Story & Photos by Brianne Dela Cruz, Gather & Grow
In early Spring, Barebones founder Robert Workman invited me to visit his property so I could tag along as he sowed his spring crops. It’s a dream invitation for any gardener to be invited by another to check out their growing digs, so of course, I eagerly accepted.
Robert’s land, known as Tifie Preserve, consists of over 800 acres of pristine wilderness in Utah’s mountains. This sprawling landscape includes a working farm and orchard, an amphitheater, archery grounds, dining pavilions, a fully furnished lodge, and glamping pads that hug a meandering river. It’s not just a gorgeous hideaway in nature, but a destination that Robert and his family built where humans, plants, animals, and technology all work synergistically to support life.
I met Robert in his greenhouse, where he was fast at work preparing his garden beds. With two large beds flanking either side, an underground vermicompost bin under the center walkway, and shelves stocked full of tools, it’s a dream set up, to say the least. It was chilly outside but quite warm in the tunnel, so we settled comfortably into conversing about all things gardening.
As he worked, we chatted about each of our favorite growing hacks we’ve pocketed over the years. He taught me his tried-n-true trellising method that ensures a bumper tomato harvest, while I shared the real reason I grow sugar snap peas; to eat them raw as I weed. He sowed rows of root veggies, peas, lettuces, and young tomato starts as our conversation spanned into deeper topics.
Like many gardeners, we share a passion for empowering others (especially those in adverse environments), to feed themselves through working with the land sustainably. We both also desire to help others experience the personal benefits of working with nature. I discovered that these passions were part of his motivation for developing a gardening tool collection in combination with outdoor cookware.
On many occasions, Barebones has donated their beautiful gardening tools to communities in need of resources to cultivate crops to establish food security and gain economic independence.
Working in the greenhouse with us was Robert’s son and farm manager, Stephen, who grows stunning cut flowers at Tifie Preserve for summer markets. Between the two Workmans, their knowledge of horticulture and connecting to nature is vast. Both men chimed in with personal pearls of wisdom they’ve gained and differing strategies they’ve tried through working on the land. It was easy to see how Robert’s vision in creating Tifie Preserve has naturally evolved into a multi-generational project that benefits the environment just as much as a greater community.
As I toured the surrounding garden grounds, Robert explained to me that his Tifie Preserve goals were adopted from Tifie Humanitarian, a non-profit organization designed to lift people out of poverty by providing basic necessities and, more importantly, the education needed to sustain those necessities.
Tifie Humanitarian functions as one of the primary vehicles for coordinating much of Barebones’ philanthropic work. Tifie Preserve serves not only as Robert’s farm but also as a destination that hosts corporate retreats.
When our springtime meeting in the greenhouse came to a close, Robert sent me home with a bag full of seeds to sow in my garden and an invitation to come back later in the season to see the land in full bloom. Rest assured, I took him up on that offer; I couldn’t resist seeing the progression into the harvest.
The Second Visit
The second visit was similar to the first yet filled with more color, buzzing bees, flowers turned toward the sun, and lush crops ready for the picking. This time Robert shared more about how much work it has required over the last decade to make this destination what it is today.
As we stood in the garden rows and looked out at the nearby ridge, he shared how he's planted several conifers to bring life back into the hills that were once decimated from years of logging before he arrived. Stephen shared his gorgeous blooms along with some of his best-cut flower harvesting tips and his vast knowledge of utilizing cover crops to regenerate the land.
While we observed the underground vermicompost bin and the hugelkultur-style beds near the orchard, both Robert and Stephen spoke to the importance of building soil health to sustain the broader ecosystem.
Through our conversations, I learned that Robert's vision isn’t just about growing food or beautiful flowers. Nor is it just about creating a beautiful landscape. His mission for his land serves a much larger purpose.
A Greater Tomorrow
Tifie Preserve offers an immersive experience that fosters a deeper connection to the natural world. It also serves as a model for sustainable land stewardship and how that honest work renews life to our beautiful planet. It’s a fully sustainable, agricultural ecosystem beating with life. Knowing that life-regenerating work lies at the roots of this philanthropic-driven lifestyle brand gives me hope for a greater tomorrow.
Brianne Dela Cruz is a master gardener, wild forager, campfire foodie, and acclaimed writer and photographer. From her home in Salt Lake City, she teaches online gardening and foraging courses for modern folks and budding naturalists as well as hosts seasonal community gatherings. Brianne's blog and online school, Gather & Grow, is a community of folks exploring the intersection between nature and personal growth by discovering ways to slow down and nourish themselves with nature.