Orem farmer petitions to save land from development

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Wilkerson Farm office manager, Rachel Wilkerson holds a chicken that lives on the farm. The Wilkerson's are trying to save the farm from being annexed by the city of Orem. (Rachel Wilkerson)
Wilkerson Farm office manager, Rachel Wilkerson holds a chicken that lives on the farm. The Wilkerson’s are trying to save the farm from being annexed by the city of Orem. (Rachel Wilkerson)

Orem City is working to turn farmland in Orem into a housing development, a move meeting with resistance.

The city is taking the land, currently called the Wilkerson Farm, because of a resident-fueled petition, said Jason Bench, city planning manager. These landowners started the petition hoping the city would annex the land from the 100-year-old farm and develop it into infrastructure for housing, including sewer lines and water pipes.  Although this would be a benefit for some, other property owners would like to see the city continue using the land for irrigation purposes, which is why the Wilkersons have started a separate petition to fight back.

The owner of Wilkerson farm, Richard Wilkerson, wants to keep one of the last rural part of the city from becoming a development. The petition began Sept. 5 and has reached only 235 signatures; it needs a total of 10,000. If the petition receives the signatures needed, the land will be used for irrigation and agricultural purposes instead of housing developments.

Wilkerson aims to keep the farm alive so Orem residents can enjoy its organic produce. Residents can pick produce up from a stand in the middle of the farm.

“One benefit is that the locals are getting fresher and local food that is grown in this area; that adds in protection. Should the trucks stop delivering to the grocery stores, we would still have a place to feed Orem’s citizens,” said Rachel Wilkerson, office manager at Wilkerson Farm.

Organic peaches grown on Wilkerson farm in Orem. Wilkerson is trying to save the farm from being annexed by the city of Orem. (Rachel Wilkerson)
Organic peaches grown on Wilkerson farm in Orem. Wilkerson is trying to save the farm from being annexed by the city of Orem. (Rachel Wilkerson)

Wilkerson Farm could provide a sense of protection to Orem residents. Natural disasters, wars and bad weather can leave people stranded without trucked-in food. A farm supplies residents with a food cushion when a city comes face to face with disasters.

“Honestly, I think every city should have a backup plan, and I could see why the farm could be a good one; but mostly it makes me feel better about what I’m eating when I know where it comes from,” said Marcus Ko, an economics major who frequents farmers markets.

Richard Wilkerson strives to keep the farm not only from a business standpoint but because he believes the farm does great things for the city of Orem. He said farmers markets stimulate business.

Information from www.sba.gov seems to support Richard Wilkerson’s claims. According to the website, small businesses — in this case, a farm — are the building blocks of economic growth. They pave the way for larger businesses to open, and they create about 60–80 percent of all new jobs.

“We create jobs every year. I hire about 15 people to work on the farm with me, especially during harvesting season,” Richard Wilkerson said.

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