Family Farm Thrives in Community
Aug 10, 2015 10:57AM
● By Bryan Scott
The Petersens have grown their operation from five acres of crops in 2008 to 75 acres today.
By Rachel Hall
South Valley - A family tradition rooted deep in the past keeps Luke and Hilarie Petersen growing crops for the community.
“We like that people know where the farm is,” Hilarie said.
Luke, a fifth-generation farmer, and Hilarie both pursued graduate studies before taking over operations at the Petersen Family Farm. He intended to make a career out of international agriculture with his MBA, while she desired to use her master’s in linguistics to teach abroad.
It wasn’t long before the Petersens felt their international ambitions weren’t the right path for their family, and so they returned to Utah with two small children and a fresh idea. A shift in focus from producing only hay to producing food for area residents started in 2008 with five acres. Today, the farm is harvesting on 75 acres due to the success and demand of buying local.
“I didn’t anticipate how much work it was going to be,” Hilarie said.
A typical day for Luke begins at 4:30 a.m. and doesn’t usually end until midnight. His hard work extends beyond the farm to include community outreach, especially in his role as president of the Salt Lake County Farm Bureau.
Hilarie, who is a full-time mom to their three children, also works on the farm as much as possible, helping with chores, errands, the market and the Little Farmers Preschool on site.
“I just love education in all its forms,” Hilarie said about the decision to open up the farm to 4-year-olds who are eager to learn.
It was the small details of farm life, such as caring for goats, chickens and rabbits, as well as growing crops, that made a lasting impression on the Petersen children. Hilarie found her children learning so much that connected them to agriculture and real world learning opportunities, that she felt many other children could also benefit.
“I saw what a blessing it was for them, and I thought why don’t we open this to the community and let preschoolers come and have an experience on the farm,” she said.
Little ones who are part of the program have a chance to do daily chores such as gathering eggs and feeding goats, as well as learn foundational reading skills on an individualized level. Youth between the ages of five and 12 can get a feel for the farm life with weekly summer camps.
“They love it. They want to be on the farm,” Hilarie said.
Fresh produce such as sweet corn, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, greens, onions and potatoes keep many adults returning to the farm’s market that is open six days a week. Many of the customers participate in the CSA program [Community Supported Agriculture], which offers a weekly choice of fresh, seasonal produce.
“We are not certified organic. We are working on that for specific crops. One thing that people don’t understand is that organic does not mean no pesticide. It just means organic pesticide,” Hilarie said.
A national trend of consumers looking to find organic products is understandable to the Petersens, who already use minimal pesticides on crops. Utah’s climate helps control some pest issues and that’s why a few crops aren’t sprayed at all.
“We try to farm as responsibly as possible. We don’t want the pesticides ourselves. We eat everything that we grow. We don’t want our kids around that, so we try to keep it as low as possible,” Hilarie said.
The Petersens also believe in helping other local food producers. Their market features locally-produced food items from several small Utah businesses. Additionally, they also host several food trucks from 5-9 p.m. each Friday.
“We’ve had nothing but wonderful support from the community and our customers in particular,” Hilarie said.
The Petersen Family Farm is located near 11800 South 4000 West in Riverton. For more information, visit www.petersenfarm.com