Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

January 9, 2014
Proud and excited to continue the Garden Spot legacy

Hi. I’m Jay Cooper. Some of you may know me as Dirt Farmer Jay. I get the privilege to try my best to fill the very big shoes of Diane Sagers as the new Garden Spot columnist for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. 

At first glance, January may seem like a horrible time for an inaugural Garden Spot column. It’s easy to slip into the illusion that the active growing season, and the months leading up to all things gardening, are distant and there isn’t much to do related to our hopes and dreams for the coming spring.

In reality, the passing seasons are a blessing because they provide contrast, closure and an evaluation period that allows us to plan for next year’s gardening adventures, experiments and triumphs.

Said plainly, we get a gardening “do over” each year,  allowing us to retain and repeat what worked well last year, and let go of the things that didn’t live up to our expectations. And the reality is, the time for planning, planting seed and getting our initial starts set out will be upon us before we know it.

My wife and I have lived in Erda since 2001 but our gardening and landscape interests go back many years to our small town of 5,000 outside of Tucson, Ariz. We both have rural and agricultural backgrounds, and value the benefits that smaller communities afford.

We came to Utah in 2001 when our mutual employer relocated the company’s headquarters from Tucson to downtown Salt Lake City. While searching for the place to put down roots, we visited this valley and knew that we had to do whatever it took to live here. That’s saying a lot considering that, at the time, “cold” to us meant anything below 50 degrees.

Our first trip to the area was in the dead of winter. I remember climbing out of the rental car in the Walmart parking lot. Snow was blowing fiercely sideways, and the wind chill had to be near zero. I remember saying to my wife, “If we move here, we’re gonna die in this flippin’ frozen tundra!”

Well, we didn’t die. In fact, this is now our home—long term.  For us, this isn’t just a stop-over until we can “get back” to Arizona. This is it, as far as we’re concerned—much to the dismay of our extended families back in Arizona. What a great adventure it’s been so far! But there are many more paths to explore, more gardens and gardeners to meet, more insights to gain, and more friendships to be had. I look forward to having you be a part of all that and more!

Readers of the Transcript-Bulletin have had the pleasure of Diane Sager’s articles, in this space, for many years (that includes me!). When Diane made the decision to move on to other things in life, she left a great legacy that is my privilege to continue and build upon. The fact is, I can’t replace Diane, nor should I even attempt to. Even so, it’s my aspiration to give you some great “edutainment” as we encounter a wide range of gardening, landscaping, home skills and rural living themes.

We, in Tooele County, collectively have the good fortune of a very active and vibrant gardening community. Many are part of the Master Gardeners program sponsored by the Utah State University (USU) Extension Service in Tooele. I have had the good fortune of being a member for the last several years as well as serving as the 2013 Tooele County Master Gardener Association Chapter President.

I’ve made some significant friendships, furthered my horticultural education, and picked up a lot of “best practices” from my associations along the way. During the time that I completed Master Gardener training programs, I was privileged to have Larry Sagers as my primary teacher, along with Linden Greenhalgh of the Extension service, and other excellent guest instructors.

One of the biggest misnomers about being a Master Gardener is that many people think you know everything about everything horticultural. I don’t. There isn’t a Master Gardener I know that isn’t a life-long learner, and that describes me well. In fact, completing the coursework simply opened the gates to all sorts of new areas of interest and study. In some ways, it showed me all I didn’t and don’t know. This has stimulated me to study further and make connection with others in the gardening and educational realms.

I’m an avid reader on horticultural topics and belong to several forums of “Aggie” colleges across our country. My mailbox rarely gets lonely—simply because of all the gardening resources that come in the form of magazines, catalogs, and journals. And let’s not forget subscriptions to YouTube channels on urban gardening, heritage skills, greenhouse and high tunnel plant production, fruit trees, grapes, small berries, composting and small scale farming.

I mention these things to give you, the reader, tangible assurance of the ongoing value and engagement you’ll see in this column. During the coming months, you will enjoy some first-hand, local insights through interviews with our friends and neighbors that are successfully creating culinary or ornamental garden spaces. I’ll also be able to interact with you through live community events sponsored both by the Transcript-Bulletin and local businesses. And, I will continue to direct your attention to web resources that will give you even more tools to flourish as a gardener.

It’s my avocation, both in my personal and professional life, to learn self-reliance skills, internalize them, and pass them on to others. Along the way, I get the benefit of folks like you who reciprocate with great insights and practices. I’m looking forward to many years of living gardening life together. It’s my goal that we will all be richer for it.


Cooper can be contacted at, or you can visit his website at for insights on gardening, shop 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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