Local ‘artisanal’ farmer raises garlic, keeps bees
March 4, 2016
Britte Kirsch calls herself a bee guardian. She and her husband, Stewart, own and operate Red Fox Farm, a diminutive spread in Snyderville Basin, where she looks after her winged honey makers.
It may seem strange that this former marine biologist ended up high and dry in Park City, keeping bees and chickens and raising seven different strains of garlic on their four-and-a-half acres. "It’s really simple," explains Kirsch. "I’m doing it because I can, that’s all. I always wanted bees. My brother was a bee keeper back in Maine and I thought it would be fun to try in Park City. When we bought this farm in 2010 we knew we wanted to do something with it, so we became artisanal farmers."
Kirsch grew up in upstate New York and, not surprisingly, fell in love with the Atlantic Ocean as a kid. "Jacques Cousteau was my superhero," she says. She switched oceans after high school when she traveled to the west coast to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara. Again not surprisingly, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. "I loved all the biology labs; we studied tide pools, ecosystems and the land-water interface. I also loved organic chemistry, which might be why I love to bake bread," she laughs.
She met Stewart at UC Santa Barbara, where he was studying for his Ph.D. in Oceanography. After college, they found themselves working together for the next two years at the bottom of the world. "We were on the same research team studying krill, a small crustacean, at Palmer Station in Antarctica. It was great because we became best friends down there," says Kirsch. After returning to Santa Barbara, they dated for eight years before marrying.
After many years living in both Santa Barbara and Jupiter, Florida, they moved to Park City in 2001. "For one reason — we loved the mountain biking here," says Kirsch. Avid cyclists, skiers, hikers and kayakers, they quickly fell in love with the town. They lived in Old Town for several years before buying their suburban farm in the Basin.
day, Kirsch is a regional coordinator in the Salt Lake office of the National Parks Conservation Association, a national nonprofit organization that works to "preserve and protect America’s national parks for future generations." She manages outreach programs, handles the budget and responds to inquiries about the national parks in the southwestern U.S. "We’ve really been busy this year during the National Park Service centennial. My boss calls me the Swiss Army knife of the office," she says with a grin.
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Kirsch has always been drawn to volunteer and nonprofit work. Locally, she’s been a volunteer with Recycle Utah and with KPCW as a DJ. She says she loves her job at NPCA. "Nonprofit work gives me an opportunity to do something important. I feel good about the work that I do," she says.
Her first love remains Red Fox Farm, where she and Stewart are busily preparing for the upcoming garlic growing, harvesting and honey production season. Kirsch answers the obvious question: "Of course I get stung all the time, usually when I do something wrong. If you get uptight, you get stung. I usually swell up some but mostly I feel bad for the bees because they die after they sting. It’s not usually a problem but once I got stung above the eye just before we were getting ready for a dinner party. We ended up not going because we were worried people would think Stewart walloped me," she laughs.
They sell their organically grown hardneck garlic and raw, organic honey throughout the summer and fall at the farmers’ markets in Park City and Salt Lake City. Stewart also makes and sells elegant, custom beehives. "We’re really not in it for the money, it’s just fun," says Kirsch. We only sell about 50 pounds of honey a year because we leave most of it for the bees. We get a lot of satisfaction knowing they’re ‘happy’ and out there pollinating; I just want our bees to be bees."
To learn more about Red Fox Farm, contact them at email@example.com .
Favorite activities: mountain and road biking, downhill and cross country skiing, hiking, swimming, kayaking, traveling to national parks.
Favorite foods: sushi, fresh baked artisanal bread, my vine grown tomatoes
Favorite music/performers: jazz/Chris Botti, David Sanborn
Bucket list: visit Glacier National Park (hopefully this spring); a "foodie crawl" across northern Japan; scuba diving Palau in the South Pacific before all the coral reefs are gone.
Animal companions: two cats, Chirp and Dexter Morgan, and eleven chickens (more to come)
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