A Food Haven in a Mountain Town
Updated: May 23, 2019
Nature Hills Farm is a family farm located in Cedar City Utah. The city of about 29,000 people is surrounded by mountainous terrain and sprawling national parks. This Southwestern Utah farm is 250 miles south of Salt Lake City, UT and 170 miles east of Las Vegas, NV. The farm was started in 2010 by Heather Carter and her family. They grow a variety of different vegetables, herbs, and berries, and raise chickens, turkeys, ducks, and cows. They use their harvest to make a wide variety of value - added products which they sell in their Farm Store and at the Farmer’s Market. They make everything, from cheese and butter, to yogurt, jams, and broth.
Nature Hills Farm offers an array of experiences for visitors. These experiences fall under 5 different categories including Education & Training, Dining, Arts & Entertainment, Recreation, & Direct Sales. They offer 15 different experiences throughout the year and counting. The experiences they offer include:
Educational & Training
Arts & Entertainment
Save The Bees Fundraiser
Earth Day Celebration
Christmas On The Farm
They host a number of classes and now a retreat on making different types of foods. Heather mentions that making these foods has become a lost art, and in their classes they give visitors the opportunity to not just learn how to make food but how to use it too. Learn more about all of their experiences here.
So just how did a farm in the high desert get their start in hosting farm experiences? Without any immediate resources on hand with how to develop farm events Heather started with what she knew. For her, that was cheese - making. But, the Nature Hills Farm story doesn’t start there. Heather was a garden enthusiast at a young age, she began planting at 13. Her love for planting continued into adulthood as she married and started a family of her own. She began by growing and making value - added products for sale at the local farmer's market. Her family initially got started with farm experiences as a way to fill the income gap because of the unpredictability of farmer’s market sales. Here’s where her cheese making skills came in.
In an effort to diversify their income the family built a cheese-making facility and Heather started teaching cheese-making classes. Their thought was “If people can come and see what we’re doing they are more likely to come to the farmer's market and see what we’re selling.” The class soon became the 1st experience that her family added to the farm. The farm experiences began to grow and evolve as time went on. Through trial and error and talking to her customers the farm has grown from that 1st cheese making class to dinners, farm tours, fundraisers and much more.
In order to get started Heather and her family did their own research and used their available resources. Two challenges she faced in the development and growth of their farm experiences were marketing and guiding visitors once they arrived on the farm.
Getting the word out to the local community was a challenge at first. However, the use of social media and the growth of their experiences has helped to market them.
2. Guiding Visitors
Getting the word out was the 1st step, and the 2nd was guiding the visitors once they arrived on the farm. Many of the visitors were unfamiliar with farms so showing them where to go and what they could do on the farm was a challenge. Nature Hills Farm has since created a map to guide customers during their visit.
Tips & Advice
I asked Heather the best advice that she had for farmers and ranchers that are interested in developing their own farm experiences. Here’s what she had to say and what I gleaned from her path to becoming successful at farm experiences.
Funding New Farm Activities
Heather suggests avoiding going into debt to build out farm experiences. Noting that, even if you don’t make any money on your first event you should try to break even.
Development & Execution
“Find something that’s fun that you’re good at and start with that… don’t just do what the next person is doing.” When preparing to host the experience for the first time her best advice is to prepare for the unexpected. “It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared.” Checklists also help Heather stay on tasks when debuting a new farm experience. If you’re looking to add additional events, she suggests only adding one at a time. And if something doesn’t work, remove it and revamp.
Test It Out
Test out a new experience before making it available to customers. “Before we started having farm dinners, we hosted 2 or 3 big dinners with friends and family.” Doing this helped them figure out what worked for them and what didn’t.
Evaluate every new event. Ask yourself, “Did that work for my farm did I benefit?... Is this event going to do something for my farm?”
To learn more about Nature Hills Farm and to stay up to date with their farm experiences check them out here.