Thousands attend opening of new ag-centric farmers' market
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Thousands of people brushed aside a light rain and cool weather April 6 to attend the opening of Boise's new farmers' market, which was formed by farmers who split from Idaho's largest market to form their own.
The Boise Farmers' Market was created by local farmers and ranchers who believed the Capital City Public Market was drifting from its agricultural roots. It made its debut with thousands of customers, local TV cameras and about 45 booths.
"I'm thrilled that the residents of the community have come out to support us," said Meadowlark Farms owner Janie Burns, president of the new market's board of directors.
Burns said the new market, which is also located in downtown Boise, nabbed about 80 percent of the farmers from the CCPM, which is Idaho's largest farmers' market.
"We're happy to have a market that is more agriculture-oriented," said Chris Florence of Sweet Valley Organics, which sells mushrooms, chickens, pastured eggs and heirloom vegetables. "The idea behind this market is that it's more local and that it is more food-based rather than having a high percentage of artisans."
The new market will focus on local food and agriculture, said Burns, who was a founding member of the CCPM.
"We want to be absolutely truthful to our customers that the person selling the product grew it, or made it in the case of specialty foods, and we couldn't get that guarantee at the other market," she said.
Burns said the balance of the CCPM's board of directors had shifted to non-farmers and non-farm vendors outnumbered farmers 4-to-1.
"It was not farm-centric," she said. "Farmers have a unique voice. People selling art have a different perspective on the customer base and hours of operation and things like that."
CCPM officials could not be reached for comment.
Florence said he never second-guessed his move.
"It was an issue of producers sticking together and having the right venue for a producer-oriented market," he said. "The other market was just becoming too influenced by artisans."
He said he had no doubt the new market would succeed.
"A lot of the original founding members of the CCPM are here; all the big names are here, so we were confident this would work out," he said.
While some farmers had no doubts, for others switching markets was a big risk, Burns said.
"For those who were on the fence, there was an extraordinary amount of risk," she said. "So the more farmers we attracted to the market, the less risky it became. After we reached a critical mass, it was good for everyone."
Arlie Sommer of Purple Sage Farms said farmers and customers appeared thrilled with having a market dedicated to local agriculture rather than attending one where farmers are a minority.
"When I go grocery shopping, I like to go to the grocery store," she said. "Farmers are loving this and the customers are, too."