For the last five years, small-scale organic farmer Erich Schultz has operated The Farm at Agritopia, which serves as the centerpiece for the Agritopia planned community in Gilbert. If you've picked up produce from the farm stand or purchased a share in the farm's CSA, then you might have met Schultz, who's been leasing the land on which the farm sits. And if you've eaten at Valley restaurants such as Crêpe Bar, FnB, Virtú, and Okra, then you may have eaten some of the produce Schultz has grown.
Within the next few weeks, however, Schultz is making a big move — in fact, he's moving the whole operation, which operates under the name Steadfast Farm, to a new home in Queen Creek.
"Everything is starting over," Schultz says.
The new Steadfast Farm will be located in a considerably less high-profile location than The Farm at Agritopia. The two-acre property is located on Schnepf Farms property. Schultz will also help with the u-pick gardens. He plans to have the farm certified as USDA organic and hopes to be able to continue the Steadfast Farm CSA by the fall growing season.
Schultz, a vocal proponent for small-scale farming practices, says the move will be a chance to put some of his ideas — and ideas he's picked up from other small-scale farmers all over the country — into practice. He'll be building what he calls a "farm in a box," which consists of small, portable buildings like a barn, chicken coop, and greenhouse that will be designed to be capable of being picked up and moved to a new location with little difficulty.
The portability of the structures are meant to appeal to farmers who have to lease land rather than buy it and therefore may need to relocate at a later point. Putting substantial financial investments into constructing permanent buildings on leased land can be a huge deterrent to young or small-scale farmers that don't have the capability or capital to invest in land.
Still, portable barns cost money, so to help with the costs, Schultz is organizing a "Barnraiser Dinner" featuring food from some of the top Valley chefs who use Steadfast Farms produce in their restaurants. The fundraiser will be held on Monday, July 18, at Schnepf Farms Big Red Barn (don't worry, it's air conditioned) and will feature chefs including:
Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar
Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco, Pane Bianco, and Tratto
Gio Osso of Virtu and Nico
Brian Archibald of The Boulders Resort
Charleen Badman of FnB
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Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert will provide the beer, while Dos Cabezas WineWorks handles the wine. Tickets cost $150 per person for the multi-course, family-style dinner.
For more information, check the Steadfast Farm website.
Editor's Note: this post has been changed from its original version. The list of chefs for the "Barnraiser Dinner" has not yet been confirmed. Names may be added as additional participants confirm.