This interview details Little Wild Things Farm, an indoor farming company based in Washington DC, USA. The interview is with Oksana Bihun, Vice President of Operations.
What is the origin story of Little Wild Things Farm?
Little Wild Things Farm was founded in 2014 with a mission of inspiring and training the next generation of farmers, and showing them that sustainable urban farming can be a viable and prosperous career path.
The farm started out with a small setup in the basement of Pub and the People (see here) with just a handful of growing racks, as well as a small outdoor plot in northeast DC.
After moving its operations to Georgetown and then several spots in the Union Market district, the Farm put down roots in its current location in Northeast DC, with 4,000 sq ft of growing space, 52 growing racks, and 4 hydroponic systems.
We’ve been in operation for 9 years and love sharing our product with our customers through farmers markets, CSA programs, partnerships with restaurants, and donating to local organizations.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Little Wild Things Farm in the future?
One of the core concepts behind urban farms is being able to grow fresh, hyper-local produce in a much smaller space than what’s used in traditional agriculture.
There’s a big emphasis on efficiency and pumping out as much food as possible, but we also want to be cognizant of what it is we’re growing and making sure it aligns with what people in D.C. actually want to eat!
Right now, we grow about 30 varieties of microgreens, 5 varieties of lettuces, 8 varieties of edible flowers, and are adding even more varieties to our list. One of our big challenges at the farm is figuring out how to efficiently grow all the varieties we have (and more) in our limited, 4,000 sqft production space.
Oftentimes we have to get creative in addressing these problems, by introducing new growing methodologies, adjusting ambient conditions to create microclimates, and even rearranging the entire grow space.
The demand for our greens has increased significantly over the last 9 years, and so making our space more efficient, productive, and diverse, while also maintaining the highest quality of product, is extremely important to us.
What is unique about Little Wild Things Farm compared to competitors? How do you measure the impact of your company so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) etc?
Little Wild Things Farm is DC’s original and longest running indoor vertical farm and we focus on local connections and impeccable product quality. We serve as a local, fresher, and greener alternative to shipping out microgreens and edible flowers from across the country, which a surprising number of restaurants in D.C. were previously doing.
We take great pride in everything we grow and are one of the small number of farms that grow assortments of edible
flowers on the east coast!
One of the best ways we can see our impact is how often we have customers come back and start regularly eating our greens. That means we’re really doing our job of providing the highest quality, freshest, and locally available greens. We love engaging with our customers, especially in person at our Farmers Markets, and seeing what products they like, what else they want us to grow, and how they’re using their greens.
What have you learned that you wish you knew when you joined or started the company?
I joined the Little Wild Things Farm team as a part time farmer, working just a few days a week. I initially (and naively) expected this to be a short term role in which I would quickly pick up the basics of urban farming.
I wasn’t expecting the farm to be so dynamic and to be as constantly evolving as it has been. In my time here, I have served in just about every role at the farm, including farm hand, farmer’s market salesperson, delivery driver, both production and operations manager, and eventually managing the farm as a whole.
The thing about farming is that you learn very quickly how to be a jack of all trades. You don’t just learn about horticulture and growing methodologies; you learn how to handle plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, as well as how to fix anything that might break at the farm.
It’s an environment where you’re constantly learning and growing and it really keeps you fully engaged.
How can people connect with you or learn more about Little Wild Things Farm?
For anyone who lives in the DC area, our farm is open 7 days a week and we have a small retail space that people can visit and see our operations from. They can visit our website here and also follow us on instagram @littlewildthingsfarm or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Additionally, starting in April, Little Wild Things Farm is opening a retail farm to salad concept in Union Market, where we will be using our very own greens to prepare fresh, delicious salads!
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