Sandhill Farms

At virtually every dinner, people ask me what has been my favorite dinner. To be completely frank, I hate this question.  And no, I’m not pleading the 5th by diplomatically claiming that all farms are created equal. But many factors come into play for each and every dinner: the visual aspect of the farm, the farmers themselves, the food, the chef, weather, guest interaction.  I could keep going. So, I choose to forego the label of “favorite” and instead choose “memorable.”  And our dinner at Sandhill Farm in Eden, Utah was the epitome of my chosen word.

I spent the duration of our drive to Sandhill Farm on the computer, largely unaware of the passing scenery. When I finally looked out the window and saw that we had stopped on a suburban street, I figured we had made a wrong turn. This clearly could not be the location of a farm.  Well, it wouldn’t be the first time that I was proven wrong on tour, and indeed I was proven very wrong.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

Hopping off the bus, we were warmly welcomed by Pete Rasmussen, a young and passionate farmer with a rather interesting story.  Pete attended college at UC Santa Cruz (which is coincidentally OITF’s home base), and for his senior thesis he decided to become a farmer. Well, not exactly. His goal was to see if present economic conditions allowed one to become a farmer in practice and not simply in theory.  After studying the business  and operational side of farming, he decided that it just might be possible.   And his parents’ four acres of unplanted Utah land seemed like the perfect place to try.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

Looking at this picturesque farm (named for the Sandhill cranes that fly overhead) one would never guess that it began with one driven college senior. This perfectly-manicured farm that grows over 30 varieties of heirloom garlic (as well as potatoes, carrots, lettuces, and flowers to name a few) displays a unique tranquility and thoughtful layout unlike any other that I have seen.  Pete joked that our event gave them the motivation to make it virtually free of imperfections, but something tells me it looks like this year-round.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

Our entire day at Sandhill Farm was as beautiful and peaceful as the farm itself.  During set-up, we enjoyed freshly cut melon from Pete’s mom, snacked on the farm’s fava leaves, and enjoyed the perfect weather.  The meal, prepared by Pago chef Michael Richey went off without a hitch, and like something pulled from the pages of a storybook, it concluded with a flock of Sandhill cranes flying overhead.

For me, the most striking aspect of the farm is that although it originated with Pete, it thrives with the efforts of the entire family.  Every member plays an integral role in its success, and together they have created a farm with an almost-tangible feeling of harmony.  Pete’s mother gave a pre-meal blessing, his father helped guide guests on the tour of the farm, and his sister played music throughout the evening.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

There was such a thoughtfulness in everything that the Rasmussens did, from how they planted every row of their crops to how they interacted with guests of their farm.  They have created a farm with a peacefulness and genuine hospitality that is clearly felt by all those who are warmly welcomed into it.