Building from Here: Snuck Farm

By April 3, 2017Community, Ideas, Projects

It does kind of sneak up on you — the enchanting sight of alpacas grazing beside the modern yet rustic barn. Chickens meandering in the yard. Assorted mountains in the distance.

It’s a farm reincarnated. A little patch of land with a big legacy. A new purpose for a family and a prolific resource for a community. Snuck Farm is certainly living up to its mission of: Eat well. Do good.

Page Westover’s family owned hundreds of acres in Pleasant Grove, Utah as recently as the 1940s. But it was slowly sold off and donated until her father, Guy Fugal, bought the last 3.5 acres — complete with a small shed, a dilapidated barn and an old electrical generator. A retired underground utilities contractor and expert problem-solver, Guy saw the future of the farmland in his daughter and her family.

Page had built a career as a dietitian and a young family with her husband Brian, but never constructed an actual building. Still, she was passionate about cultivating healthy food for her community and creating space for nutrition-related classes and events. So she took on the challenge of rebuilding Snuck Farm.

She started by hiring Louise Hill of Louise Hill Design and Lloyd Architects led by Warren Lloyd. The team began with the barn that would span almost the whole width of the narrow plot. It had to house every conceivable animal on one side and host humans on the other. Between the two sides came Guy’s only demand: An expansive breezeway that could fit the largest commercial vehicle. Even a semi-truck.

“Page wanted a modest, manageable farm for growing things in a sustainable, responsible way. Guy was thinking about how to make it function for all time. It was the ideal pairing,” said designer Anna Friend.

The barn became a simple agrarian structure featuring exposed raw materials that could handle the wear and tear of both farming life and Utah weather — elements like fieldstone walls, exposed beams and a perfectly imperfect concrete-slab floor.

Then there was the view.  “As we stood on Snuck Farm and looked north at the towering face of Mount Timpanogos, then south to face the distant but impressive Mount Nebo, we realized that the barn could nestle between those two peaks — aligning the pasture to the south with the greenhouse and yard to the north,” said Warren.

From the center of the barn it now feels like you could be standing in the middle of a 20-acre farm, with the white tops of both mountains framed in the entrances on either side. The team even adjusted the angle of garage’s roof to preserve the neighbors’ mountain views.

“The instinctive, intuitive nature of the project and the simple farm vernacular of barns allowed the design to come together almost effortlessly,” said Louise. “My hope was that the barn would feel like it had been there for generations and the suburbs had grown up around it. Not the other way around.”

Page and Brian considered the area’s long winters before exploring and ultimately pursuing an environmentally friendly hydroponic approach to farming. This lets them sustainably grow up to 10 times more than they otherwise could on their land. Indoors. Year-round. With 90% less water. And no soil or pesticides.

Two years into farming, the family is growing non-GMO greens like lettuce, herbs and arugula in three glass greenhouses at the back of the land — and has expanded into organic soil-based farming with tomatoes, corn, melons and peppers. They’re selling fresh produce to individuals through farmers markets and a year-round CSA subscription program, as well as to local businesses. And they’re promoting gardening, self-sufficiency and a community-based food system through annual sales of vegetable, herb and flower starts.

Page enjoys hosting healthy eating classes and pop-up dinners in the barn. She’s also partnered with local elementary and middle schools to help them build their STEM programs. For example, one junior-high Women in Technology class visited the farm for an up-close look at a hydroponic system before going back to school and building their own.

“None of us were farm-design consultants or master gardeners or any of those things when we started this project,” said Warren, “but we’re always just … building from here … considering the history and the conditions, and determining the best way to take it all forward. For the family and the community.”

Today in the farmhouse, Page’s mother does laundry in the barn as her father swings by to tinker with sprinklers and cars and her three young daughters — founders of Snuck’s budding Three Chicks Eggs business — check on the chickens that have become their charges. Once again, it all comes down to eating well and doing good. It’s a farm’s mission. A family’s passion. And a community’s good fortune.

“I still drive by and see this place for the first time all over again,” said Page, “Who knows what the future will bring? But it’s already brought us further than we thought we’d go.”

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