Grown Local, Delivered Fresh

Posted: August 1, 2020 at 8:37 am

Kristin’s Farm Stand finds the perfect location near Malta to raise organic vegetables and livestock for doorstep delivery

Jake Smith, manager of Kristin's Farm Stand
Jake Smith, manager of Kristin’s Farm Stand, checks on an organic eggplant in the greenhouse. Photo by Dianna Troyer

By Dianna Troyer

Organic vegetables and hormone-free meat raised south of Malta are feeding consumers who crave fresh food delivered to their doorsteps in southern Idaho and northern Utah.

“The Idaho farm was a perfect place for us to expand our business,” says Kristin Varela-Schild, who started Kristin’s Farm Stand in Brighton, Colorado, two years ago. “Some investors who owned the land in Idaho found us because we have a reputation for being skilled at running greenhouses and raising livestock.”

She says the farm was ideal because it was between two large markets—Boise and Salt Lake City—with easy access to cities to the north.

Kristin started her business after her daughter lost 32 pounds in three months and was diagnosed with severe celiac disease in 2016. Her daughter was intensely intolerant of gluten and certain preservatives and chemicals in food.

“We had to know where our food came from, so we started raising our own,” Kristin says. “The only change we made was eating the food we grew. She regained her health and weight. It made such an impact on me, seeing the connection between what food you eat and your health.”

Their friends and neighbors tasted the difference between the food Kristin’s family raised and what they bought in grocery stores and asked to buy some.

“Our vegetables grow as soil-based vine crops, so they’re flavorful and nutrient dense,” Kristin says. “We had such a demand, so in 2018 we launched our business as a customized fresh food service with home deliveries.”

Their business differs from other food-delivery services.

“We don’t offer a subscription service,” Kristin says. “All of our products are sold individually. You can cherry pick exactly what you want, in the quantities you want, including meat by the individual cut. It’s exactly the same way you would purchase food from your local grocery store. We like to make it easy on people without the fear of a commitment. There’s no minimum to order.”

Kristin Varela-Schild expanded her family business to Idaho.
Kristin Varela-Schild expanded her family business to Idaho, providing home delivery of freshly picked produce. Photo courtesy of Kristin’s Farm Stand

To offer a similar service in Idaho, construction started last fall on six new 30-foot-by-100-foot greenhouses 15 miles south of Malta. Raft River Electric Co-op electricians provided expertise in wiring
the buildings.

“Our greenhouses are energy efficient and use water effectively, too,” Kristin says.

Eventually, the greenhouse floors will be plumbed with geothermal water on the farm to heat them during winter.

As the greenhouses were finished, Kristin began looking for a farm manager.

“We’re so grateful Jake Smith found us,” she says.

A Malta dairy farmer, Jake also happens to be a firefighter who responded to a grassland blaze several miles past the greenhouses last fall.

“On the way home, I stopped in to say hi and welcome them to the area,” Jake says.

With his agricultural background and contacts throughout the region, he was offered the job of farm manager.

“The eggs and vegetables we raise here really do taste different from what you buy in the store because they’re delivered soon after they’re picked,” Jake says. “Our customers tell us they never knew vegetables could taste so good.”

Jake and seven employees tend to tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, eggplant, microgreens, cattle, pigs, lambs, and chickens on the 490-acre farm. The vegetables are grown organically, with organic certification in progress.

Livestock is pasture-raised and grass-fed and finished. The meat is processed at a USDA certified butcher in Rigby.

Yesenia Arreola picks miniature cucumbers.
Yesenia Arreola picks miniature cucumbers. Photo by Dianna Troyer

“Nothing goes to waste here,” Jake says. “Vegetables that are good but don’t meet standards for appearance are fed to the chickens and pigs.”

Livestock is rotated frequently throughout pastures to fertilize the land without chemicals.

Jake says the farm is focused on improving the soil through grazing methods and growing crops with no-till planting.

The pasture-raised chickens are moved weekly so the land is fertilized in each new location.

“The chicken house is on skids, so we pull it with a tractor and the chickens follow us,” Jake says.

After planting in January, they picked their first crop—tomatoes and mini sweet peppers—in March. Jake donated hundreds of pounds of excess tomatoes, green beans and mini seedless cucumbers to Burley churches. The food was given to members who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, but hadn’t received unemployment checks yet.

“It’s important for us to give back to local communities,” Kristin says. “We have a strong demand for our food in the region. Life’s too short to eat bad food. We’re excited to be in Idaho.”

Annie Smith cradles freshly picked mini sweet peppers.
Annie Smith cradles freshly picked mini sweet peppers. Photo by Dianna Troyer

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