Religious imperative creates business opportunities for farmers, suppliers
By JOHN O'CONNELL
Throughout the years, Myrna Anderson has assisted hundreds of families in the Pocatello area with establishing stocks of nonperishable regional farm products in case of prolonged bad times.
"It's a church calling," said Anderson, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I have the responsibility to motivate people and encourage them to do food storage."
Within the LDS church, home food storage offers members a security blanket during emergencies. It also provides a small market for farmers.
The church advises its members, who comprise roughly 30 percent of Idaho's population, to maintain a two-year supply of dry food.
"Several years ago my husband was without work, and we pretty much survived on food storage," Anderson said.
She has overseen a church emergency preparedness fair, which featured a breakfast for 600 made from storage commodities.
A home storage staple is unmilled hard wheat, which has a shelf life of about 30 years. Marjanna and Barry Hulet, of Pocatello, keep about 300 pounds of hard red wheat in their home storage area. They also buy home storage commodities at cost through the church.
They supplement their home storage with their own canned goods and a year's supply of Idaho potatoes.
"When I have food in storage it gives me peace of mind," Marjanna Hulet said. "I know I can provide for my family."
Rick Lamm, assistant manager of food storage for Walton Seed & Rainy Day Foods in Montpelier, ships kits with wheat, rice, oats, popcorn and other home storage commodities to customers from Connecticut to Alaska.
Wheat accounts for 40 percent of his sales and comes mostly from Idaho growers.
"The beans we try to buy here in Idaho," Lamm said. "Oats come out of the Washington area."
Sales tend to spike following disasters, such as Sept. 11, 2001.
Bear Lake County farmer Rhett Phelps sells the majority of his spring wheat crop to Walton Seed, located just 6 miles from his farm. This year, he contracted 20,000 bushels of hard red wheat with them.
Phelps advised home storage customers to cook with their inventory to keep it fresh and only to store foods they like.
"It's really amazing how many people have wheat in their attic that's been there since 1970 and not very good any more," Phelps said.
Richard Durrant, with the Big D Ranch in Meridian, sells about 400 hundredweight of pinto beans per year to Walton Seed, counting beans he handles for other growers.
"I've got a lot of people who will pick up 20 to 30 bags of wheat for home storage and then as an afterthought they say, 'Do you sell wheat grinders, too?'" Durrant said.