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Farmer Mike Woodbury

Think small and grow flowers: Advice from Mike Woodbury at Future Farms

Writer: McCale Ashenbrener
Photos: Heather James

Mike WoodburyThink small, and grow flowers. This feels like sage advice for anyone in these strange times, but Mike Woodbury of Future Farms is thinking specifically of aspiring farmers.  The one-acre farm in Eagle, Idaho has 22 active 50 ft beds and strives to be a model for sustainable local agriculture.  We are often encouraged to think big. However, Woodbury suggest that if we approach a small, limited garden space with intention and attention, we can work towards a more sustainable, self-sufficient, and healthier community.

Future Farms is the inspired endeavor of Mike and Stacy Woodbury. Mike spent much of his career in the restaurant industry and remembers realizing how disconnected most people are from the source of their meal. “At Future Farms we want to reconnect with our land, our community, through our food- by knowing where it comes from, how it was grown, and what it took to reach the plate in front of you,” explains Mike. “We sell directly to consumers as well as other vendors and look forward to making more partnerships with local people and restaurants.”

This year Future Farms beds grew bright and heavy with heirloom peppers (Trifetti, Omni Color, Craig’s Large Jalapeno, Ghost Peppers, Carolina Reapers), Heirloom Tomatoes (Cherokee Green, Lillian Yellows, La Flamme, Coyote cherry tomatoes), Purple Haze Carrots, Pattypan squash, cantaloupe, as well as an abundance of winter squash. “When the pandemic started we grew extra plants assuming demand for plant starts might be higher. We bought a greenhouse at an auction to house them and the wind/elements destroyed it within a month,” remembers Mike. “We lost hundreds of plant starts. The weather caught us off guard multiple times this year and led to chaotic panics trying to move all of our starts inside our house. Growing pains.” Farming is about taking risks, trying new things and always working to fail-forward.

With only an acre to work with, Mike is very thoughtful and diligent in his design. “If you know exactly what you’re growing on every square foot it’s easier to manage and have regular, small wins which you will need to compensate for the inevitable setbacks of farming. For us, the future is about looking at how we’re doing things and asking what we can do differently for the next crop. It is an iterative process.”

Prior to Eagle, Mike and Stacy were living in San Francisco. “Eventually we asked ourselves, ‘What in the hell are we doing here?’ We wanted more land and less drama, a city big enough to get a good meal, but with a small-town feel.” When they discovered the Treasure Valley they packed up their four cats and made the leap. “We created Future Farms as a model for sustainable local agriculture. It doesn’t make sense to pour money and resources into maintaining a lawn sheerly for aesthetic value, so we are currently working on transforming our land into an abundant, beautiful garden that produces food for ourselves and our neighbors.”

The abrupt halt that is the coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to reflect on our frantic and distracted lifestyles, yearning for healthier, sustainable lives.  Mike Woodbury at Future Farms has an idea: think small and grow flowers.

Follow Future Farms on Instagram and Facebook as Future Farms Idaho and email [email protected] with any other inquiries.