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“I’d love to see more young people get stoked on farming,” says Brenton Aikin, founder of Ital Farms. Now 23, Aikin started his urban micro-farming venture when he was only 21.
Currently growing food in four different locations in downtown and midtown Reno, Ital Farms sells five products—salad greens, radishes, turnips, carrots, and micro greens—at farmers markets and to local restaurants. Ital Farms microgreens are also available at the Great Basin Community Food Co-Op.
Asked about Ital Farms biggest challenge, Aikin immediately answered: consistency.
“Chefs need consistency in deliveries,” and if you miss twice you’re out. As such, developing a succession planting plan for the dynamic Reno climate and his different plots of land has been key.
Ital Farms doubled the number of fields under cultivation in 2019, all on rented, urban land. Someday Aikin would like to own some land and raise a family on it, an ambitious but attainable goal.
We’re always “looking ten steps ahead and then working our way back” to decide what to do next, said Aikin. Microgreens is an area of growth, and he’s also experimenting with tomatoes.
Educating local consumers is also critical.
“Reno has shifted culturally” in the last several years, and more and more people “want to support local, small-scale farms,” he said. Supporting such operations often requires paying higher prices for a quality product that is also profitable for the grower.
Once an avid snowboarder with interest from sponsors, Aikin turned away from professional sports and towards agriculture. After working on a cannabis farm in California for a couple of years, he came home to Reno to grow food.
“It’s an amazing feeling to grow food and have people eat it and really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a lot of work,” is how Aikin describes running Ital Farms. But his dedication to that work, “it’s heartfelt.”
Ital Farms sells fresh produce at the Riverside Farmers Market on Thursdays from 4-8 p.m. and at the Tamarack Junction Saturday Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ital Farms