Tyler Montague did not grow up on a farm. He didn’t even realize the importance of good food until his college days. But something about growing food and agriculture got his attention, so much so that four years ago he began his business, Keep It Real Vegetables. Tyler is now a successful, full-time urban farmer who sells his organic produce to many of the high-end local restaurants in Salt Lake.
“After taking some agriculture classes I realized that I really liked the work of gardening and growing food,” Tyler said. “I began working with a friend of mine on his garlic farm in Eden and it slowly evolved into me growing my own garden and produce, which eventually turned into more and more gardens in the city.”
Currently, Tyler and his partner Holiday Dalgleish are farming a total of two acres in 10 different locations around the Sugar House area. Those gardens produce rare and heirloom vegetables grown in all-organic soil that Tyler and Holiday enrich with large quantities of ‘compost, compost teas, cover crops, and organic amendments until the soil is sweet enough to deliver the flavor they are looking for. It is not a coincidence that one of the products he is best known for is his garlic.
“Luckily I feel like in Salt Lake there are areas in the city that still have small pockets of land that are available that people want to see something cool happen with,” Tyler said. “I pay for water and give the landowners vegetables in exchange for using their land. I try and find people who want to see something like this happen on their land, who aren’t already using the land in a constructive way.”
Tyler says that the ability to stay in one place is one of the biggest challenges he faces in this type of farming. He works at keeping his relationships with the landlords strong so that he does not have to go elsewhere. Winter months are slower, but Tyler has begun to sell winter carrots to keep generating income from his gardens during those months.
Onions, shallots, beets, oh my!… Keeping it Real Vegetables grows 30-40 different crops. Diversity is important not only to the health of the land, but also to the business. Tyler and Holiday focus great care and detail on each of their plants to produce the best quality output possible.
“Being an urban farmer allows us to touch our plants by hand every day,” said Tyler. “We also don’t exploit labor to harvest large crops. We have tried to figure out what kind of scale is small enough that we can make a living but also be fair to ourselves and our laborers in terms of what we are getting paid.”