As the afternoon sun climbs high above the Boise River, Jordan Gross sets up his produce stand.
He unloads his truck and stacks crates of tomatoes, carrots, beets and potatoes — all freshly picked that weekend from his own 2-acre farm.
Once he’s finished, he stands back and smiles as he watches his customers line up, one by one. Jordan knows each of them by name, greeting them with a firm handshake and a smile.
“It’s really about community,” says Jordan, owner of Little Buddy Farm. “This project has all been about building relationships.”
Once an NFL football player for the Carolina Panthers, Jordan now owns 60-acre Little Buddy Farms in his hometown of Fruitland, Idaho. There, he, his wife Dana and his friend Ben Brock grow over 70 varieties of vegetables and herbs, which they sell directly to families across the Treasure Valley.
Unlike traditional farms, Little Buddy Farm is community-supported agriculture. When local Boiseans sign up for a subscription, they join a co-op and receive a “share” of the harvest. For 20 weeks, members receive a 3⁄4 bushel-sized box with 6-8 varieties of fresh produce inside — from apples to zucchinis and everything in between.
To distribute the shares to members, Gross and Brock set up on River Shore Development’s grassy riverfront property near where the Greenbelt and the Pioneer Path converge.
After his members come to pick up their produce for the week, he sells the rest at a low price to passers-by and gives any excess back to local food banks.
“We’ve always wanted to give back,” Jordan says. “This has been a great way to get back to our roots.”
The Gross family and Brock started Little Buddy Farm back in 2017, after Jordan finished his football career in North Carolina. Jordan and Dana had both grown up on family farms in Fruitland, joined their high school’s Future Farmers of America chapter and were heavily involved in Idaho’s agricultural community.
After spending 15 years in North Carolina, they were both ready to get back to their roots. But the transition from the football field to the vegetable field had its own set of challenges.
“It was just us,” Jordan says. “We didn’t have a group of experts telling us what to do. But with a lot of trial and error, we learned the ins and outs of running a small business — and it’s just kept on growing from there.”
There’s no off-season at Little Buddy Farm. Planting season kicks off in early spring. For the next 20 weeks, Jordan and Dana are out harvesting the fields. By the time the season’s over, it’s already time to start preparing for the next year.
The hard work is all done by Jordan, his family and a handful of close friends.
“I couldn’t do it without them,” Jordan says, smiling. “On some days, you can see four generations of our family working in the garden together.”
Jordan’s father-in-law Joey has been a mentor and reliable sounding board for Little Buddy Farm since the beginning. Coming from a long line of farmers after his parents immigrated from Japan to Idaho years ago, Joey has years of experience in the agriculture business and a lot of passion for the craft.
“Joey always went by the nickname of ‘little buddy,’” Jordan says, chuckling. “When it came time to name the farm, it just made sense to name it after him.”
In addition to their original pick-up location at their farm in Payette County, Jordan and Dana wanted to reach the Boise community. Thanks to some coordination with local businesses, Jordan found a home for his weekly produce stand right along the Boise River.
Located in the field behind Payette Brewing on property owned by River Shore Development, Jordan’s stand is steps away from the Greenbelt and some of Boise’s favorite local hangouts. The pick-up experience is equal parts tailgate party and late afternoon shopping trip.
Jordan’s members can park (or bike) right up to his stand, grab their groceries and enjoy a pint of beer or a picnic along the river.
“We wanted the weekly pick-up to be something people looked forward to,” Jordan says. “It needed to be convenient, but also a space where people could enjoy the afternoon.”
Before setting up shop here, Jordan says he wasn’t too familiar with the area. But since spending every Thursday right along the river, Jordan has found a laid-back, down-to-Earth community, full of spaces where locals can enjoy the best parts of the City of Trees.
“This is a really undiscovered part of Boise,” Jordan says. “There is so much more to come for this neighborhood, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”