Simon Neely and Briana Swette knew that they wanted to farm together since early in their relationship. When the couple relocated to Bellevue, they saw an opportunity to bring a diversified small-scale farm to life. They started Lookout Farm in 2019 with the goal of growing an amazing variety of fresh vegetables for local customers. Each week throughout the growing season, Simon and Briana also donate farm-fresh food to The Advocates.
In college we each had fantastic mentors in the world of growing vegetables. After managing a small farm as undergraduates, we ran a CSA. Those original experiences showed us that good food can mean good community. And farming for us is a long-term way to be involved in environment, broadly speaking.
What brought you to the Wood River Valley?
The landscape, of course, but really the community. We wanted to farm somewhere we knew we could contribute to and participate in. We have family in the area as well.
Can you describe your farm to us?
Lookout Farm is just south of Bellevue, between Highway 75 and the river. This year, we’re cultivating three acres. Tomatoes, cucumber, lettuces, peppers, cabbages and broccoli, herbs— we grow dozens of vegetables so that our CSA members can have fun cooking all season long.
What growing practices do you use at Lookout Farm?
We do a lot by hand. That’s sort of a principle—do it by hand if you can: picking rocks, weeding, planting, harvesting, etc. Our farm uses permanent beds, which means we’re not redoing our fields year after year. The soil in each bed is only going to get more and more complex as we plant more and more long-term cover and crop rotations.
What’s your favorite food to grow?
Radicchio, because it seems like it’s doing nothing forever and then one day it’s shaped up into something extraordinary, and you go, "Really?!?"
How have you created more wildlife habitat on your land?
The farm is smack dab in the middle of an elk corridor, and we do our best to accommodate them. Part of what we love about Lookout Farm is its pastures and sage benches—there’s room to roam and we’re keeping those areas lush and appealing to all. Plus we’re planting hedge rows all around the vegetable field, which over time will grow into serious habitat.
What do you love about our local farmers’ markets?
Seeing our customers. It’s the apotheosis of farm work—handing off the produce that’s taken months to reach those hands. There’s nothing better than getting to know local food lovers.
What keeps you busy during the off season?
December and January are quieter months here; we cross-country ski, read, and cook. And try to keep all the animals healthy and warm-ish.
What’s your favorite locally sourced and seasonally inspired meal?
Whoever has the first eggplant on the table.
Who is your food hero?
George Washington Carver. He loved to grow food, and he gained knowledge in order to help people. He was an originator of holistic ecology, which majorly included quality of life concerns for farmers, not to mention concepts like soil depletion and crop rotation. And he was so fabulously into peanuts!
What change(s) would you like to see in the Wood River Valley region in terms of food?
Well, more of it! The snowball effect with food systems is real—the more producers, the more consumers, the more local food can be normalized across demographics. That’s what we’re hoping to help make real.
Where can people find your fresh produce?