Bell Organic Gardens Aims to Enrich Lives Through Crops
Heirloom tomatoes, particularly the “pineapple” variety, inspire poetic praise from Draper farmer David Bell. “When you slice the tomato in half it looks like you are holding the sunrise in one hand and the sunset in the other,” he says of the large, red and yellow-streaked favorite. And the taste, well, is as sweet as summer.
Such joy, love and appreciation of vegetables are what Bell, owner of Bell Organic Gardens, wants to bring to locals through his farm and community supported agriculture.
“A lot of us want to eat locally and eat what’s in season, but it is a hard thing to do on our own,” he says. People get stuck in a rut and buy the same produce at the grocery store week after week. Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a way to break out of that cycle.
Bell explains that CSA is like buying a “subscription” to Bell Organic Gardens for a season or more. In just the way you don’t know what you are going to get in a magazine subscription, the same applies to the CSA share. “It is a wonderful opportunity for people to pay in advance…and then I know who I am planting for, I know how much to grow, and then (when brought home) it becomes a food adventure to have with your family,” he explains.
In-season vegetable baskets are delivered weekly or available for pick up at his farm.
Bonnie Williamson, a Draper resident, always looks forward to her weekly delivery. “It is just like Christmas when you open up your cooler,” says the yoga teacher. She wants to buy local, fresh food and Bell’s CSA is the best way to do so. “I love all the vegetables,” she adds, “but the greens are the best.” She only visits the grocery store every so often to buy protein.
Bell and his wife Jill started farming commercially in 1998 after questioning why they couldn’t find good food grown closer to home. The couple threw caution to the wind, found a parcel of fertile land in Draper, bought a vintage orange tractor, and started tilling and planting. Soon other land opportunities became available, most recently a lease of 10 acres in Draper’s new Wheadon Farm Park at 138th South and Bangerter Parkway.
“All of this was farmland,” he says of Salt Lake Valley, “and now it is all gone. So, having crops at Wheadon Farm Park is the biggest thing going on the east side. It is special. We are going to have the opportunity to grow for years to come and hopefully create experiences for people who live in Draper and want to spend some time here—perhaps play in the park and then come over and buy a watermelon for their picnic.”
Bell Organic Gardens grows everything from arugula to zucchini, about 40 different types of vegetable crops and some melons. There are no berries or orchard crops at the moment. Within the crops are seven varieties of eggplants and more than 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, including “big whoppers” that hit the scale at 2.75 lbs. “They are practically watermelons,” Bell jokes.
With such choices, vegetable conversions happen often, especially, he says, to beet haters. Beets are storage crops and lose flavor over time. But when they are freshly pulled from the ground, the rich flavor changes people’s mind. Plus, variety helps. Orange beets have a different flavor profile than red, and striped beets have less of that earthy flavor people find unappetizing. “Those are the kind of things people get excited about,” he says.
Williamson says she became a collard greens lover thanks to Bell’s recipe that accompanied the cruciferous vegetable. “I keep telling them they should write a cookbook,” she adds.
After 16 years of farming, the father of four hopes to bring more vegetable opportunities to Draper, perhaps opening a Saturday morning farm stand or possibly an educational U-pick experience. In the meantime, CSA shares are available weekly.
“We want to be a bright spot in people’s week,” Bell says.
For information on CSA, visit BellOrganic.com.