Positive reports of growth in the local food sector were welcome news to attendees of a free event hosted by Blaine County Food Council on October 24.

Community Food Connections: Summer Economic Success Stories & Next Steps drew close to 50 farmers and ranchers, retail store owners, institutional buyers, food artisans, government officials, and non-profit leaders to the Upper Big Wood River Grange in Hailey to learn about progress at three key local food access points.

Katie Zubia of Wood River Farmers Market reported a profitable year for many vendors at the new Ketchum farmers market location at River Run, while the addition of two produce farmers added life to the Hailey market, which is slowly rebuilding after a couple of lean years.

Business continues to grow for Kraay’s Market & Garden, a local food home delivery service. According to co-owner Sherry Kraay, Kraay’s 2019 year-to-date sales rose to $185,455 from $148,773 in 2018. Kraay’s now delivers to more than 100 of their nearly 1,000 customers each week and generates $6,000 to $10,000 a week for regional producers. Infrastructure including cold storage, a processing facility and a commercial kitchen would allow for increased growth.

Atkinsons’ Market continues to expand its local food offerings at all three retail locations. About 6.5 percent of Atkinsons’ produce now comes from regional farms - 3.5 percent higher than the national average, Peter Atkinson noted. During summer, the percentage jumps to 15 to 20. Atkinsons’ Ketchum saw a dip in sales on Tuesdays this summer due to the departure of the farmers market from its Town Square location.  

October 24 event attendees learned about the new $5 for Farmers campaign designed to increase purchasing of foods produced on community farms. If every Blaine County resident spends at least $5 a week on local food, it will add $5.7 million to our regional food economy! Learn more and take the $5 for Farmers pledge at 5forFarmers.com.

Stacy Whitman

Stacy Whitman co-founded Local Food Alliance in 2014 out of a desire to improve community food and health.