Sustainable farmer partners with Marriott-Slaterville in community growing venture
MARRIOTT SLATERVILLE — Anne Sampson Dunaway’s journey through adulthood has been characterized by hardship, grit and a desire to serve, not unlike a seed pushing up through the earth to flourish and nourish others.
Friends and family call her Annie — and almost everyone in her orbit tends to end up in one of those two categories, even if they began as co-workers.
Now 43 with two teenage children, Dunaway recalled her rocky launch to independence more than a decade ago: “I fled an abusive marriage and started raising these two babies with nothing.”
For years, she worked as the director for corporate giving for the United Way of Salt Lake, which often meant putting in 60 hours per week raising funds to help lift children out of intergenerational poverty — while other people were raising her own offspring.
“I’d already fought poverty once,” Dunaway said. “I didn’t forget those lessons.”
While she had no sure path to success, Dunaway plowed ahead, leaving the security of her United Way position to become an entrepreneur and a larger presence in her children’s lives.
“I decided to downsize everything,” from housing to transportation, Dunaway said. “And I started this business out of the garage of my tiny townhouse.”
That was 2018 when Dunaway discovered that microgreens could flourish on wire shelves in her garage — and 2019 proved to be a banner year for her budding business.
“Ogden does what it does and they supported a small local business,” Dunaway said. “I can’t be luckier to live here among these people.”
But 2020 ushered in COVID-19, which put a huge dent in Dunaway’s sales that were formerly fueled by local restaurants suddenly forced to cut back hours or shut down altogether.
In a week’s time, Dunaway said her income dropped from thousands of dollars per week to less than $100.
However, as some doors shut, another window of opportunity opened: Annie’s neighbors came knocking, eager to buy her microgreens when fresh food in grocery shelves grew scarce.
And since that time, Dunaway found new ways to branch out — diving into a municipal partnership that seemed tailor-made for someone with her drive and vision.
Open space: Love it or lose it
The western Weber County city of Marriott-Slaterville, with a current population of about 2,300 people, first incorporated in 1999.
At that time, Utah lawmakers designated the city’s land mass (about 7.3 square miles) as an open-space community. Bill Morris, who serves as both city administrator and attorney for Marriott-Slaterville, said they adopted land use designs that would capitalize on that requirement.
“All of our subdivisions are built with different conservation concepts,” Morris said, such as a tree nursery, city park or small urban farm. He explained that one-third of Marriott Slaterville sits in a floodplain and should not be developed into housing.
Those parameters called for homes clustered together on smaller lots, while flood-prone land gets set aside as open space. As the city builds out, trail systems will connect each subdivision to create a cohesive, walkable community.
Developing a brand
By 2018, Doug Larsen had resigned his economic development post with Weber County and began providing those services to Marriott-Slaterville.
As he and Morris brainstormed the best way for the young, ag-friendly city to utilize its native assets, their Farm 2 Family concept began to take root.
“We had this vision, and we came up with a logo,” Larsen said, crediting the city for already setting swaths of land for open space.
“But again, it was just a vision, just a conversation,” Larsen said. “We needed the person to drive that vision.”
In 2021, Dunaway and Marriott-Slaterville crossed paths, and Larsen believes the timing could not have been more perfect.
“It was kind of like the universe connected Annie to the city and the city to Annie,” Larsen said, “and with her experience in farming and sustainable practices, it was just a perfect fit.”
Now, Dunaway enjoys the volunteer title of agricultural coordinator for the city, providing services that Morris deems highly valuable
“She knows what she’s doing, she’s networked in with the farm programs across Northern Utah, and she’s smart and ambitious,” Morris said.
Feeding the hungry
In addition to growing microgreens indoors, Dunaway expanded into outdoor farming with 36 of Marriott-Slaterville’s land trust acres, five that she farms herself. She oversees other small farmers who farm the remaining portions.
Using a $380,000 grant she obtained from the Utah Department of Health & Human Services, Dunaway said she’s been able to fund a dozen small urban farmers who have been growing food to sell to farmers markets and also to distribute to those in need.
Four organizations receive that charitable bounty: YCC (for emergency care), Mustard Seed Faith Food Pantry (for households with kitchens), Utah Neighborhood Connection (for junior high students learning to eat healthy) and Marriott-Slaterville Seniors (for seniors who don’t live near a grocery store and lack transportation).
“Over the last six months, we’ve been donating approximately 800 pounds per week,” Dunaway said during an October interview. “And we have another 18 months to go (with the grant).”
In addition to fresh produce, Dunaway said she also works with a creamery and bread maker as part of the venture.
The grant funding also allowed Dunaway to hire a small delivery company to distribute the food.
Dunaway is now in the process of finalizing a real estate purchase in a low-income Ogden neighborhood where she can open a grocery store and also have prep space to make freeze-dried soup mixes, smoothie powders and ready-to-heat meal kits.
More information about Dunaway’s ventures can be found at urbanprairieag.com. And on Dec. 17 she said she expects to go live selling online local goods at Urbanprairieag.com/shop.
“We just got 40 more acres into a land trust … so starting next spring, I’ll need a bunch of new farmers,” Dunaway said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to evolve.”