Area farmers’ markets opening up for summer
By Abigail Thorpe
Springtime in the Idaho Panhandle means it’s again time for fresh produce and farm products. It’s the season to start living off the land again (if you haven’t been all winter), and the Kootenai County Farmers’ Market is back with loads of fresh goodness to make the most of the warmer season.
The Saturday market will be opening up as planned on May 9 (as of press time) at the Hayden site on the corner of Highway 95 and Prairie Avenue. The market will be modified to ensure the safety of all vendors and customers, says Saturday Market Manager Natalie Selbe.
The Wednesday market opening, which takes place in Downtown Coeur d’Alene on Fifth Street will be postponed until at least June as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its opening depends on when event permits are issued for the area, adds Selbe.
The Hayden market opening will be one of the first annual events locals return to the streets for since most unessential businesses closed or reduced hours and the state issued a state-wide stay-at-home order. Everything is not back to normal by any means, and the market will be taking efforts to protect its vendors and customers. The market presents a much-anticipated opportunity to access essential fresh fruits, vegetables and food products while supporting local growers in the process.
The Kootenai County Farmers Market started in 1986 in the Coeur d’Alene area as a means of providing fresh, locally grown produce to the community. Typically operating May through October in a normal year, the markets specialize in vegetables, flowers, native plants and a diverse array of local food products like meats, chesses, bread, honey and jams.
“We are autonomous, producer-only, member-driven, with an elected board of directors,” says Ellen Scriven from Killarney Farms, and a board member who has been with the market since its inception. “[We are] one of the oldest in the region having started in 1986.”
When the market first started on Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene, 25 vendors participated. Now the markets include more than 100 different vendors, many who have been returning to the market for years.
At the market you can find local farms like Royal Highlands Produce, a local family farm 45 minutes from Coeur d’Alene that grows everything naturally with no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides or fungicides, and uses only organic seeds. Since they, like many other local farmers, are so close, you know the produce you’re buying is freshly picked and full of nutrients.
Urban farmer The Coeur d’Alene Coop grows and sells heirloom plant varieties on their local garden situated right in the city limits. They also keep chickens and grow a productive garden on their tiny lot and can be found selling at the market each year.
KCFM is all member driven, which means it is local farmers and artisans who are preserving and continuing the efforts which began 34 years ago to help connect the community to the local land. “The members participate in decisions about the market. They volunteer in many ways from setting the market up and taking it down, to organizing music and special events, to helping to promote the market and donating time and products for customer appreciation,” says Scriven.
Besides delicious fresh vegetables and food products, the markets include native plants, live music, arts and crafts, and special activities and events. You can often find people dancing to the music in the street downtown or in front of the stage in Hayden, says Scriven. Each year the Saturday market offers a Fall Festival to celebrate the season and provide extra merriment for families at the market. This year’s will be on September 26.
Scriven remembers lots of special moments throughout her years with the markets: “Customers expressing appreciation, showing up on the coldest, rainiest or snowy days to support their local growers ... The moose who wandered through the market a few years ago ...The market dinners.”
KCFM also includes a special program for kids ages 5 to 12 called POP (Power of Produce). It’s a free program that helps introduce children to the importance of eating fresh and local, and shows them how to grow and prepare their own food. Participants receive tokens they can use to shop at the Farmers’ Market.
The market had an interesting start, moving around locations in search of a permanent spot to open each year. Vendors sold out of the back of their trucks the first year, and the market shrank to only eight members the following year when it found itself in a less than ideal location in an empty lot across from the jail.
In 1994 the Saturday market moved to its current location, where vendors now have 70 Redwood painted booths to sell from amidst the trees and parklike setting. The Saturday market is open 9am to 1:30pm, and no dogs are allowed in the market area, even if they are on a leash or carried.
The Wednesday market is from 4 to 7pm downtown in Coeur d’Alene and caters to the “what’s for dinner?” weekday crowd and visitors to the area.
The Kootenai County Farmers’ Market website is a wealth of information. You can find information on all of the vendors who attend the markets, as well as a helpful “what’s in season” page that lists various produce items and the months they are typically available at market.
A collection of delicious recipes helps you make the most of your fresh produce—like Emily’s Rhubarb Cobbler and Rajnica (Croatian Lamb Kebab Skewers). The website also includes nutritional access program information and upcoming event updates and news. Visit KootenaiFarmersMarkets.org to learn more about the markets and their offerings.
If you are a local Kootenai County producer who would like to become a vendor at the market, you can easily apply for membership; the farmers market is always looking to bring local growers and producers together to represent all that the area has to offer. Vendor categories include agricultural producers and growers, artisan food and craft vendors, and food court vendors. Visit KootenaiFarmersMarkets.org to learn more about the markets and their offerings, or to become a vendor.
Farmers’ markets across North Idaho are gearing up for their summer season, and it promises to be the perfect opportunity to get outside, enjoy the sun, socialize and stock up on healthy, locally sourced food. Neighboring markets to the north of Coeur d’Alene in places like Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry will soon be opening their booths as well, making it easy to opt for local and source most of your produce and food needs from local growers and producers.
So grab your reusable shopping bags, a coffee and the kids, and head on out to one of your local farmers’ markets. Take a moment to pause and listen to the live music while you munch on some tasty snacks and enjoy all of the love and care put into every product. From fresh cheese and meat to farm-fresh vegetables, local flowers and artisan crafts, you’ll find everything you need, and then some.