Page Westover says there’s nothing sneaky about Snuck Farm in Pleasant Grove — except for who it was named after.
“My grandpa, Boyd Fugal, his nickname with the group he hung out with in Monkey Town (a neighborhood of Pleasant Grove) was ‘Snuck,’" Westover said. "He was always being sneaky and playing around, so they gave him the nickname. It stuck even when he got older. It’s even what people called him at work.”
“We named the farm as a nod to him.”
The Snuck Farm is on a three-acre plot of land owned by Westover’s father, Guy Fugal, but farmed by Westover and her husband, Brian. The name may have old-fashioned roots, but old fashioned the farm is not.
The Westovers put their first seeds in the ground this spring, and are now sharing their harvest with farmers market visitors at the PG Promenade on Thursday nights, and the Culinary Crafts Farmers Market on Saturdays. There they sell their non-GMO, organic greens — including romaine, butter lettuce, arugula, leaf lettuces and chard. But how they get their greens is much different than traditional area methods.
The Westovers are hydroponic farmers, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without any soil. The solution provides all the minerals and nutrients the plants need for growth, and cut down on the danger of plant diseases and contaminants — many of which are soil-born, like E.coli.
“We wanted to make a sustainable farm, but it’s not a large lot size. Given our limited acreage and the area’s lack of water, hydroponics really spoke to the land. With hydroponics we are environmentally sustainable. We end up using almost 90 percent less water than field planting and producing 10 times more food in a smaller space,” Westover said.
Plus, with their greenhouses, they can control the environment and produce food all year long. Since their food is not tied to the soil, they also can control bug problems well, and use no pesticides. Instead, they use beneficial insects that control pests while benefiting the plants.
The Westovers have always been interested in farming and spent countless hours researching hydroponics, visiting working hydroponic farms out of state, and had many times of trial and error. This is the Westovers' first year at this endeavor, but it is one they hope to make a way of life for themselves and their three girls ages 10, 8, and 6.
“Our kids are where we started. We wanted something different for them. We wanted to have our kids involved, and have a place where they can learn to work. They are already taking care of the chickens, learning business skills, and we hope as they get older they’ll have their own ideas, and be able to work on them here,” Page Westover said. “I just love that they are part of it.”
The Westovers aren’t in this for the hobby, or to make a side income, and they know the difficulties of farming. But Brian Westover is already running a successful business on his own, and Page Westover is a dietitian by trade, so they feel qualified to take on this new adventure. Currently they supply greens to consumers directly; they would like to move to becoming wholesale suppliers and are working on securing restaurant and grocery clients. They feel this will make the farm feasible.
“We feel like there is a need in the market for locally grown produce. A lot of businesses want it, even have business directives to buy a percentage of their produce from local sources. But the local producers aren’t there. That’s where we want to be. We want to provide them the quality and quantity they need,” Page Westover said.
During this season, the Westovers have concentrated on greens because the plants require similar minerals and nutrients, so they could devote their current hydroponic system to those vegetables. In the future, they plan to use both hydroponic and soil-based farming methods for other vegetables.
“We’re just sprouting, if you will,” Page Westover said. “We’re moving slowly by design, because we’re being cautious about providing a quality product to our customers.”
Though only a few generations ago, most of the population was farmers or ranchers, very few are today, and many farming methods have changed dramatically. Page Westover said the “sheer amount of knowledge” they’ve been trying to get into their heads has been daunting. But so far, it’s been worth it.
“Working as a family together, working on a passion, well, it doesn’t feel like you are working,” Page Westover said. “And seeing, tasting, and eating what we grow …. We keep saying, ‘I can’t believe we grew this!’”