Sunday, October 19, 2014

Did you know we have a community garden?

            The idea for the Community Garden was brought to life by its founder Pete Conover, who, in 2013, won a $500 scholarship to Snow College. He used these funds to get the project started.
 “I grew up here in Sanpete County in the 70s and 80s and we always had chickens, pigs, cows and fresh vegetables from the garden.  I didn't realize how lucky I was until I moved away because everywhere else that type of food is 'organic' or 'natural', and expensive.  We were cash poor but food and nutrition rich.  I would like that to be every child's legacy here in Sanpete; healthful, nutritious food that is readily available to them.  I think it's odd that we buy so much of our food from the store, where it is shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away using industrial chemicals, irradiation and preservatives to get it here, when we have all of this farmland at our disposal.  I'd like to help change that.”
                Pete aims to educate people on gardening, and to provide for many in the community, and anyone can volunteer or join in with the fun! To get involved, you can adopt a 4x12 plot, or volunteer 2 hours of labor to the garden. This will provide you with water, seeds, and access to tools.  You can also accrue hours working in the garden which you can cash in for veggies at harvest time. The garden also has multi-family plots where you can work with other families. Each family works one day a week in the garden to to maintain it, and then the harvest is shared among the families. The garden also has a local farmers market, so if you are strapped for time, you can still have access to the local bounty, and purchase veggies there. Even if you don’t need a garden plot yourself, but you’d like to help there is always room for you to donate or volunteer!
                The garden takes year round effort, and even today, they are getting ready to start the plan for next year! The plans so far include the completion of a green house, the planting of a ‘food forrest’ (A free area that everyone has access to), the creation of a multi-family garden area, and the planting of quinoa. Pete would also like to have a permanent farmers market store established along with a community kitchen. The Kitchen is for helping people start up their own cottage industry food business, such as canning, baking, and cooking.
                USU has generously provided a grant to buy equipment and will be providing classes on nutrition and cooking at the store house and the Co-Op, and the Ephraim Co-Op is providing their commercial grade kitchen for use. The kitchen will give an opportunity to many who’s kitchens may not pass inspection, or for those who do not have access to the equipment. It fits in perfectly with the Garden’s mission of making local, nutritious food easily accessible to everyone. Details for the classes will be posted to the Facebook Page once they are available!
             The garden also hosted their first annyual Harvest Party here at Ephraim Square. It was quite the vent with locals bringing fresh produce for sale, and a dinner was offered. I have a few pictures of the Party Below!
             For anyone seeking more information about the community garden, there is a Facebook page dedicated to the project! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Welcome to the Ephraim Co-Op!

When You Shop... Think "Co-Op!"

Our Mission
To provide a place for local craftsmen and artists to share what they do in a cooperative environment, and to provide a place for people to find unique handmade gift items.

Company Overview
History of the Ephraim Co-op and the Sanpete Trade Association

The following is a story of miracles. Too numerous and often too personal for all to be included in this narrative, the few presented in this brief history of the modern-day Co-op are undeniable testaments to the fact that the Sanpete Trade Association, and the people and organizations involved leading up to its creation in the history of this old ZCMI Co-op building, make this current day business much, much more than just an ordinary store that can easily be dispatched with little thought and little remorse. To lose this business and the building that is custom- tailored to its existence would be an immeasurable loss not only to Ephraim City, but to Sanpete County, Utah and any who travel to this area. It is so much more than just a store, and the building is so much more than just a wonderful old structure that would be nice for anyone to own. The Co-op is an idea. It is literally the preservation and embodiment of the early Mormon pioneer history of the west. If it is lost to this community and the community at large, it will be a tremendous loss that once gone could not be restored again. The College does not need the Co-op to survive or even be successful, but STA needs the building to exist, and citizens need both STA and the building together to appreciate the heritage of this area and benefit from the economic part they play. A brief history of the miracle of their existence is as follows.

Beginning History of the Co-op

In 1869 the railroad came to Utah. In order to assist the Saints to become self-sufficient and not have to rely on "Gentile" markets that the railroad brought in, LDS Church leaders formed the Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI). Under this system, the parent company in Salt Lake City would order all merchandise and send it to the more than 100 area-owned Cooperative Mercantile Associations in the Utah Territory. These stores took in farm produce, hand-crafted items, products of home industry, and all manner of goods to be sold or exchanged for needed materials by the local pioneers. Metal ZCMI coins sometimes called "tin money" were also occasionally used.

A unique Greek- Revival style two story building was erected to house Ephraim’s Mercantile Institution in 1872, reflecting the great love the pioneers had for this concept. While most of them lived in small adobe houses, citizens of Ephraim lovingly constructed this imposing building. Painted on the front, and reproduced authentically today, were the words "Holiness to the Lord" arched over the All-Seeing Eye of Jehovah. A Beehive was also painted to symbolize the theme of "industry" adopted by the Utah Territory.

With merchandise from the parent ZCMI company in Salt Lake City, many items became available for the first time, including store-bought shoes and lace. A post office also shared the first floor. In the early years, an outside open staircase led upstairs to "Society Hall." This was the meeting place for the Relief Society, the Mormon women’s auxiliary organization. It was an ideal place for city meetings, dances, receptions, and the local drama organization. C.C.A. Christensen’s famous panoramic paintings of the Mormon Church’s history were also shown here.

It was in this large upstairs room that the first Snow College classes were held. Known as the Sanpete Academy, this was the home of the college from 1888 to 1904, when a permanent campus was built one block east of the Co-op.

Eventually the co-operative order collapsed, mostly due to unpaid bills that the poor Saints could not repay, and the building changed ownership many times. From 1883 to 1969 legal documents show at least one dozen owners, from general store merchants, to a farm implement store, to an auto garage, to a milling company, which used this beautiful building for grain storage.

Recent History

The Closing of the Sperry Plant and the Formation of the Sanpete Trade Association

The early 1980's were good economic times for Sanpete County. Sperry Univac opened a computer assembly plant in Ephraim that ran three eight-hour shifts, literally around the clock. Wages were excellent and, even more importantly, benefits were good. New businesses were started and even a strip mall was built on the north end of the city with shops that sold such things as clothing and expensive jewelry. In fact, The Pant House had as good a selection of the latest fads in clothing as any store in Provo. However, in 1986 Sperry Univac hit hard times. Taken over in a hostile merger, it closed up shop and left Sanpete County reeling. The closure of Geneva Steel in Utah County and the Kennecott Copper mine for a while in Salt Lake County did not cause nearly the hardship in those places as the closing of Sperry Univac caused in Sanpete County, although the impact of their closings dominated Utah news for a long time.

Many people were forced to leave the county to find employment, but many more, women especially, could not just pick up and go. Times became rather desperate. But there were those who were plucky and looked for ways to better their lot. Joy Merriam from Manti was one of those people. She got in touch with the state and national senators and congressmen and was able to have them secure two grants (TRA and TAA) that would pay people who were displaced from their jobs to go back to school. As a result, eighty-nine women and one man enrolled at Snow College. The school was not equipped to handle such a large influx, and hired Sandra Lanier at $5 per hour to be their advisor, teach some classes, and generally shepherd these non-traditional students through to graduation.

These were truly first generation college students. Many of their parents had only completed school through the ninth grade, and they themselves had never imagined that they would ever be college students, even though a college stood in their midst. It was foreign territory to them, but they were determined to succeed. They organized a club - the Second Time Around club, or STA to remind them to "STAy" in school. They banded together and supported each other. They truly listened to their advisor and opened their hearts to gain everything they could from this experience. The fact that unemployment was extended and they could keep roofs over their heads and food on the table was also a big motivator. But the most remarkable thing they accomplished could never be measured by a grade or statistic. They discovered they were intelligent, worthwhile human beings and their self esteem grew as they earned better and better grades. However, there were some casualties. There were husbands who watched their spouses change more than they wanted them to, and gave the ultimatum: quit school or get divorced. Tearfully some left, but many made it. Their story was so remarkable that a study made by their advisor of their achievements, such as ending up with higher grade point averages and greater retention rates the traditional-age students, was accepted to be presented in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the National Council for Educational Opportunities in America (NCEOA) in 1989.

But for all of their efforts, at the end of the day there were still no jobs in Sanpete County for them to be hired into when they received their degrees and were ready to re-join the work force. Long discussions were held by the STA officers and their advisor. And this is where the miracles began. With their new insights, they knew that in difficult economic times people with money were not looking for a place to invest in where people cried the blues and waited to be rescued. Neither would they be attracted to a place where the very center of town contained a run-down old building with bricked windows, weed infested grounds, and a plentiful supply of rats. If they were to have a good economic future, they would have to use their education and get busy and create their own.

They looked at the strengths of the valley and realized they were sitting on an undiscovered gold mine with the following rich "veins" of treasure: 1) The valley was rich with artists, crafters, and musicians. People created beautiful hand-crated items all the time and had maintained the skills of their pioneer heritage. Music literally rang from mountain to mountain from the college, and every high school and junior high school had its own marching band. 2) It was a historical treasure trove where the pioneer plan of towns along stream beds (replete with deep lots where old barns weathered behind nicely kept homes) with the fields surrounding the towns were still intact and not covered over with asphalt and cement. Also, unlike other places, there was not built up a single "major city"of the area with other towns becoming smaller satellites, but each town still maintained its identity of being settled by the Welsh or the Danish or the English. These towns had beautiful old buildings that could become beds and breakfasts and restaurants featuring old west or Danish or turkey cuisine. This was the authentic Mormon Pioneer feel that could not be found anywhere else in the state. 3) There was a pioneer Temple and an annual Mormon Miracle pageant that drew tens of thousands of people to the area once a year. 4) There was a college, one of the oldest west of the Mississippi River, where people could hone their skills and enlarge their understanding. 5) There was a natural beauty of the area that included one of the longest, highest scenic highways in the nation, and an abandoned railroad line that had the potential to become a narrow state park (as abandoned RR lines in other states had become), where there could be biking opportunities in the summer, including along the Skyline trail for the advanced bikers and on the RR line for those who were looking for less strenuous rides. There were also wonderful places to cross-county ski in the winter. There was open land where enterprising land owners could create camps and other opportunities for such things as letting young or disabled children ride horses and learn about farming.

But what could they do with this knowledge? It came one day. They would use the skills they learned working together in the Second Time Around club (STA) and create the Sanpete Trade Association (STA), which would help them STAy in the valley! They would create their own economic future. They began with what they could do first. They would create a business where talented crafters could sell their beautiful hand-made things to supplement their incomes. STA’s mission would be to increase the economic and emotional well being of the citizens of Sanpete County. But how could they do this? Where would this business exist? The obvious answer was the remarkable old Co-op building in the middle of town. It was originally a co-op that was designed to help the people of the valley survive and thrive; it would be the natural place to once again be used for its original purpose.

They would have to find a way to save the potentially "beautiful" old eyesore and get it go back to its original ZCMI idea of "saving" the people in the valley through the cooperative efforts of its citizens. But this was just the beginning of their dream: since these women were from all of Sanpete County, they would make this business a county-wide endeavor and use the old Co-op as a flagship to call the towns and citizens to band together to use the strengths of each city to create a place where people could come and really see the old Mormon Pioneer heritage. They hoped this building would open the eyes of others in the county to create bed and breakfast hotels, restaurants, camps, etc. and that everyone would work together to form a county-wide co-op like the Moroni Feed Co-op so that they would have the strength in numbers to get insurance, advertising, etc. This valley would become THE best expression of the Mormon Pioneer heritage anywhere and would become a destination heritage vacation paradise. Best of all, it would attract tourists and their money, and then those tourists would leave at the end of their stay and we would still be able to maintain our wonderful, quiet, peaceful lifestyle.

Then they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They researched everything. Indeed, they discovered that places all around the country and world had increased their economic health through destination tourism with only one or two of the same kinds of strengths that we had in abundance in this valley! But how could this be accomplished? Through combining with others who would catch the vision.

The Sanpete Development Company

The first group to partner with STA were members from the Sanpete Development Corporation. This was a group that had been trying to save the old Co-op for twenty years. In 1969 Richard Nibley, a professor of music at Snow College, and his wife Nadine found out that the Bank of Ephraim, which owned the two old pioneer buildings, was planning to raze the historic old Co-op and Relief Society Granary. The Nibley’s had two weeks to raise enough money to buy the buildings and save them! This was the beginning of the first miracle. They got in touch with relatives (including High Nibley), people whose ancestry would make them vested in saving the buildings (including descendants as far away as North Carolina of Antone H. Lund who was the first president of the ZCMI-like co-op in Ephraim and eventually an Apostle in the LDS church), and other people with money in the area (including a Purcell from Manti who gave them $500).They formed a legitimate business, the Sanpete Development Corporation (SDC), and sold stocks. Miraculously they gained enough money to buy the buildings from the bank within two weeks. However, they had to come up with $700 a month to pay the mortgage.

Then, in another miracle, two business partners from California, Orson Lauretzen and Don Montgomery, moved to the Mt. Pleasant/Fairview area, bought the majority of the stock, and took over the mortgage payments. Mrs. Shirley Lauretzen started a Sanpete Theatre group which performed all over the county and donated their proceeds to the saving of the buildings. She and the theatre group also began the first Ephraim Scandinavian Festival in 1976 as a way to earn money for the restoring of the buildings. Weeds were cut down and the buildings were cleaned as much as possible, and the festival was held on the grounds of the co-op. Long hours of work went into the planning. There was a parade, there were school children dressed in costumes who danced, and there were demonstrations of old-style crafts such as spinning, blacksmiting, and lace-making. Folks cooked abbleskivvers over Colman camp stoves along the main street in front of the weedy Co-op yard. Grant money was raised to re-roof the building, which saved it, and have Wallace Cooper draw up architectural plans to remodel the old building into a theater, replete with an up-to-date theatrical stage. But none of these endeavors were enough to completely restore the buildings; its true destiny had not yet been found.

Nadine Nibley and Steve and Kathy Peterson and others from the SDC remained active and hopeful that the buildings would find a new life and joined with the STA group to continue their efforts to save Ephraim’s history. Kathy Peterson, a respected artist, painted a beautiful rendition of the co-op as it appeared in 1872. This painting helped people see the true beauty of the building instead of a run-down granary with bricked up windows and bowed-out walls from too much grain in its bins. Her brother, Dr. Kim Bateman, paid to have prints made as another way to raise money to save the building.

Other Contributors (and miracle workers): USU, Six County Commission, Snow College, National Vernacular Architectural Society

Mary Lois Madsen was USU’s extension agent at this time. When the STA organization contacted her about how to form a new business and create their own economic base, she enthusiastically joined the effort. She used USU’s resources to help create a viable business model and find crafters who would dare pay money to begin a new business.

The Six County Commission also was contacted, and offered wonderful help in the initial planning stages about what the possibilities of what the Store could be and how this could be the beginning of a viable tourist economic upswing. Representatives sat through many planning sessions with STA and provided such things as physical drawings of ideas for how to run the business and restore the building.

Marge Bennion, wife of Steve Bennion, President of Snow College, also was heavily involved in the plan to save the Co-op. In fact, even before the building was saved and completed, she took STA’s idea of bringing tourists into town and began a destination tourist business where buses would bring people from the Wasatch Front to Spring City, Ephraim, and Manti. In each town she would have entertainment as people learned the history of the area, and at the end of the tour she would feed them a famous Sanpete turkey barbeque dinner. Her enterprise showed how popular this area would be as a destination tourist stop.

Another miracle of sorts was that the Vernacular Architectural Society of America, made up of restoration architects, held an annual convention in Salt Lake City. Alan Roberts invited them to see the old Co-op, and they were so impressed with the classic Greek-Revival style and the King’s Post trusses (built like the bottom of a Viking ship), that they gave the STA group its first real money beyond their own to help save the building, $500. While it was a small amount, this group did not give money to anyone as a general rule. They were amazed that such a structure could have been built in a western frontier town made up mostly of Scandinavians!

Max Blaine, past head of the Utah tourism office, visited with the group. He expressed his wish that the business were up and running that very day, as there were 40 busloads of tourists, primarily from Asia and Germany, at Lake Powell who wanted to see the old Mormon part of Utah! He had nowhere to send them.

Ephraim City Becomes a Partner

Meanwhile, STA approached Ephraim City with their idea. None of STA’s members had enough money to buy and renovate the old building, but Ephraim City would be the perfect entity to partner with. A vision and business plan was presented several times to the City Council, and Mayor Robert Warnick was the first to catch the vision. The clincher came when Bob Stoddard, a councilman, realized that the Community Impact Board (CIB), an organization that collects taxes when Utah minerals leave the state, had opened a new category for funding: an economic development window. Ephraim City needed a new fire engine, which is the kind of purchase that the CIB money was designed to help cities get, and he proposed that if a more viable STA business plan could be written, the City would present STA’s idea to the CIB under the Economic Development clause as he asked for a fire engine. Lynn Schiffman from the College’s business department help STA write such a plan. Councilman Stoddard presented Ephraim’s proposal for a new fire engine, and Sandra Lanier presented the proposal for money to renovate the building to house the STA Co-op business. This was a historic first-ever request for economic development to the CIB. Both requests were granted.

Ephraim City continued to work with its citizens and created the Ephraim Square Board, chaired by Bud and Winnona Ericksen. This group of community minded citizens worked long and hard to make sure that the final restored project would be a real asset to the community. Cooper/Roberts was hired as the architectural firm and Craig Poulson from Spring City was the renovation contractor. Mary Lois Madsen procured beautiful large oak antique display cases from the Utah State Fair board and these were placed in the building before it was closed up as they were so large they could not be brought into the building after regular doors were installed.

While many people had been skeptical about restoring the old "eye sores", and even actively set against it, after the buildings were completed, they felt great pride again in the City’s history, and all identified with this beautiful building.

The Birth of the Mormon Miracle Craft Fair and the Home for the Holidays Fair

STA was incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit business whose express purpose was to preserve the pioneer heritage handcrafted arts by giving people who kept these skills alive a place to market them. Started strictly by citizens with a dream, the business had much to learn. Eventually it became clear that it would work best when only the highest quality of crafts would be accepted to be sold at the most reasonable prices to be found anywhere in the world, let alone the area. Also, it became clear that additional funding sources were needed to augment sales during low volume months. This created the birth of the Mormon Miracle Craft Fair, a wonderful service to Pageant visitors and a further venue for selling crafts, and the Home For the Holidays Fair held upstairs in the Academy Social Hall each Thanksgiving Weekend. These funds allowed the business to buy tables, chairs, and curtains for the social hall and eventually a computer system where the store could use bar codes and keep better track of inventory.

The Current Impact of STA

Today the building and business stand as the crown jewel of all the stores along the Mormon Pioneer Heritage Highway. It is the only business that most resembles what it was originally created for along the whole corridor: it literally is a co-op within a co-op whose express purpose is to increase the economic and emotional well being of the citizens of Sanpete - and beyond. It features hand-crated merchandise at exceptional prices and a gathering place for community events such as weddings, receptions, banquets, and meetings. It offers historical walking tours and features historical writings about this area. It is open to the public six days a week, and everyone who comes can visit the upstairs to see the birthplace of the Sanpete Academy, or Snow College. It literally was created by the people and belongs to the people, but not just Sanpeters. Those who visit from other places feel its importance as well. They come back each time they come to the valley. People whose ancestors came from the valley find their way back during the Scandinavian Festival and at other times and revel in their history as they tell their families about this building and this place.

And let us not forget the crafters! They are the original reason why the building was finally able to be restored to its original purpose. This is a place most important to them. It gives them the way to express their talents and creative gifts. But far beyond that, for many it is the extra bit of income needed to keep their families going. In these difficult economic times, somewhat similar to the way it was when the whole idea of the co-op began, it gives them a chance to find that extra bit of money needed that means all the difference to their lives. To lose the Co-op would be to put at least 100 crafters out of business. The comment was made by a college administrator that no one earns their entire livelihood at the Store, but that is not the point. Many people earn a significant part of their livelihood from the Store. When a search for a new manager and cleaning person was made a short while ago, even though the pay is relatively low, many people applied! Every bit of income matters in this economy. With unemployment as high as it is, why would anyone consider taking anything away from these people?

STA’s Plan for a Successful Future

The country is currently in an economic downturn, but this is a normal occurrence in the history of the world. We have weathered these economic storms before, and we intend to weather this one as well. It was during a difficult time that the idea of STA began; this may be the climate for difficult times, but we also feel that it is the climate to breed new and innovative ideas. The STA board, consisting of people from South Jordan, Fountain Green, and Spring City as well as Ephraim, believes that even though times are tough economically, people still need birthday and other special-day presents, baby gifts, toys for children, things to brighten and beautify their homes, books to read, quilts to keep them warm and comforted, old fashioned candy now and then to satisfy a sweet tooth, seasonal decorations, pottery for the kitchen, hand-made bows for hair and clothes for children, and jewelry for that special accent. They also realize that our prices are exceedingly fair and do allow citizens the ability to have special items for reasonable prices. STA is certainly not Walmart, but does offer things at affordable prices that cannot be found in a large box store. However, the Board also recognizes that word must get out to the citizens that the prices are reasonable and the selection of goods is worth seeing. The concern has been the catch 22 position we find ourselves in: we must advertise to let people know what we have, but money for advertising is short.

However, when a group of citizens work together to overcome problems, problems tend to be overcome. While pondering what to do, John Hales from the Sanpete Messenger approached the Board with a novel idea: have the crafters pay $10 more for their yearly membership fees and use that money to begin an advertising campaign. The design has now been created and will begin running in the paper soon. We will use our campaign slogan whenever we can put our name before the public, not just in the paper. Our crafters will put more of an effort to invite their friends and neighbors to see what we have. We will let the students at Snow College know about the exceedingly affordable and beautiful Academy Social Hall for their wedding luncheons and receptions. Plans are being polished to reach out more to the community. Indeed, we are in the middle of creating our new campaign even as word comes that we are in danger of losing our business.

Cut to the Chase

From comments that have been made, it seems that the matter comes down to the City having to pay $30,000 for replacing damaged limestone blocks on the foundation and regular maintenance of the building. It might seem advantageous for the City to get rid of the building and forgo this expense, but at what cost to the citizens and the City? The College is also run by tax dollars. Our tax money will pay for the upkeep of the building regardless of who owns it, only the citizens will lose their access to both the building and the co-op store if the City gives the building up.

The reality is that while the College wants a presence on main to house its alumni center, the College is facing the same tough economic times as the Co-op and the City. The College has just purchased the old Ephraim Elementary school, but does not have the money to fix it up at this time. There is a very long process involved before that building or ground can become usable to the school, including deciding exactly what should be done with the property, going to the Legislature to procure the money to hire architects to create plans for that project, then going to the legislature and vying with all other schools and needs of the citizens of Utah to get funding to carry out that project. Then they must have the funds to maintain whatever is done on that property. Clearly it will remain a vacant building for the foreseeable future.

Also, the College has procured the Crystal Specialties property on the Canyon Road and the Elanore Madsen home for its TBSI department, which they must now maintain as they have stewardship of these places. This is on top of the beautiful and spacious library which has just been completed. All of these buildings must be maintained by college personnel.

Deep and painful cuts have had to be recently made by the college in its key support staff in the Greenwood Student Center, where 12% fewer people in the front trenches as students arrive on campus have had to deal with a 25% increase in students last year and another 10% increase this year. In the Fall Assembly, the President reported that more cuts will come.

Citizens should be asking if gaining one more building, and an old one at that, is appropriate for a this tax-based College to acquire.

Bottom line: STA has been an excellent tenant in the old Co-op. They have kept it occupied (buildings do deteriorate at a much quicker pace when not occupied) and open to citizens. They have created a unique and wonderful co-op by the people and for the people. They have created a place where the public can hold their receptions, banquets and meetings with their own choice of caterers. This non-profit organization has worked to keep the money going back to the crafters and hence to the community as Board members have never taken one dime for their services, but have only spent their own money to keep this business going. Altruism is becoming a scarce commodity in today’s world, but it is the very heart of the Co-op. The City has many people who would gladly help out to keep the building in good shape. This is a remarkable occurrence. You might say it is another Mormon miracle.