When Lynn and Symbria Patterson left the fast-paced, big city, southern California life behind in 2005, they didn't have any long-term plans to stay in the more rural, small-town setting of Cedar City, Utah. They simply knew they wanted "out" of the crime, stress, traffic, and endless cacophony of modern life that Los Angeles had become. Sara their youngest daughter, Sara, was 10 years old when they first arrived at the dusty, backroad corner they would call home.
Sara took to the land like freckles on a sun-kissed face. She wanted animals. She wanted to grow things. She wanted dirt under her nails and plants in her garden. She was so anxious to begin that she and her dad, planted too early, and everything froze. But a little bit of cold couldn't deter her farmer heart. She planted again and for the next 2 years, she tended laying hens, sold eggs, grew her garden, and harvested enough to sell to friends and neighbors.
As her knowledge and skills grew, Sara was inspired and mentored by a family friend who had just started a community-supported agriculture, or (CSA), farm. Sara, then 14, marketed, sold, and traded for her first 4 shares and
began her own farming enterprise.
A name is a precious thing, so Sara lovingly named the farm after her grandpa, Red Wright, who grew up on a farm; the red dirt of southern Utah; and after the classic comedy, Green Acres, which the Patterson they resembled more than they wanted to admit. By the next summer Symbria, Sara's mom would join her full-time. By partnering with a family friend who had high tunnels, she would begin growing crops year-round. When she found herself producing more than enough for her own CSA farm members, she started selling at farmers' markets and founded a weekday and year-round market in Cedar City.
Growing so quickly, with more work to do than there was time for, projects only Lynn could handle, and the fact there were nights where neither one of them went to sleep Sara convinced her Dad to stop commuting to Los Angeles and work full time on the farm. Lynn and Sara would work side by side planting, putting in infrastructure, and tending to the ever-growing menagerie of animals. As Sara has said many times, "Any dream I could think of, my dad would develop and bring to life on the farm." Symbria kept her hands busy on the farm and worked on marketing.
At 16, Sara's farm had expanded enough that she purchased the adjoining acre. A farm stand would eventually be built, and they stayed busy selling at four farmers' markets and feeding 85 shareholders weekly.
As Sara worked hard to raise food for her community she ran into cumbersome and overreaching laws that were restricting her and other agrarian entrepreneurs from starting small, diversified farms and limiting consumer choice in local markets. She became active in state politics, advocating to change the law that made the sharing of milk from a cow illegal. The bill passed in March of 2015.
That same month Sara's dad, her business partner and dream builder, passed away suddenly. Evidence of his life, talents, and goodness were still everywhere on the farm, and it never occurred to Sara or Symbria that they should quit the thing that they had all begun. So on they forged.
Only 18 months after losing Lynn, their husband and father, Symbria and Sara would suffer another devastating loss when their home was destroyed by a fire. Again, they never thought of quitting. After a year of living away from the farm, as they designed and rebuilt their home, they moved back to a magnificent farmhouse that now included a full commercial kitchen.
Together this mother-and-daughter team founded the first Utah Farm & Food Conference and their sister organization, Red Acre Center. They continue to advocate and to grow and raise food that sustains their land, their community, and their souls. Red Acre farm has become a year-round source for local good food, a place to visit and gather for events, and a peaceful place to commune with the sun and the soil.
Sara Geraldine, named after two of her great-grandmas who were “the farmers' wives,” will be the first to say "my story became our story." The story of a young woman who proudly calls herself a farmer is the story of a family, a mom, a community, and so much more that continues to be told.