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Tiny farms could mean big profits for eastern Idahoans

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Jul 23 2013 10:39:12 PM CDT

Caleb James reports.

ST. ANTHONY, Idaho -

Money doesn't grow on trees, but the idea may not be so crazy in eastern Idaho.
     
University of Idaho agriculture extension agents say turning ground on small -- even tiny -- boutique farms could bring a big profit potential.

On a tiny road above a sweet-smelling valley, it takes about a second to pass Woods Gardens behind the wheel of a car.

"We probably plant about 2 acres," said owner Dave Woods.
 
Woods may just have a tiny 2-acre row to hoe, but don't tell him he's not a farmer.

"We started out just wanting a little garden for ourselves," said Woods.
 
The Woods farm fits 16,000 strawberry plants in an 80 by 100ft plot with a special hydroponic system. Blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and even hard-to-grow blueberries all grow on the tiny farm.

Wood first started making money off his farm when he started taking his produce to the Idaho Falls Farmer's Market; he found out there was a little cash in that. But experts at the University of Idaho say once farmers start digging, there can be a lot more.  

"You could make some money off of this," said U of I instructor Lance Ellis.

Ellis said new market demands mean small can be mighty.

He says the concept of boutique farming has taken off in other parts of the state, but the Woods farm is an eastern Idaho case-study.

Greenhouses overflow with plump tomatoes, and strawberries slowly sweeten in the sun.

"It's very high quality fruit," said Ellis. People want that, it's a growing niche market."

Ellis said the market is growing so fast, the university's agriculture department is offering hands-on classes on Management and Profitability of Small Acreages. Instructors take students on field trips to learn about running small farms for profit.

Classes cover a different topic each month and range from Home Milk Cow Dairying to Profitable Home Orcharding. The classes aren't free, but are open to anyone interested in developing their small acreage property.

To register for a class, or for more information, contact the University of Idaho Fremont County extension at (208) 624-3102.

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