Tyler Bartley has been farming with Sown Local Foods farm in Malvern, Iowa for seven seasons. He was initially inspired to start by Jean-Martin Fortier and others, primarily online. Tyler took some small business classes with Iowa Western that helped with the business aspects of starting a small farm, and is currently enrolled in Golden Hills’ Dream to Farm program. Otherwise, most of his knowledge has been gained by experience. Tyler has a marketing and communications background, and has worked a variety of service-sector and manual labor jobs. These skills have come in handy for farming.
Tyler started with Jeremy Davis as his business partner. Now Roger Johnson is his business partner, and the farm includes 5 acres are on Roger's land. Roger was previously Tyler’s father’s business partner for many years.
The farm is located on the west edge of Malvern, partly within city limits. Sown Local started with about one acre on east side of a road, and has now expanded to include an additional 5 acres across the road. The east side of road was once a chicken hatchery and the soil has a lot of gravel. The west side of the road was conventional corn/soybean fields until recently. The west side of the farm runs along Silver Creek and includes a buffer strip of CRP prairie. Due to its low-lying proximity to the creek, the farm is located on a floodplain and has experienced flooding in the past.
The farm had four high tunnels then received Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for an additional 115’ x 20’ high tunnel that used a Tunnel Vision kit. The farm uses a water wagon for watering. A new well was drilled in 2023 but haven’t tested water quality yet.
During the peak season, Tyler sells 60-100 pounds of greens to Clean Slate, a meal prep business based in Omaha. Sown Local also sells at the Malvern Farmers Market regularly. They used to do Aksarben Farmers Market in Omaha, but not in 2023. Tyler has occasionally sold at the Red Oak Farmers Market too. Sown Local has sold some to FarmTable Delivery, and in the past couple years has used the Local Food Purchase Assistance (LFPA) program to sell food to local school districts in rural southwest Iowa. Tyler is interested in adding a CSA (community supported agriculture), and is gaging interest in that as well.
The farm, like many businesses, has had issues finding high-quality, reliable labor. Currently Tyler and Roger are the only employees. Tyler would like to be farming fulltime with no off-farm job, but still has an occasional part-time job to help pay the bills.
Sown Local uses organic practices but is not Certified Organic. Instead of herbicides, Tyler uses a flame weeder. He is interested in sustainability , and enjoys experimenting with new crops and practices. Tyler also has a foraging license and is interested in selling mushrooms in the future. Stay tuned on future updates from Sown Local by following their Facebook page and Instagram.