Iowa man grows organic produce in open lots to create affordable, healthy options for neighbors

Sells food at cashier-less, downtown stand
farm salad greens growing kale
Posted at 2:22 PM, May 24, 2021

MALVERN, Iowa (KMTV) -- On a piece of land that has buried train tracks running through it, Tyler Bartley decided to create a large garden to grow local, organic produce and offer it up at affordable prices to his community.

In the bedroom community of Malvern, Iowa it can be tough to compete with the larger city about a half-hour away.

"It was always hard to offer something here that Omaha didn't have better, but having good farmland and quality produce, that's not a challenge here," said Bartley.

Sown Local Foods is able to grow on a larger scale than a typical backyard garden.

"The amount of food has almost tripled in five years, and we're now just scratching the surface on field production of watermelon and sweet corn and stuff that you'd see at bigger stands," said Bartley.

A few years ago they met someone who had extra land attached to where he parked trucks for his business. Bartley set up a garden and is now harvesting arugula and other salad greens.

They have plots of land around the area in Malvern, Council Bluffs, Glenwood, and Pacific Junction.

Once the produce is harvested, it's sold through a number of places. They've partnered with a meal delivery service and restaurants. They also sell at farmers' markets and they have a stand in downtown Malvern.

They accept many forms of payment, including SNAP benefits.

At the stand, a lockbox serves as the cashier. People can just leave payment and take produce.

"The people that are shopping want healthy food for their family, and if you're on a tight budget that's sort of the sweet spot we're at anyways," said Bartley.

Bartley said it takes a lot of hard work, but it's worth it because they feel good about the work they're doing in his hometown.

This story originally reported by Jennifer Griswold on