Itty Bitty Farms
In 2017, Emily and Landon Knowles purchased land in Carey, then built a greenhouse and chicken yard to create a family farmstead, Itty Bitty Farms, where they could grow high-quality produce for family and neighbors while raising their four young children. Since losing its only market several years ago, residents of their small agricultural community have had to travel 25 miles to get groceries. Committed to revitalizing their community's food access, the Knowles helped launch the Carey farmers market and are now raising funds to add a storefront, commercial kitchen and community gathering space to their newest greenhouse.
Here's what Emily said when asked about their past, their future, and their life on the farm:
How did you get to where you are today? What’s your background, education, work experience in relation to food?
Landon earned his degree in Horticulture from BYU-Idaho and specialized in propagation and greenhouse production. He began working in landscaping after college but never felt it was what he was meant to do.
What inspired you to start farming?
Landon’s family has been farming near Idaho Falls for generations. I think that deep down, he always knew he would come back to that lifestyle. Ever since we’ve been together, we have had a big garden and always loved growing things and feeding people.
What do you love most about it?
I love the connection. I love being connected to the earth (I often farm barefoot in the summer so I can feel the dirt in between my toes) and I love being connected to the history of farming, it's an incredible thought to know you are doing something that people have done for thousands of years. Once the food is grown we get to connect with the people we share it with. There is nothing more satisfying than to see and talk to people who will be using what you have grown. Getting feedback and hearing stories from our customers makes everything we do so enjoyable. This area probably has the best local food customers in the world.
What are the biggest challenges?
Sometimes we struggle getting our crops to grow at the right time or in the right amounts. We ran into this a lot last year as we were figuring out how to use a new piece of land. Production planning can be really hard, especially with the unpredictability of the weather that we sometimes have. This past year was extra challenging for that. Production planning also kicked us in the butt a little with regards to the construction of the new greenhouse. We were positive we would be rolling out veggies by Christmas but we are still so behind on the construction that we’re probably not going to have any produce until early May (which is still better than we would be otherwise, but it still hurts).
What’s it like raising a family on the farm?
Magical. We love having the kids help with the day-to-day farming jobs. They learn so much from being out in nature. It comes with its challenges for sure, but we know it will benefit them in the long run. I think the community likes seeing them at the farmers markets as well (they sure stand out). They are the itty bitties in our Itty Bitty Farm and we couldn’t do it without them.
What’s your favorite dish made with ingredients from your farm?
I think Landon and I would both say the chicken and sunflower pitas. We are fans of keeping it simple, which is why this quick and light meal is a favorite. We make the pitas ourselves and they are also available through Kraay’s Market & Garden along with some of our other baked goods. Add a little grilled chicken, top with a huge handful of sunflower micros, drizzle some caesar dressing, and you’re done!
What are your plans for your new greenhouse?
We are excited to start planting in the greenhouse any day now. As soon as we get full access, we plan on using it to pump out as many greens as possible (spinach, kale, lettuce, chard and arugula) as well as peppers, and tomatoes. We also will have a few hanging baskets for Mother’s Day and some garden starts for home gardeners.
You helped start the Carey farmers market. How is it going?
This summer will be our third year doing the Carey Farmers market and we have loved every minute of it. Being part of such a close-knit community is absolutely wonderful, and the people in Carey have really been supportive and helpful in every way. We usually have about seven to eight vendors weekly, but we are hoping to add a few more this year.
What’s your goal for the new storefront you’re starting?
When planning the construction of the greenhouse, we added a building on the front for storage and packaging. It ended up being fairly spacious and we thought we could eventually transition it into a small commercial location to sell our products, other local items, and some basics for the community. After some feedback, we realized our community is much more enthusiastic for a store than we had originally thought so we started working on ways to fast-track the project. We started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay the initial expenses, refrigeration units, and additional construction we will need. We have already been so encouraged by the support of our community but are still a good way from our goal and are always looking for more contributions.
What do you grow? And where, aside from the future storefront, can people find your products?
We specialize in greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, and chard), microgreens, herbs, and baby root vegetables but will expand into tomatoes and peppers this year. We plan to have all this available year round at retail locations like NourishMe, through Kraay’s online marketplace, as well as at both of the Wood River Farmers Market locations. Our products are also regularly on the menu at Cafe Della and Tundra.
What change would you like to see in the Wood River Valley region in terms of food?
What we really want to see is a change in the way we think about local food. Landon and I have a very specific vision about how local food should work and what needs to be done to provide more food for our communities. We spoke recently to some Sage School students about our plans to involve community members in the production of local food and how we believe more of our local farmers should take on the role of food distribution facilitators to involve more non-farmer growers in our local food systems. We plan on recruiting many community members and families to help us grow the food that the community will consume. Increasing the amount of production and using existing full-time farmers as a means of distribution can significantly increase the amount of local food available, therefore helping to lower the prices and make local food more affordable for average individuals and families.