Monday, November 18, 2019
Supporting Local Farmers Gains Momentum at Atkinsons’ and Elsewhere
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Emily and Landon Knowles like the idea of a $5 for Farmers campaign.
 
Friday, October 25, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The Ketchum Farmers’ Market did well in its new location in Sun Valley’s River Run parking lot, despite some initial skepticism.

And other efforts to focus on local foods are growing, as well.

The Ketchum Farmers’ Market had good turnouts of between 800 and 900 shoppers each of the Tuesdays during June, July and August, Katie Zubia told 45 farmers, ranchers, retailers, government leaders and others attending a Community Food connections workshop presented by the Blaine County Food Council on Thursday.

 
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Peter Atkinson, right, told 45 food system advocates, students and others attending a meeting of the Blaine County Food Council Thursday that Atkinsons’ Market is setting itself apart from other groceries by its work to offer customers local food options.
 

Some of the 45 vendors said their sales were similar to last year’s; some said they had their best sale days ever.

Customers liked the easy accessibility, elbow room and the beautiful views at the bottom of Bald Mountain, Zubia added.

“It’s difficult to say how many customers we used to get because when it was in the Town Square or on 4th Street we had a lot of people who were walking through, not shopping,” she said. “We had 45 vendors this year compared with 50 the year before; there’s lots of room to expand.

“One thing we do need to make people aware of is that they can drive into the area to pick up purchases.”

 
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Teresa Beahen Lipman, Ali Long and Amy Mattias are among those backing the $5 for Farmers campaign.
 

Peter Atkinson said Atkinsons’ Market was sorry to see the Farmers Market leave downtown Ketchum. Atkinsons used to benefit from people buying something like beef at the Farmers’ Market and then augmenting it with hamburger buns and other purchases at Atkinsons’.

“Every Tuesday this summer our sales were down from last year,” he added.

Zubia said Farmers Market representatives met with representatives of Sun Valley Resort on Wednesday and it looks good that the market will return to River Run next summer. Vendors can start applying for spaces in March 2020.

The Hailey Farmers Market is slowly rebuilding after losing M&M and Brick Oven vendors. The market lost them and other vendors after it was temporarily forced to move across the street into Carbonate street.

In contrast, Kraay’s Market & Garden south of Bellevue is booming. Sherry and Larry Kraay began taking on other vendors when they realized they couldn’t grow enough produce to meet demand.

This past summer they picked up produce from 60 vendors on Tuesday and distributed it on Wednesday. They also pick up and deliver produced destined for Atkinsons’ Markets. Kraay said they have 994 customers who place orders; between 100 and 125 of them order in any given week.

The program took in $186,210 this year versus $138,272 last year. It provides $6,000  to $10,000 a week for local farmers—and that’s “huge,” said Sherry Kraay.

Every week the program seems to pick up another 16 to 20 new customers, she said. And it recently signed up some new vendors.

The most difficult part is dealing with restaurants, she added. A few restaurateurs order online just like regular customers; others call Tuesday night when it’s too late.

“Overall it’s a huge success,” she said. “It would be nice to have a processing facility and commercial kitchen but there’s no money for that.”

Atkinsons’ Market continues to expand its offerings of local foods, said Peter Atkinson, who has championed offering local produce at his family’s stores. Between 3 percent and 5 percent of its selection has been local during the past five years. This year that increased to 6.5 percent.

The national average is 3 percent, he said. In summer Atkinsons’ local offerings range from 15 percent to 20 percent.

Atkinson said he hopes to set aside a section in each of the three stores offering local products. He also is creating tags displaying farmers’ pictures as part of the $5 for Farmers program that he and the Local Food Alliance hope to roll out soon.

He is also offering farmers the ability to list what they produce online so Atkinsons’ produce buyers can see what’s available at a glance.

“The only thing I worry about is that we’ve developed strong personal relationships with local farmers. And I don’t want to see that go away,” he said.

If every Blaine County resident bought $5 of local food products a week, it would put $5.7 million into the regional food economy, said Stacy Whitman of the Local Food Alliance.

“That’s a powerful number,” she said. “And it’s a simple doable call to action that pretty much everyone can do. It could be a carton of eggs or a bag of kale. But we can’t ask you do it if you can’t find it so we’re working on a locally grown guide that will show where to purchase local products in places like the Farmers Market and NourishMe.”

Emily Knowles, who owns the Itty Bitty Farm in Carey with her husband Landon, praised the concept of the $5 for Farmers program.

“It’ll help keep the momentum going,” she said. “Instead of just purchasing local once in awhile, people will be doing it every week.”

 

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