By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Idaho's largest farmers' market will retain that title despite losing a few dozen farmers who split and formed their own market a few blocks away in downtown Boise.
The Capital City Public Market opened for its 20th season with 130 vendors April 20, about six shy of last year's opening day total, and that number included 35 farm vendors, close to last year's number.
"We are the same market that everybody has always known, so I'm really excited to open and let people see that," said CCPM Executive Director Lisa Duplessie.
The CCPM did lose a lot of farm vendors to the new Boise Farmers' Market, which kicked off April 6 and includes some of the better-known small farms in the valley. However, the market recruited new farmers over the winter and shoppers will notice a lot of new farm names and products, Duplessie said.
"We still have just as many growers as we had in the past," said Amy Mascall, co-owner of Silver Fox Lavender Farm, which remains at the CCPM for its seventh year.
Some farmers who split to the BFM said the September firing of CCPM founder Karen Ellis was the catalyst for their move, but many farmers who stayed put said they weren't about to give up the roughly 15,000 customers the CCPM attracts each Saturday.
"We're here because it's our livelihood and we're not going to give up our livelihood because of a personality issue," Mascall said.
Ellis oversaw the market's expansion into Idaho's largest "and we're all very appreciative of her," Mascall said. But, she added, "business is business."
PooPeas owner John Collins, who has sold natural fertilizer made from cow manure at the CCPM for five years, said he doesn't understand why any vendor would give up the market's large customer base.
"Why would you give up where the crowds are?" he said. "I think a lot of people got tied up in the emotional end of it versus the business end."
When the new farmers' market was formed, CCPM officials were forced for the first time to recruit new farmers, which has turned out to be a good thing, Duplessie said.
"It was a good learning experience for us to actively recruit (producers)," she said. "I think it's been a really good thing for the valley in general."
Duplessie said shoppers will notice a lot of new farm names, including Shooting Star Farm from Hailey, Happy Earth Mushrooms out of Caldwell, Blue Barn Produce from Caldwell and Wissel Farms in Nampa.
Wissel Farms, which sells a variety of fruit and vegetables, has been in the wholesale business since 1986 but is trying to do more retail and that requires connecting with a large customer base, said owner Matt Wissel.
"Obviously, they get a lot of people and that's why I'm here," he said.