Depending on the time of the year, Ian Caselli has two very different jobs. From September through May, Ian works as a Community Facilitator for the Sioux Falls School District. During the growing season, Ian is what he calls “a market gardener,” a small scale, micro producer.
“I think that local food is important,” said Ian, “Aside from the fact that I love gardening and growing food, I think that the local movement is important in promoting South Dakota’s progress.”
Ian grew up gardening with his mom and has always loved to grow food.
“As I went through different stages of life I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career, so I kept making bucket lists of things I wanted to do or was interested in and farming kept coming up on my lists.”
Ian wanted to grow food and work with the land but was not sure how to start. “I was a city kid and I didn’t understand all that went into farming so I didn’t think I could do it.”
Through a family friend, Ian was connected to Dakota Rural Action and their Farm Beginnings Courses.
With the help of Dakota Rural Actions’ Farm Beginning Courses, Ian was able to make his farming dreams a reality.
Ian grows on 25 ft beds with 40 inch centers on a total of 4000 sq ft. “I have a micro farm with 8 primary crops: arugula, lettuce, microgreens, scallions, basil, cherry tomatoes, dandelion greens, and chard.” His microfarm follows an urban farming model of production. “I did a lot of reading and I just kind of based my business plan off of the land that I had and the best way I thought I could make the land work for a market garden.”
Ian’s original plan was to start a traditional vegetable farm on 5 to 10 acres in Sioux Falls.
“We searched for land for about five years, trying to find the right spot that was in driving distance of our community and affordable…we just never found it. We eventually found the property that we have now, that is an acre and a half, and it was a fixer upper that was just outside of town.”
The marketing and distribution methods of Caselli’s reflects the needs of the community and the size of the operation.
“I have a website that people can go to during the week and purchase produce just like you would at any other farmers market but it’s just online. Then one night a week I am in town at a particular drop site with people’s orders and they can stop by and pick-up what they purchased that week. It’s kind of a different model for selling as well.”
This method of selling is easier on Ian and his family. Ian’s wife, Amy, pitched the idea that they use a website that people could order produce from rather than selling at farmers markets. “We didn’t want to be tied to a market for an entire day every week, and we wanted to try and reach a different market of people that weren’t going to markets to buy their produce every week.”
This is Ian’s first year using his website, Caselli’s Market Garden. “You know we’ve been learning this year, so there’s some things that didn’t work and some things that did, and it took some teaching on how to use the website to get our customers comfortable with it.”
Ian’s next goal for his website is to get more farmers and producers involved.
“I’m working on ways to incorporate other farmers into our website. Especially for products that we don’t carry or products we don’t carry as much of.”
Producers in the Sioux Falls area are working together to sell each other’s products. “We have gotten to know a lot of farmers in the area and have been in communication about certain varieties and products that we will be growing for each other in the coming seasons. One of our friends specializes in summer squash and tomatoes so we will be selling those on our website this summer. Another farm was looking to add microgreens to their offerings, so we will be growing extra for them this season.”
Ian says the more producers growing in Sioux Falls, the better. “I think that the more people that are growing food for the community, the more people will become aware of the opportunities to eat local. That was important to me and part of the reason that I started growing food in the first place.”