How often do you think about where your food comes from? We’ve become a civilization of packaged foods, freeze-dried, vacuum-packed, hands-off food options everywhere. With just a few clicks on a keyboard, and doorstep delivery, it’s possible to get spices straight from India in the same box as small farm-made jerky from Tennessee. I contrast this with having grown up with beautiful home-cooked meals from my Italian grandmother; using fresh-picked tomatoes, herbs, and zucchini from the garden, I learned to appreciate high-quality foods at an early age. Nothing compares to homegrown and farm-raised.
The Heber Valley is home to several local farms where families and small businesses enjoy the freedom and lifestyle of working with the land and nature to create wonderful foods for locals — without sending their food on a long trip through trucks and warehouses. When we buy local it benefits our economy by keeping money in the community, employing local families, reducing the cost of transporting goods, and the enjoyment of fresher products straight from farm to table in a shorter time. Family farms operate as small businesses where accountability and quality are vital to their success.
Heber Valley Milk and Artisan Cheese
With shorter growing seasons in the higher elevations, Heber Valley is well suited to dairy and beef farming over vegetables and produce. As such, Heber Valley is home to many individual cattle ranchers and a few dairies such as Heber Valley Milk and Artisan Cheese. Farms like this allow the community to interact with and experience this direct source of milk and cheese products. Their website declares their values and interest in sharing the farm lifestyle with others. Providing others with a memorable experience is at the heart of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese. For nearly 100 years, the Kohler family has been producing premium milk. In 2011, the family built a new creamery and began using their farm’s milk to handcraft and age artisan cheese.
This is a great example of what many modern farmers are doing to bring consumers into the joy of farming by providing tours, classes, cheese tasting, and activities that promote quality farming while showing the direct benefits to the community.
Blue Canyon Farms
With a sea of fragrant, purple flowers, Blue Canyon Farms has brought the gift of peace in the form of flowers; lavender being well known traditionally for its ability to relieve stress and anxiety the moment the fragrance meets the limbic part of the brain for both humans and animals. Not only do they sell bunch lavender and buds but also lavender-based products such as bath bombs, essential oils, soaps, and more.
Redmond Heritage Farms
This organic dairy farm is dedicated to supplying high-quality raw milk to those who are seeking the most simple and optimal foods. Redmond tests and tracks the nutritional value of their milk over time, updating data each quarter. “This allows us to make decisions that produce the highest quality milk while balancing sustainability and animal health. Our passion is clean nutrient-rich milk from healthy and happy cows.”
Phil Hinson from the farm stated “We create farm to table consumer goods and have done it for 15 years.” He said he was led to organic dairy farming in order to create sustainable, locally sourced products. “We use only sustainable farming practices that are eco-friendly and try to elevate the human experience. We wish more people knew about our restaurants.”
Redmond has created the optimal model of both farming the product and then sending their goods into the market through their restaurants across the state. They also produce six varieties of raw cheese and hand-gather eggs from truly free-range chickens. In addition, they offer pasture-fed beef and pork products.1 These values are really important to those monitoring animal-based industries and local farms who seem to be responding to public interest. Farmers have the responsibility to provide a high quality of life and simple kindness to the animals that serve them and many have taken up the call to educate the public on just that.
Why Family Farms are Better than Factory Farms
One only has to spend a little time on social media to find many family farms using the medium to reeducate more people about the actual practices and quality of life they are providing for their animals. TikTok users @iowadairyfarmer and @ventureholsteins share daily videos and photos of their farm and challenge other farms to do the same using the #dairyfarmersunited to show their happy, healthy cows.
In the past, farm families have stayed out of the discussion, too busy running the farm; which lead to them losing their voice. Today social media has changed that. Now that more farms are transparently sharing their practices, it is easier for consumers to distinguish between family farms and factory farms, where animal welfare is secondary to profits. Family farms tend to be more connected to their animals and each life matters more as those animals’ lives are directly tied to the livelihood of the family that cares for them.
When asked about this challenge, Phil Hinson of Redmond Heritage Farm replied “Our milk comes from healthy, pastured cows who eat real food. Our cows have constant access to pasture and enjoy fresh green-grass and sprouted barley, dry hay, Redmond Real Salt, and Redmond Clay.” Kohler Creamery also supports this idea stating, “The secret to Heber Valley Artisan Cheese is premium milk – the perfect base for cheese making. These happy and healthy ‘gals’ provide the best-tasting milk because of their superior care. The cows are grass-fed and roam free. The Kohler family has also excluded corn and other GMO feeds from their cows’ diet as requested by their local raw milk customers.” None of the cows volunteered to leave the pasture for comment.
What Businesses Can Do To Support Small Farms
Grocery stores and restaurants can purchase straight from the farm to offer high-quality foods establishing a local trade that keeps more money in the community. Many farmers get involved by simply creating a cooperative relationship with other farms and vendors to help each other get in front of more consumers. Redmond Heritage Farm has purchased a milk truck to bring their farm-fresh raw milk, raw cheeses, pasture-raised eggs, beef, bone broth, raw kombucha, and other products to markets outside the valley as well as for local sales.
As farmers reach out, a responsive community can invite them to bring booths or trucks to their events as well as offer shelf space to local farmers in grocery stores and smaller gift stores.
How Can You Support our Local Farms?
Look specifically for items marked “Locally Sourced” or “Farmed Locally” and make purchases that support both the merchant and the farms to encourage collaboration. Another modern method of supporting small farms is simply to connect and follow them on social media where they can hear about specials and offerings directly from the farmers to expedite sales and move products faster.
Subscription-based farming has allowed many small family farms to create a sustainable and predictable income using the perks of modern Social Media and Content Marketing. One great example of farm-to-table is Ballerina Farm, in neighboring Kamas Valley. They raise Heritage Beef and Pork and provide subscriptions to beautiful Meat Boxes delivered right to your doorstep. In this case, consumers know exactly where the meat was sourced from and the wonderful family that works so hard for their animals and the consumer. Ballerina Farm is managed by its namesake, Hannah Neeleman (Mrs. Utah America 2021), her husband, Daniel Neeleman, and their six children. Hannah creates beautiful video montages of their daily life on the farm and has even won over many professed Vegans who approve of the happy home provided to their animals.
All these farms and the dedicated families that run them are inspiring others to get back to the source and support local small businesses and rural livelihoods in a very direct way. Consider your plate at your next meal and ways that your family can explore more delicious options from right here in our community.