Fields are still frozen, but area farmers are plotting this year’s bounty.
This time of year those small-acreage farmers are looking for new recruits for the eat local movement that is rooting deeper and branching out farther each season.
Farmers focused on local markets sell to area restaurants and at seasonal farmers markets. Some offer Community Supported Agriculture programs, or CSAs, where people who want regular produce pay money at the beginning of the growing season to invest in the farm. In return, the farmer agrees to give them regular boxes of produce once harvest begins.
CSAs started in Moscow more than a decade ago, said Iris Mayes, the small farms and horticulture extension educator for the University of Idaho. According to agriculture statistics, there are more than 700 small-acreage producers of fruits, vegetables and livestock in the region.
“As far as the ones that are really engaged with restaurants, CSAs and farmers markets it’s probably more around 30, but people might be producing things we don’t know about,” she said.
On Friday, Feb. 10 people will be able to meet longtime and new farmers focused on the local food movement at “Love Your
Farmer, Love Your Food.” This is the third year of the event, which is designed to bring consumers and producers together, Mayes said. It includes a panel discussion with farmers and area food experts along with a free fair featuring locally produced food and drink.
Adam Reed of Victory Farm will moderate this year’s discussion. On 30 acres near the base of Moscow Mountain he and his business partner, Keegan Athey, produce vegetables to sell to local restaurants, the Moscow Food Co-op and the Moscow Farmers Market. Athey started the first CSA program in Lewiston in 2014. She joined efforts with Reed this season and they plan to deliver produce to 60 CSA members in Moscow and Lewiston. They hope to have the seasonal memberships filled by the end of this month.
“For me it’s always been a goal to get the food to as many people as possible,” said Reed, who began farming in Moscow in 2012 after studying organic agriculture at Washington State University.
People have varying degrees of awareness about local food, Reed said. One of the challenges of running a CSA is convincing people who have never done it before that it will be beneficial to them and positively affect their lives.
“It’s a leap of faith to pay several hundred dollars months before they’re going to get anything. We’re really lucky we have a lot of people willing to take that leap of faith with us,” Reed said.
While the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley has a longer growing season, the majority of farmers involved in the local food movement are Palouse based. Mayes speculates a variety of reasons for this, including the longtime presence of the Moscow Farmers Market and the Moscow Food Co-op, along with the university and a population base that wants local food.
“That food culture has developed together,” Mayes said.
“Love Your Farmer, Love Your Food” is co-sponsored by the city of Moscow, UI Extension, the Palouse-Clearwater Food Coalition, Rural Roots, the Moscow Food Co-op and AmeriCorps VISTA Palouse Fresh Food Project. More information about Victory Farm’s CSA program is online at victoryfarmmoscow.com. Information about other area CSA programs will be available at the event.
If You Go
What: “Love Your Farmer, Love Your Food”
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10
Where: Moscow City Hall, 207 E. Third St.
–Adam Reed of Victory Farm will lead a local food panel discussion from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m. Panelists include Kelly Kingsland of Affinity Farms; Leah and Greg Sempel of Pokey Creek Farm; Jen Elliot of Palouse Prairie Farm; Alice Ma from Washington State University Dining Services; Carly Lilly from Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana; and Steve Shepherd from WSU’s Entomology Department.
–Before and after the panel people can meet and chat with local producers at a Farmer Fair, which will feature free locally sourced foods prepared by Kitchen Counter, Brush Creek Creamery and Goosehouse Bakery. A no-host bar will offer drinks from Hunga Dunga brewery and Colter’s Creek Winery. There will be crafts and activities for kids.
Think eating local is hard? Iris Mayes, University of Idaho Extension educator, suggests some ways to make it easier.
Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture plan. While it may seem expensive up front, you are not paying for your produce during the summer and often part of spring and fall.
Split a CSA share with someone and cut the cost of being a member in half.
Grow your own food or some of your own food.
Shop around and compare prices at farmers markets and produce stands.