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Murray Journal

Wheeler Farm’s new education center aims to connect students and families with nature

May 30, 2022 04:50PM ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Wheeler Historic Farm’s newest addition isn’t a chick or a lamb—it’s the outdoor education center. A ribbon cutting for the center was held May 11 for the center, which is a collaboration between Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation and Utah State University Extension.

 “This building is a result of the partnership between the county, which provides the venue, and the USU Extension program, which provides the subject matter,” said speaker Dr. Ken White. White is Vice President of the College of Agricultural and Applied Sciences at USU.

“This building underlies our goal and mission to increase the quality of life for families and communities in Utah. As we see the city grow, we need bastions where people can get away and reconnect with nature. Wheeler Historic Farm is one of those places,” White said.

Since 2000, Wheeler Historic Farm has been managed by Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation. Funding for the education center came from several sources, including the Wheeler Farm Friends and the ZAP tax.

“This is a place where people will come and learn about the history and culture of this area. The ability to expand and maintain our resources, such as this farm, is an opportunity to treasure. I’m glad we could make it happen,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

The 6,315-square-foot building has a large indoor meeting area with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Indoor classrooms are equipped with desks and technology for presentations. The outdoor classroom and pavilion backs up on planting areas, which will be used for demonstration gardens and teaching.

“This facility will have an impact for years to come. Today there are many kids here for field trips or to play. A future urban forester may be inspired by a lesson here. Or it could be nice for someone who loves to visit grandma and grandpa’s farm and this reminds them of that,” Wilson said.

Salt Lake County Parks Director Martin Jensen emphasized the importance of setting aside land like Wheeler Historic Farm. He also talked about the sustainable construction of the building.   

“It’s been seven years since we first had the idea of this outdoor classroom. We’re so excited about it and grateful for our partnership with USU Extension. We’re grateful for AJC Architects, which designed this LEED certified Silver building with sustainability in mind,” Jensen said.

After the speakers, the group assembled to cut the ribbon and welcome people into the building. Leaders from USU brought Aggie ice cream to share and visitors were free to wander.

USU Extension horticulture faculty member Katie Wagner and 4H coordinators Meggan Callister and Pam Van Wagoner envisioned many uses for the new space.

“This is a facility where we’re going to provide a lot of educational outreach and different facets of our programs. From a horticultural standpoint, we can hold training for Salt Lake County’s 250 master gardeners, as well as gardening classes that are open to the public,” Wagner said.

“We are hoping to do family nights here for kids and parents. We can do different 4H projects here and also include STEM education,” Callister said.

“We have projects like herb gardens where kids can make it here and take it home, and it hopefully sparks their interest in gardening,” Van Wagoner said. 

A flower festival, more 4H projects and ecosystem-in-action field trips are all possibilities the USU Extension staff sees happening in the new space.

“The local flower grower industry in Utah has seen huge growth. Within the last five to 10 years we’ve gone from somewhere around five farms in Utah growing flowers to somewhere around 130 farms,” Wagner said.

Wagner sees a flower festival as a natural fit to other events here, like the farmer’s market that runs on Sunday mornings.

“It’s a great way to highlight some of those operations that are happening here. People know and love Wheeler Farm for a lot of reasons, and this new center will add to the possibilities,” Wagner said.

Wheeler Farm is located at 6351 S. 900 East in Murray. For information on the outdoor classroom, which is located southeast of the playground, call