With the advent of summer also comes the return of the weekly farmers markets in Ketchum and Hailey. Anyone visiting the markets this summer can expect to discover a variety of foods and products produced by local Idaho farmers and artisans.
Wood River Farmer's Market Manager Kaz Thea said supporting the markets can help support the Idaho economy.
"It's our sixth year," Thea said. "That's exciting. It's a great thing to do, and I really believe in it. I want people to get excited about showing up."
There's plenty to see, buy and enjoy. The merging of the artist markets and the farmers markets this year has created a single market that will set up shop in each Hailey and Ketchum once a week. The artist and farmers markets were separate until this year. Thea said the markets have always been 75 percent farmers and food and 25 percent artists.
"We have taken on the idea of artists who don't want to be full time at the markets and have applied as rotating artists," she said. "The artists who want to stay full time will, but we are opening up both markets to six or more booths to rotating artists."
The markets will continue to have live music every week as they have in past summers, and a kids activities booth will be operated throughout the summer by Wood River Valley nonprofit organizations and their volunteers.
Thea said some new items to look for at the markets this summer will be homemade ice cream, fresh-cut flowers and arrangements, Peruvian food, fresh tacos, root beer, meats and Frenchman's Gulch wine.
"We will continue to have all the seasonal produce, including early-season peas, lettuce, onions, garlic and herbs," Thea said. "As the summer continues, we will have all the usual suspects of beets, carrots and available fruits when ready, such as melons, berries and apples."
The markets will also carry baked goods, prepared salads, side dishes and, of course, pies. In addition, valley artist Kim Howard will draw portraits.
"There's a bigger push this year for the farmers markets," Thea said. "We're trying to coordinate what we are doing with a Year of Idaho Food, which is mostly events in Boise, but it is about celebrating food year-round and where it is raised and grown. There's a lot that is grown here."
Thea said a calendar of events for food is part a push to attract more people to what is going on with food in the Wood River Valley, and also an initiative for the valley's newly formed volunteer WR Futures Food Group.
Thea is a big promoter of organic agriculture. She said putting more organic nutrients in the soil yields better returns than feeding soil chemical fertilizers.
"Soil with chemicals does not perform and is robbing the soil of important nutrients," she said. "Plus the food is tastier and it lasts longer."
Thea said it's great to know your farmer and even better to know where your food is coming from.
"These farmers at the market are harvesting the day before or sometimes the morning of the market," she said. "It's worthwhile."
Thea said anyone can sign up for weekly newsletters that will highlight the market and vendors. For details, visit www.wrfarmersmarket.org.
Sabina Dana Plasse: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organic farmers get a break
In a recent announcement by the Nebraska-based nonprofit Center for Rural Affairs, Idaho farmers and ranchers transitioning to organic systems, as well as established organic producers, all have the opportunity to apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative funding to assist them. According to the organization, Congress has appropriated $50 million in funding for the initiative, which will provide a 75 percent share of the cost of implementing organic conservation measures to those who qualify, and 90 percent for beginning, limited-resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
This is the initiative's third year. In 2010, the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service designated $24 million nationally, with nearly $320,000 going to Idaho farmers and ranchers. The Center for Rural Affairs stated that this year there is even greater funding available for Idaho producers to plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production.
The center has a long history of assisting family farmers and ranchers in accessing new conservation programs. It created an Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative fact sheet available at www.cfra.org/node/2509. The center also operates a farm bill help line. Producers can call (402) 687-2100 and speak to a real person who can help them access new programs like the organic initiative. The help line can also assist farmers and ranchers with the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnerships Initiative, the Value Added Agricultural Market Development Program and a host of Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs.
Farmers markets open
The Ketchum Farmer's Market is located in downtown Ketchum at the intersection of East Avenue and Fourth Street, east of Atkinsons' Market and Giacobbi Square, on Tuesdays from 2:30-6 p.m. from June 14 to Oct. 11. Parking is available on surrounding streets, but riding bicycles is recommended. Bicycle racks are located within and at either end of the market street. Occasional raffles for bike riders, walkers and people who bring their own bags are held to win a market gift certificate.
The Hailey market is located next to Main Street between Carbonate and Galena streets in the lot just north of Sturtevants on Thursdays from 2:30-6:30 p.m. from June 16 to Oct.13. Parking is available at the Park & Ride (corner of Bullion and Croy), and along Main Street, though riding bicycles or walking is recommended. There is one main grass area where bikes can be left while shopping.