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Raising Success: Sara and Symbria Patterson Transform Red Acre Farm

Inspired teen's hobby and vision with persistence becomes a booming business

Sara Patterson was all of 11 years old when she and her father put in their first vegetable garden in 2006. Newly transplanted to Cedar City from Southern California, Lynn Patterson was eager to support his daughter’s insatiable zeal to make things grow.

Though that first agricultural effort was sabotaged by a winter freeze, the Pattersons kept at it. Today—despite Lynn’s subsequent passing in 2015, and the loss of the family’s home the following year after a fire—Sara is the proud proprietress of Red Acre Farm, a community supported agriculture or CSA farm that provides nourishing, biodynamically raised produce for scores of Iron County families.

Located minutes from downtown Cedar City, Red Acre Farm sits atop two bucolic acres at 5900 feet. Here, Sara and her mom, Symbria, coax an enormous variety of vegetables—including more than 300 varieties of tomatoes, beets, peppers, radishes, carrots, eggplant, snap peas and more, along with greens, microgreens, herbs and flowers—from the soil. The duo also tends to an ever-expanding menagerie of working animals, including chickens, a cow, goats, a llama and ducks. And then there’s Virginia.

“Virginia the pig is sort of a petting zoo animal,” Sara says, laughing. “She serves no real purpose, although I guess you could call her a garbage disposal; she consumes all of the stuff no one should really eat.”

From the time that Sara first began tilling the soil and selling veggies at local farmers markets at age 14, she knew she wanted to transition her operation into a CSA. In such a model, customers sign up at the beginning of the growing season, then pick up a supply of healthy, locally grown produce each week or have it delivered. For Sara, the concept of creating a community was crucial.

“I wanted to be a ‘personal’ farmer; to connect with the people who would be eating from the farm,” Sara explains. “The main thing with a CSA is that people are buying into the risk as well as the bounty. For example, we’ve never had any problems growing squash. But for some reason in 2022 we’ve had amazing tomatoes, but not great squash. Sometimes there are elements that are just beyond our control, so that’s a risk our members take with us.”

Equally important to Sara was the concept of biodynamic farming. According to the Biodynamic Association, biodynamics offers a “holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition.” Based on the work of philosopher and scientist, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics posits that a farm is an integrated, whole, living organism, comprising many ingredients, all of which deserve the farmer’s utmost respect.

Says Sara, “It’s all about ‘healing’ the earth, and the idea that you need to give back to the soil and the land that gives you so much. We don’t want to just leave the land the same as it was, but actually make it better; to heal it.”

Toward that end, Sara and her mom eschew the use of any farm machinery or heavy-duty implements. Instead, every bit of planting, pruning and harvesting is done exclusively with hoes and shovels.

“In the last five years a lot of people are really focusing on this style of farming—so some really innovative things are happening with regard to making the soil better,” Sara notes.

The Pattersons are playing an important role in furthering the tenets of biodynamic farming and agricultural integrity through the Red Acre Center for Food and Agriculture. Among other initiatives, this nonprofit organization offers educational programs to prospective farmers who are contemplating the challenges and rewards of planting and growing in Utah.

“We’ve always wanted to teach others; to help people who want to start farming in this climate, which is no easy thing,” says Sara. “Farming here is very different: We have a very short growing season, no water, and high altitude—so farmers in Utah definitely have to think differently.”

Would-be farmers and non-farmers alike are always welcome to stop by Red Acre Farm for a visit, Sara adds. Though the farm is not an events venue per se, the Pattersons and their team offer a variety of community events throughout the year, including breakfasts and dinners alfresco, a fall “scarecrow walk,” a folk-tale swap on Halloween night, a Christmas event benefiting Red Acre Center and much more. Each Labor Day Weekend, Red Acre Farm also serves up a gala “Terroir to Table” dinner during the Utah Wine Festival.

Some 13 years after she first went into business, Sara is deservedly proud of her company’s success. She and her mom continue to tweak systems and practices, and they look forward to the next chapter of Red Acre Farm.

“We’re working on several things that are really exciting, including the construction of a barn, and doing more educational pieces with our nonprofit,” Sara finishes. “A farm is always a work in progress. It’s a living being that you’re trying to be the steward of … but sometimes it has a mind of its own.”

Learn more about Red Acre Farm and the CSA program at redacrefarmcsa.org.       

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