800 South; 5 to 7 p.m. each Monday.
Sandy • South Towne mall, Beehive Brews in the Momentum Climbing Gym; 4 to 6 p.m. each Monday.
Park City • Park City Recycle Center, 1951 Woodbine Way; 4 to 5 p.m. each Thursday.
Home delivery/$35 a week:
Salt Lake County, north of 6200 South • 3 to 7 p.m. each Thursday.
Salt Lake County, south of 6200 South • 3 to 7 p.m. each Friday.
More online at http://www.utahfarmscsa.com Growers offering year-round local foods
Bell Organic Gardens, Draper
Rassmusan Farms, Draper
Petersen Family Farm, Riverton
Cali's Natural Foods, Salt Lake City
Schmidt's Farm, West Jordan
Rojas Farms, West Jordan
Harward Farms, Springville
McMillan Orchards, Payson
Allred Orchards, Provo
Clifford Family Farms, Provo
Fower's Fruit Ranch, Genola
Rockhill Creamery, Richmond
Shepherds Dairy, Erda
East Farms, West Point
Tagge's Famous Fruit, Perry
Castle Valley Tomatoes, Newcastle
Mountain View Mushrooms, Fillmore
Red Rock Ranch Pistachio Orchard, Hurricane