Idaho will mark National Farmers Market Week August 6 through 12. Local Idaho farmers hope the event will draw the public's attention to the importance of knowing where your food comes from.
Agriculture is Idaho’s leading natural resource-based industry. Every year it adds around $7.5 billion to the state’s economy. A part of that revenue is coming from farmers markets around the state. While the number of local markets is on the rise -- there are 43 established across Idaho -- many farmers feel there’s a gap between the public and their knowledge of where food comes from.
Patti and Seth Matthews run a farm in Weiser. Each weekend they sell goods like meat, honey and eggs at the Boise Farmers Market and Capital City Farmers Market.
"We have become such a Walmart society, where we expect all of our products that we want. Whether it’s strawberries in December, or kumquats that you think are raised next door to be available all the time, and it doesn’t work that way," Matthews says.
Patti Matthews is hopeful that with more widespread education--such as through Farmers Market Week--the general public can better understand what it means to support local agriculture.
"People just, they don’t have any idea what goes on and what the animals' needs are, how they live, how they grow, how seasonal weather, how seasonal changes affect all of that," Matthews says.
Another farmer who sells an assortment of fruit and vegetables at the Lemhi County Farmers Market in Salmon has similar concerns. Jessica McAleese thinks the word “local” has become a buzzword that’s not always used correctly.
"I think it’s important for consumers to ask those questions, like well what does local mean and where is this food coming from? Is it the pacific northwest? Is it the whole western hemisphere? You know, it’s an important question to ask if you want to really know where your food comes from," McAleese says.
The Idaho Farmers Market Association has been working on increasing access to homegrown fruits and vegetables for low-income residents through a program called Double Up Food Bucks. For every dollar spent with an EBT card, a dollar is given to the person to spend on fruits and vegetables at the farmers market. Fourteen markets throughout Idaho are participating in the Double Up program this summer.
Karen Ellis is the director and manager of Boise’s Farmers Market on 8th Street and has been helping oversee Double Up over the past couple years. She hopes programs like it will help more people see the importance of truly supporting local food. Ellis also thinks more public education will increase appreciation of how much goes into the production of food.
"We had some really interesting things happen to some of our farmers this winter and I don’t think a lot of people really understand what that means. But farmers market week highlighting that this is where you can find local food, that means it’s the freshest, it means it’s grown by the person there, it means it hasn’t traveled 2,000 miles," Ellis says.
If you want to learn more about what it means to shop local and the benefits of farmers markets, you can get the latest at the Idaho Farmers Market Association’s Facebook page.
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