Pursuit of the Mountain Life: Farming in Teton Valley with Cosmic Apple Gardens

By Stio Mountain on

Locals We Love: A Series

From their outdoor activities to their professional means, these locals are fueled by their passion of pursuit and place. It's not always easy living in a mountain town, but from powder mornings to post-work projects, it’s this shared love that creates a community and connects us all. Through drive, sacrifice and creative determination, these locals have chosen passion first. This season, we bring you their stories - stories that continue to inspire us in our ever-evolving pursuit of the mountain life.

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Cosmic Apple Gardens

Located on the western edge of the Tetons, where irrigation water is gravity fed by snowmelt and the wind deposits rich, loamy soil, is a 30 acre farm called Cosmic Apple Gardens. It was founded in 1996 by Jed Restuccia, a passionate fisherman and skier who was making it in the Tetons as a cook. Inspired to grow better basil for his restaurant than what he saw trucked in each week, he started to experiment in a greenhouse attached to his rental home in Driggs, Idaho. His small-scale operation quickly blossomed beyond basil into what is now a diversified farm with a dense landscape of thriving veggies, herbs and berries amongst which cows, pigs, laying hens, one farm dog, and two cats roam the property. Together with his wife, Dale Sharkey they seek to grow the best food possible for the people of the Tetons.

Sustainability is at the root of Cosmic Apple’s mission. From the process to the people, “Everything we do on the farm is done with the best intentions for the Earth and humanity,” says Dale. The micro-ecosystem they’ve built keeps their operations at net zero. The resident animals and food waste fuel compost packed with nutrients that goes back into the soil from which the food came. The farm keeps the employees and volunteers well fed at work so they can focus on feeding the community. And all of the food harvested on the farm is sold locally through three area farmers markets and two CSAs in the valley. On top of all of this, Jed and Dale raise their three children on the farm, where they learn the seasonal rhythms of the earth.

We asked Dale about her vision for Cosmic Apple and she explained, “We want to create positive change in this world.” For Cosmic Apple, this starts with the soil and carries through to the people working in it. The soil is treated, “as a living and breathing being,” and when the soil is well cared for it translates to the quality of the vegetables. The hope is that this fuel, so carefully prepared, can generate energy and stamina for people to live fully -- and so the process goes. And like their name suggests, the wonder of all is in its simplicity.

Cosmic Apple Gardens By The Numbers

Feeding A Community:
  • The operation supplies 230 shares per week
  • Each share feeds 4 people
  • 920 individuals = total number fed each week
  • 3% of Valley = percent of population fed by Cosmic Apple
  • On top of this, their food is distributed in 3 markets per week
The People:
  • The operation supplies 230 shares per week
  • 15 full time employees
  • 31 volunteers give 5 hours per week for 6 months in exchange for a weekly share
  • 1 tomato queen tents to 3 tomato gardens

A Quick Q&A With Dale Sharkey:

What’s it like farming at the base of the Tetons?

Humbling. Last year 2018, the farm frosted on July 4th. I'm writing this on June 8th of 2019 and it's snowing, and suppose to hit 28 degrees. The short season means less pests and we don't have any mold issues compared to warmer climates.

Can people visit Cosmic Apple Gardens? 

Yes. At our annual plant sales the last two Saturdays of May or contact Full Circle Education to set up a tour. This way we can keep farming, and you can get a tour!

How does Cosmic Apple practice sustainability, or what is the farm doing to be sustainable?

Our soil is cared for with Biodynamic Preparations and compost from our animals. Our job is to build soil microbes to keep the soil alive and rich. Healthy soil sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. We take care of our employees and volunteers. They feed our community and we feed them. We treat them all as best as we can and we pay them as much as we can. Financially we charge what we need to charge to sell our produce. We need to make a living or the farm will not work. (Never ask a farmer to lower their prices if you can afford the produce.) We also donate veggies to local food banks to help others out financially.

What is it like raising your family around the farm?

Magical, dreamlike and but like all things worth anything, a challenge. I love how my kids play with the critters and are exposed to some of the most amazing humans on earth via the farm. They are outside and always have the option of being with us since we homeschool. It is challenging when the to do list is long, and they are over it. Or when the weather is bad and I have a crew to feed. They wish we could travel more. I hope the connection to this special place they have as children will transcend that feeling when they are older and free to travel on their own. I think they are growing up feeling very rooted to a place and very aware of the seasonal rhythms of the earth. They each love the farm and it is fascinating to watch what interests each of them. Some days they curse it and I wish we could just stay home and drink tea together on the couch. Other days they love it and tell each other why it is awesome if one of them is not into it. My daughter thanked me for having a farm this spring! ...but she still gets mad since we don't have horses. I look forward to hearing their opinions on it all when they are in their 30's! So like all things with kids...sometimes it's really awesome, and sometimes it's only awesome!

To Learn More About Cosmic Apple Gardens, visit their website at www.cosmicapple.com

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