Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 4, 2017
Erda group earns Cooper’s pruning praise

Life can be quite an adventure when you are in a community where there are a lot of people that are interested in gardening, having an orchard or vineyard, raising livestock and doing a lot of things for themselves. There are some great conversations and trading of ideas that occurs.

A case in point was the recent pruning demonstration that was held at our home about two months ago. Sponsored by the Master Gardeners, and hosted by my friend Linden Greenhalgh (USU Tooele Extension Agent) and “Yours Truly,” we covered orchard trees, general shrub pruning, small berries and grapes. The response from the community was gratifying. We had somewhere between 40 and 50 attend that day. It was fun, interactive and the weather was great. There were a lot of good conversations and engaged learners. Funny how that works when we are learning something that interests us. And, if one gets to learn in the actual environment where they can see what is needed, and put your hands on the lesson—learning becomes almost effortless.

Even though the event was scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m., there were several lingering conversations. It’s tough to shut off enthusiasm and eagerness simply because the clock’s big hand is pointing straight up. That’s fine with me. One person who hung back was a team member at the 180 Ministries for Girls facility located here in the Tooele Valley. David and I hit it off right away as he described what he and others at the facility have been tackling to get the property into shape and producing.

A few years back, Teen Challenge of the Rocky Mountains acquired a rural Tooele Valley property complete with a large greenhouse, extensive apple orchard, gardens, and landscaped grounds. 180 Ministries is the name of the programs that are in place to help people find their way out of destructive substance abuse and relationship problems. As a faith-based organization, they combine spiritual disciplines and Biblical teaching, coaching, mentoring, accountability and hands-on living. That last one includes taking on responsibilities inside the household, as well as outside grounds, gardening, animal husbandry, and orchard care.

I think “180 Ministries” is an especially descriptive name for the organization. They are all about turning lives in the opposite direction from self-destruction.

They have both adult and teen programs, with an adult men’s facility in the Denver, Colorado area, and a teen girl’s facility in our valley. We’ve seen firsthand the important and impactful work that they do.

That brings me to my day in the apple orchard. 180 Ministries’ main focus is working directly with people. When they acquired the property, with its sizable apple orchard, there was a “pert-near” vertical learning curve on how to care for an orchard. Anyone that has done so knows it’s a bit more complex than meets the eye. Not only must pruning be done at least every year, but trees need ongoing sprays during the fruiting season to control pests. The codling moth is the most damaging.

It doesn’t end there. To get good production, it’s a recommended practice to thin fruit. Borers need to be controlled if there is damage to the trunks. Many of their trees have suffered southwest winter injury, which has allowed flathead borers to infest some of the trees. Orchards need fertilization, and the orchard floor needs to be maintained and mowed. Trunks need to be protected from further damage. And, did I mention that the irrigation system needs to be serviced frequently and a watering schedule adhered to?

Enter David, my new friend I met at the pruning demo at my house. You see, David is a graduate of the Men’s Program in Denver. He’s got a lot to be grateful for, and knows what he’s been saved from. So, it’s his pleasure to invest his time and talent in getting the orchard put back into condition, as well as having the greenhouse be the “birthplace” of many-a-veggie start this season. The grounds around the house and the front yard show the positive impacts of his efforts. He’s fiercely protective of the young women in the program, and is dedicated to being a positive role model to them.

So, when David informed me, several Saturdays back, that he had a team of volunteers there to work over the weekend pruning the orchard, I headed on over, not quite knowing what to expect.

My expectations were far too low.

What I found was a group of seven young guys and other staff members that were eager to work hard, learn, take direction readily and stay on task until the job was done. As it turned out, most of them knew David as a mentor from when he had gone through the program in Colorado. David came to our area several months back to take on the buildings and grounds maintenance at the local 180 Ministries facility. During my time working with the Denver team, it was evident there was a lot of respect for David and what he accomplished in completing the program.

So, we worked hard, sweat a lot, enjoyed getting a great deal of work done, as well as sitting down to share a brief lunch together. It was a great experience to exchange the stories of our lives and our aspirations.

Early afternoon, the young women in the facility came to the other end of the orchard to start hauling away all the trimmings and put them in a pile for chipping later. Mind you, there were some sizable branches because it’s been a while since the trees had been pruned. No mind – those girls, who labored that day, in lieu of their PE (physical education) class, did some really hard work and got that orchard cleared out.

The whole process was a sight to behold. Yes, the work was hard (those guys about ran me into the ground). But the reward of a job well done was worth it. You could see it in the faces of all who participated. In the seasons that follow, under the able leadership of program directors, Greg and Kelly Preston, the Team at 180 Ministries will become proficient at the many facets of apple production. Greg and Kelly are doing marvelous work and are fearless when it comes to learning new things. After all, they are in the business of cultivating lives. It seems to me it’s not so big a leap to also cultivate apples!

Lastly, I want to give you a follow-up report on Arbor Day celebrations in Tooele and Grantsville. Barbara Barlow always puts on a great event, and this year was no exception. It was fun to meet people from the community and former Tooele City Mayor Charlie Roberts. He’s a delightful guy and it was enjoyable to hear some memories of his time in office. Thanks to all that made that event happen.

And, my friend Gary Fawson let me know that the Grantsville Street Trees program hit an all-time high this year. A great many Grantsville residents were timely in getting their street trees orders in —ordering a whopping 315 trees! Add to that 12 trees that are being placed in the Grantsville High School Arboretum, eight trees that were awarded to the Fifth Grade Poster Contest Winners, and the generous Cargill Salt grant of 180 trees for the cemetery! That means that a total of 515 trees will be added to the urban and suburban forest canopy of Grantsville.

I got to meet several Grantsville citizens last Friday when I took part in the truck offload of trees as well as the pick-up of orders. There were some great looking trees and a lot of enthusiastic people looking forward to adding them to their street fronts and yards. As an extra treat, my fellow Master Gardeners, Ron Haycock and Gary Fawson, took me over to meet Mayor Brent Marshall. We had a delightful conversation and I took the opportunity to thank him, and the City Council, for their support of this important program. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, “You Grow, Grantsville!” Well done.

Jay Cooper can be contacted at, or you can visit his channel at for videos on the hands-on life of gardening, shop and home skills, culinary arts and landscaping.

Jay Cooper

Garden Spot Columnist at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Jay Cooper is a new contributing writer for the Garden Spot column. He replaced Diane Sagers, who retired in November 2013 after writing the column for 27 years. Also known as Dirt Farmer Jay, Cooper and his wife have been residents of Erda since 2001 after moving to Utah from Tucson, AZ. A passionate gardener and avid reader of horticultural topics, for several years he has been a member of Utah State University’s Master Gardeners Program, and served as chapter president in 2013. Cooper says Tooele County has an active and vibrant gardening community, and the Garden Spot column will continue to share a wide range of gardening, landscaping, home skills and rural living themes.

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