Social Soup: Community, Culture and Food

By Eva Grimmer, Sustainability Office

On March 29 from 12-1 p.m. in the Gould Auditorium at Marriott Library, we are excited to welcome Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, the chef-owners of Hell’s Backbone Grill and Farm as keynote speakers in this semester’s Social Soup Lecture. The lecture, Beyond Farm-to-Table: Community, Culture & Food, will focus on the benefits, struggles, and empowering experiences of owning and operating a farm-to-table restaurant.

Rows of growing garlic with a long hoop house in the background

The Hell’s Backbone Grill Farm is located only a few miles from the restaurant

Located in Boulder, Utah, this restaurant truly encompasses the farm-to-table spirit. Much of the produce they serve is harvested from the restaurant’s farm, and they buy grass fed and finished meat from local ranchers. Serving only local, organic, and seasonal foods, their commitments to environmental and social ethics echo throughout their business plan. Additionally, Boulder’s remote location provides an opportunity to engage the community with in sustainable ethics for a more equitable food system.

“The farm-to-table movement is about creating a healthy connection from producer to consumer,” says Alizabeth Potucek, University of Utah’s Edible Campus Garden Manager, “Eating is an amazing opportunity to impact our local economy, community and personal health. Knowing where our food comes from can be rare in our globalized food economy. The Hell’s Backbone restaurant and farm are great examples of creating a culture that supports healthy and sustainable food systems.”

Two cowboy farmers pushing a wheelbarrow around hay

Want to learn what it is like to work on a farm? Volunteer with the Hell’s Backbone framers and earn a free meal.

The Hell’s Backbone farm is located just three miles from the restaurant. Despite many challenges facing the no-kill, organic farm, it produces over 18,000 pounds of produce a year. Instead of chemicals, the farm relies on companion planting and relocation to deter pests. Since the work requires many human labor hours, they have partnered with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) to provide ‘feed for weeds.’ In exchange for working the land, they provide meals and an area to camping. Even our very own Edible Campus Gardens’ stewards and volunteers have made the journey to work their farm and to enjoy the well-earned meal.

Jen Castle and Blake Spalding standing on the red rocks of Boulder, Utah

Jen Castle and Blake Spalding are the visionaries behind Hell’s Backbone Grill, which is located in the picturesque Boulder, Utah

Aside from the restaurant’s many awards and high ratings, the owners and chefs, Blake and Jen are fascinating individuals. Spalding’s background includes activism for Greenpeace, and Buddhist practice. Castle grew up learning to cook mass-quantities of food for her large family and has an extensive background in the restaurant business including food studies abroad. Their backrounds are reflected in and their dishes and their philosophy as restaurateurs. The work is intensive, but rewarding and Spalding and Castle have worked hard since the restaurant was opened in 2000 to create a community around food, health, and justice.

Join us for a great conversation and a vegan meal with two incredibly inspirational and empowering Utah women on March 29 from noon to 1 p.m.

RSVP at Events@CSBS.utah.edu with subject line: Social Soup, and for updates follow our Facebook event page.

Eva Grimmer is a senior at the University of Utah studying Environmental and Sustainability Studies. She is passionate about education through communication and issues linked to sustainability.