Organic product line has grown to include some craft items


For the Capital Press

VIOLA, Idaho -- In a business climate that taxes patience, Debi Robinson-Smith and Dave Smith have made a point of persevering.

When the two quit their day jobs to grow organic produce, they picked a newly emerging local farmers' market as their main sales outlet. For a time, progress was as fast-paced as watching grass grow. But now that Dale's Saturday Market in Potlatch draws steady crowds, Debi and Dave know their consistency at the market has paid off.

"We were committed for the long haul," Debi said, even when the weather was bad and bags of produce went unsold. "I wasn't really ever discouraged. We knew this would be an upward slog."

Marketing under Ravencroft Organic Products, the small farm first presence was at a market at the Moscow Food Co-op, and it also distributed through community supported agriculture operations. After trying out the Moscow Farmers' Market, Dave and Debi opted for the newly emerging Dale's Saturday Market, choosing to become an anchor vendor.

While Dave is the main cultivator, Debi used her artistic talents to take care of most of the marketing. She created other products when the summer heat forced her inside, fashioning totebags, hats, soap and greeting cards to supplement market offerings.

Diversifying the product line to include some craft items has helped cultivate customers, Debi said.

"Sometimes there's no telling what we'll be able to sell," she says, acknowledging that many people in the area already have gardens. "Diversifying our product line not only helped us, but it helped the market, making it more interesting."

Debi said her totebags are made of vintage and recycled fabrics, contributing to the couple's goal of good stewardship. The line of soaps uses ingredients from the homestead, including basil, one of Ravencroft's main herbs.

Once the lush greens, herbs and other produce sprang up, so did the sales opportunities.

"We got our organic certification, but then let it lapse," Debi said. "There was just too much paperwork, making it just about impossible for small farmers."

The couple works through "buy-local" and grower certification channels adhering to organic principles.

Debi keeps her sights on getting the Ravencroft name out to the public. She works with other growers at the Potlatch market, noting that the growers have learned to work as a team.

"We talk to the other vendors and determine reasonable prices so we don't undercut each other," she said. "We want to provide good services and help each other out."

Debi reserves her highest praise for market operator Dale Rose. "Dale is some kind of hero, and he's done a lot for the market with his attractive site, enthusiasm and little petting zoo."

Barbara Coyner is a freelancer based in Princeton ID. Email:


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