This photo essay about Utah farmers came together for two reasons.
I'm interested in the the topography of the farmer's face. Lines from years of work outside tending fields; cracks from smiling, living the sweet life under the sun that many dream of; serious eyes that look with dependence to the earth and skies.
I'm also interested in the stories these farmers have to tell—why did they choose this career (or did it choose them), what are their biggest challenges/rewards, or, even, what is their favorite vegetables?
13% SALT: Why are you a farmer?
Rino Dimeo: I did this all of my time, since I’ve been in Salt Lake City with my restaurant (Rino’s Italian Ristorante) for 33 years. I was growing for the restaurant, and now I’ve retired, so I’m growing for everybody.
I just like to cultivate it, because it relax me. And my dad was a farmer. We had vineyards and making wine and stuff like that. So it’s a tradition.
13% SALT: Zoe, are you a farmer?
Zoe Chen: No. I’m an eater. When he sends me out to go pick stuff, I come back with a full belly and empty hands.
13% SALT: What’s the best thing about being a farmer?
George Kolovos: It’s just good and healthy work.
13% SALT: I’ve heard that you have a great t-shirt collection.
GK: Yeah, I got all kinds. My wife buys them for me to wear to work. I’ve got one that says, “I brought awesome. What did you bring?” and another one that says “Burly” and then another one that says, “Let’s get it done.” I got a bunch. It makes me laugh. I’m kind of a ham.
13% SALT: What are your favorite vegetable?
Randy Hed: I like all vegetables, but tomatoes are probably our favorite. That’s what started us off. We began as a backyard business with lots and lots of tomatoes in Salt Lake City and fell in love with doing it. So we just expanded and expanded and moved and bought five acres. And now we’re farming for a living.
13% SALT: Why do you grow what you grow?
Fusako Tomiyama: I’m originally from Okinawa, so I grow a lot of varieties that you can only find in specialty markets—things that are not traditional American produce—that are from my homeland. For example, I have two different varieties of bok choy; here’s Choy Sum and the other one is Shanghai. I also grow things like Shungiku, Shishito Peppers, and Dow Gauk Long Beans.
13% SALT: How did you become a farmer?
John Borski: For 22 years, I was a professional ballet dancer. Then, I met a guy—he had actually been a director of a ballet company in San Francisco—and he had started a little organic farm there in town. He said, “People don’t have to buy art every day, but they do have to buy food. And organic fruits and vegetables are going to become more popular as time goes by.”
And, you know, he was right. It’s still a tough business and there’s a lot of work involved, but it’s really rewarding, because you are providing people with the proper nutrition and you’re growing it the way Mother Nature meant for it to be.
13% SALT: Are there any parallels between dancing and farming?
JB: You make it as creative as you can. I try to grow stuff that not everyone’s got. You know, we’re almost sold out of everything today, or I'd show you. That’s kind of the direction that I’ve gone. It’s just creative. I’ve always had a creative touch. When I was dancing, I tried modern, ballet, tap, and I even tried break dancing in the ‘80s, but that didn’t work out very good (laughs).
13% SALT: Why are you a farmer?
Tony Guerra: I love it. Since I was six years old, when my parents taught me how to do all of this in Mexico, I was farming. It’s what I’ve been doing professionally for the last 18 years. It’s what I love to do. I don’t care—I’m going to die, so I want to keep feeding the people. Farming is my hobby, it is my love; I’m going to do it, and I don’t care about anything else but farming.
And this is my wife, Tina. I love her. I love her so much. She is my world. Her and the fruits and vegetables.
13% SALT: What do you do and what is this program?
Missy Warwood (not pictured): I’m a horticulturist, and I teach inmates how to grow a garden. We’re constantly educating them. About the program: We don’t use pesticides, and we do grow organically—although we’re not certified. There’s 16 guys out in the garden right now, and we have two teams of eight that alternate shifts. They basically work from sun up to sun down, and then they take the produce and sell it here at the market.
13% SALT: Why do you think farming is important for rehabilitation in the jail system?
MW: Well, I think it’s important to help teach them to grow their own food, so they have the education to feed themselves if they ever get in a hard spot in life.
13% SALT: Why are you a farmer?
Kevin Nash: Growing up as a little kid, I used to have a little potato patch. I used to love growing the potatoes. And then I went to college and was studying to become a master herbalist. In doing that, I realized that I wanted to grow plants instead, and I realized that I just want to farm.
There’s a lot of problems in our world with industrial farming. Small-scale farming is, in my opinion, a very important way to get back to the way things used to be and to keep us from transporting things all around the world. It helps us in using a lot less material, and by producing things locally. We can do this, so why not do it.
13% SALT: Why did you pick the name Rannui for your farm, and what does it mean?
John Garofalo: My original business partner was a native New Zealander. When she moved to Utah, she couldn’t believe how sunny it was all the time. Rannui means “Place of the Sun God.”
13% SALT: Are there any unique challenges to growing in Summit County?
JG: Mostly the weather. The season is short, so we basically have about a 60-day frost-free period. It limits what we can grow outside without any protection.
13% SALT: You’re the first farmer that I’ve taken a photo of here that isn’t the owner of the farm? So what’s it like? What I mean is...what do you get out of it?
Coleman Riedesel: With BUG Farms, there are five of us, so it feels like we all have a say. The two of us [points to another lady in the booth] own a small third-of-an-acre farm, so we kind of do actually work for ourselves, in a way. But as far as BUG Farms goes, it’s a really great set up, and we are finally able to earn a living wage. I can’t think of anything better than charging higher prices for vegetables. I mean, I think that, the price of vegetables, and food in general, is really low. I think that if people paid a higher price, then farmers could live more comfortably.
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.