Drive northwest of downtown Boise for 10 minutes, where the road winds through the foothills and farmland. Pass cattle in the sagebrush, and even a solitary llama overlooking a shallow creek, and end up in the Dry Creek Valley, where a master-planned community called Hidden Springs sprouts seemingly from nowhere. Behind the tree-lined streets and modern suburban-looking homes lies a group of farms at the base of the hillside, where in the summer, green fields and white tunnels—polyethylene greenhouses—dot the landscape.
Fiddler’s Green Farm is a certified organic vegetable farm in Hidden Springs that Justin Moore founded in 2011. He had been working at Peaceful Belly Farm when he met Montana-native Alex Bowman-Brown, farming the plot of land that was just across the road from the land he leases now. After seven years, he decided to start a farm of his own and convinced Bowman-Brown to join him.
Originally, the duo focused on growing seed garlic on one acre, with two additional acres in a diverse crop of vegetables. When a nematode infestation destroyed their garlic crop, they devoted their attention to the vegetable operation. Davis McDonald was working part-time at the farm that first season and joined them full-time the following year to build up the flower side of the business. Eight years later, the three of them cultivate almost five acres of vegetables, with a third of an acre in flowers.
Moore is a native Vermonter and the fiddler in the group, managing somehow to play around Boise after long days either smiling at customers at the farmers market or working on the farm with Bowman-Brown, Davis and their crew. Their back-and-forth banter makes them sound more like a comedy troupe than a crew of farmers, and their friendship runs deep. It hasn’t always been this way, however. Bowman-Brown and Moore describe that first season as one of constant challenge, the largest of which was learning how to work as a team.
“We didn’t really know each other that well, and didn’t know what we were getting in to,” Bowman-Brown explained. “I feel like that was the hardest part of the first year because it was all new to us and it was a lot of different stuff. It was totally overwhelming in a lot of ways.”
Since that first season, though, their success has garnered them a devoted following. They attribute much of this to Boise’s low concentration of small organic farms relative to other cities in less isolated areas, but the quality of their produce speaks for itself. Their market stall is stacked high with gleaming green heads of lettuce and exotic black radishes, while a bundle-your-own flower station encourages shoppers to learn from the farmers.
The supply of organic produce has kept in line with the demand in Boise, so that the more they grow, the more they sell. In almost equal measure, the farm’s business is sustained by wholesale accounts with restaurants and the Boise Co-Op, the weekly farmers market and 60 members of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The following they’ve built is one of the reasons they keep farming, especially on their most challenging days.
“It’s definitely fulfilling,” Davis said. “The markets and CSA pickups are cool because you watch people get excited about their food, which is basically why we’re here.”
Fiddler’s Green Farm is an organic operation, but their approach to farming has grown into a philosophy beyond vegetables they each interpret differently. For all of them, though, the freedom they find in the fields is something they were unable to find in more conventional lines of work. Their personalities are energetic, quirky, humble and endlessly hardworking, and their skills are just as diverse.
“When you strip it all down, what I’m doing and providing, it makes me feel good about what I’m doing with my life,” Moore said. “I love growing plants. Being able to make a living doing that is pretty sweet.”
As for the future of Fiddler’s Green Farm, the trio hopes to continue to streamline their processes so they can improve the quality of the food they produce and the quality of life they have as a crew. In 2018, they expanded their lineup of events on the farm, with dinners in their high tunnel by KIN, a restaurant group in Boise. In 2019, they’re building a second high tunnel and doubling their work area for washing and packaging produce, as well as experimenting with more crops, from dahlias to espelette peppers. They are also moving their CSA pick-up to the farm, in hopes that it will bring members closer to their food. One thing the Fiddler’s Green Farm crew won’t do, however, is become bored of their work.
“We’ll never have farming figured out,” Bowman-Brown noted. “It’s endlessly challenging. It might seem repetitive, but every year is different.”