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Garden's bountiful summer keeps Sandy well fed


AntFarm's success with its garden brings concerns of future funding

Few people know that behind Suburban Ford on Highway 26, 2 acres of vegetables, herbs and flowers are growing to feed the needy in our community. Over the three years it’s been there, the AntFarm community garden has done nothing but grow.

“We usually say its 1.5 acres,” said Jaime Holub, who runs the garden. “But I walk it every day, and I say it’s 2 acres.”

The garden yields veggies such as carrots, peas, beans, broccoli, kale, peppers, eggplant, squash and many others. The garden is ringed with fragrant flowers such as sunflowers and herbs that encourage pollination but also help keep unwanted bugs out of the organically farmed garden, said Holub.

“Instead of using chemicals, we’re using certain plants strategically for their benefits,” she said.Photo Credit: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Jaime Holub and volunteers wash some of the mornings harvest.

AntFarm, a Sandy grassroots organization that helps youths gain the skills needed to be successful, harvests crops from the community garden to use in its café and donate to the Sandy Action Center — Holub makes deliveries to the action center three times a week — as well as to businesses around town and people in need.

“Anytime someone identifies someone who needs food, we give them food,” said Nunpa, executive director of AntFarm and Woape, the nonprofit supporter of AntFarm. When asked why AntFarm is giving away food when it is struggling with money, Nunpa answers, “Because it’s the right thing.”

In the future, Nunpa hopes to expand the program and take a selection of crops to the Sandy Senior Center for local seniors to do some quick, easy, cheap and healthy shopping. Photo Credit: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - AntFarms community garden is nearly 2 acres of vegetables that are used in the AntFarm café and donated to those in need.

In 2011, the Action Center, which originally managed the garden, asked AntFarm for help. After a successful year, the Action Center conceded that it couldn’t manage the garden anymore, and AntFarm agreed to take it over.

The garden yielded 2,000 pounds of vegetables in 2011, 6,000 pounds in 2012, and 10,000 pounds in 2013.

This year, AntFarm will tally the year’s harvest in a dollar amount to help show the community the value.

As a way to integrate a farm-to-table concept, each week Holub contacts AntFarm Café to let staff know what fresh ingredients will be coming out of the garden. The cooks then come up with a garden special to serve to customers.

Crops from the garden are also sold at a farm stand in the café.

The success of the garden has been tremendous, Nunpa said.

Every week, the garden receives youth willing to help and to gain experience and work ethic. Holub said she has overseen about 2,000 volunteer hours this season. Youth volunteers at the garden number about 20 to 30 per month, Nunpa said. He added that AntFarm also often receives volunteers from local organizations and community members who stop in to see how the garden is doing.

“It’s incredible how much the community steps up and gets involved in this space,” Holub said.Photo Credit: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Holub has extensive knowledge of the plants that grow in the garden, from the lantern-like buds on the tomatillo pepper plant to the flowers that produce eggplants.

Volunteers are needed to weed, harvest and prepare vegetables from the garden, but there is always more work to be done.

Many of the youth volunteers who have been helping in the garden have received jobs, Nunpa said, because of their hard work.

“Our success rate of employment has been so fast,” he said. “We’re moving them through.”

The garden has been running mostly on the generosity of the community so far. Holub volunteers her time, Suburban Ford supplies the land, and the city of Sandy supplies the water.

However, Nunpa said, that may not be enough.

While the café, AntFarm’s source of income, is doing well, it’s not bringing in enough money to fund the garden’s giving spirit.

“Our success is outstripping out resources,” Nunpa said, explaining that AntFarm couldn’t be better in terms of programs, but couldn’t be worse in terms of finances. “We’re losing about $10,000 a month now. At that rate, we’re not going to be around very much longer.”

He added that AntFarm is in need of support from the community in the form of volunteers, to help maintain the garden, and donations. “If 1,000 folks gave $10 a month, the garden would always be here,” he said.

“Giving is so easy,” Holub said. “But asking for something you need is really hard.”

The greenhouse at the garden is the site of preparation for planting winter crops: cabbage, broccoli and lettuce.

If financially possible, Nunpa said, AntFarm would want youth involved with the garden year-round.

The board recently had to make some hard decisions to figure out how to continue AntFarm's work in the community. Nunpa said they are dedicated to making it work.

"We believe in this," he said.

Photo Credit: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Many volunteer hours go into harvesting this seasons crop. More volunteers are needed to help keep the beds weeded.

The details...

AntFarm Community Garden is located behind Suburban Ford on Highway 26.

Diverse veggies are given to Sandy Action Center three times a week for its food pantry.

Stop by the AntFarm Café and Bakery, 39140 Proctor Blvd., to try the weekly garden special and pick up some fresh produce.

Visit http://antfarm-international.com/ to learn how to get involved or donate.