Red Acres Is the Place for Me
Family-farm livin’ and sustainability in Cedar City
A hand-painted, wooden sign welcomes guests onto Red Acre Farm with a fitting quip: “Free to Roam.”
Squealing, gleeful children — and free-range chickens alike — careen around picnic tables set under an old oak. A respite from the scorching southern Utah summer sun, the welcome shade is busy with activity as families break bread.
It’s Thursday noon, a time when folks roam the farm, and then settle down to enjoy Red Acre’s weekly lunch offering, made from farm-grown and locally-sourced ingredients. Lively Americana might be an apt summary of the atmosphere today, here in the shade where locals gather and travelers are welcomed.
“This farm, it’s so much more than just food,” says Sarah Patterson, owner and head farmer. “It’s a way of life and the heart of the community.”
Summer activities offer a flavor of what this sustainable farm is all about, thanks to a weekly al fresco lunch, a monthly breakfast and gourmet farm-to-fork fundraising feasts in the fields. Also on Red Acre’s schedule are live concerts (where burgers are served), plus farmhouse cooking classes.
"This farm, it’s so much more than just food. It’s a way of life and the heart of the community."
– Sarah Patterson, Owner and Head Farmer at Red Acres Farm
Located on the outskirts of Cedar City, Red Acre Farm is a small agricultural operation that offers an intriguing reversal of the family farm story. Red Acre was launched when Sarah was 12, “a home school project gone bad,” laughs Symbria, her mother.
The Pattersons had landed in Cedar City, transplanted from Los Angeles, aiming to get away from hectic city life. Here, Sarah saw the expansive field that was now home, and desired to have a horse, chickens and grow a few vegetables.
But big ambitions sprang from small seedlings. Within no time, she had more food than she could handle and began a side hustle. By the time she was 14, Sarah was selling her produce, then she launched the Red Acre Farm CSA, which easily oversold its original allotment. Back then, there was only one other CSA in the area, Symbria says.
By the time she turned 16, both of Sarah’s parents worked for her, making Red Acre Farm the sole income for the Patterson family. Now, some 10 years later, Red Acre sells more than 85 shares of its CSA annually, as well as hosting a whole’s summer’s worth of activities.
Patterson, along with her mother Symbria, are dedicated to natural, organic farming methods. Happy animals, water conservation and composting techniques showcase how a farm can be a vibrant closed-loop ecosystem.
The bread-and-butter offerings of Red Acre Farm are modeled after traditional Community Supported Agriculture collectives. Patrons invest in the farm, and in return, receive a weekly share of whatever is harvested. Sometimes, staples are delivered, and other times, it’s a culinary surprise following the whim of nature and the farmer.
"Providing access to healthy, nutrient-dense food, growing it sustainably, healing the earth and creating space for the community — that’s what we are all about."
– – Sarah Patterson, Owner and Head Farmer at Red Acres Farm
Unlike commercial agricultural farms, which define much of the nearby cultivated landscape, Red Acre grows produce for flavor, aroma, color and texture. In total, more than 170 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs are grown, by a handful of dedicated farmers, on this patch of red dirt. “When people come here, and they can see that there’s a person behind the food they eat, it becomes more real,” Patterson says.
Today, dishes clatter in the main house, the central hub of operations, as well as the Pattersons’ home. Patterson and her mother run around like chickens to sling today’s fare. The frenzy — well, that’s just farm life, extending on most days from sunrise to sundown and beyond.
Back outside, under the oak tree, today’s veritable spread of delightful provisions includes tamales, homemade salsa and a chocolate cookie. The sweetness of the fresh corn sings in the tamales, while you can taste the Cedar City summer in the salsa.
A small boy guards his tamale as an opportunistic chicken clucks underfoot. Parents guffaw loudly and goats "baa," carrying on their own conversations. The sounds of the farm are visceral and filled with life.
Nearby, what could pass on first glance as a petting zoo — with more hand-painted signs labeling animals with names such as Mr. Tumnus, Daisy May and Persephone — contain a bevy of happy animals who contribute to the farm’s offerings.
Earlier this morning, during field chores at sunrise, the energy was equally frenetic, but the Pattersons were able to pause for a few moments to describe the farm’s origins.
Beyond weekly veggie shares, Patterson and her mother have always been in farming for the bigger picture. That’s why they launched the Red Acre Center, a nonprofit to promote and protect farmers in rural areas who grow and sell local food.
“We live in a food desert,” Patterson says. “We’re surrounded by ranch land and big agricultural farms, but so little of it is made available to us. Providing access to healthy, nutrient-dense food, growing it sustainably, healing the earth and creating space for the community — that’s what we are all about.”
A swing by the farm makes this clear. And if you miss one of the farm’s many events, then visit the onsite market, affectionately called The Back Porch, to take a taste of Red Acre with you.
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