Market Profile: Leigh Bercaw of Blue Fingers Farm
“It’s a great joke to me that around town I’m known as ‘the bread lady’ but my professional skill set is still primarily small-scale farming,” says Leigh Bercaw of Blue Fingers Farm. “I started baking for my business because I was desperate; my first year of business, I wasn’t having any luck selling my produce at the Sandpoint Market, so I asked my friend Lydia Tollbom to bake some bread to sell at my booth to attract customers. As the summer went on, I had almost no income from produce but her bread sold out within five minutes every week. I asked her to teach me the recipe and have been selling out at almost every market since. On a busy market day last year, I sold 300 loaves in 3 hours.”
Visitors to the Farmers’ Market in Sandpoint will recognize Blue Fingers Farm by its signature A-Frame racks, which offer increased visibility thanks to their height, but are often left bare thanks to its bread’s popularity. “I define my bread as homestead sourdough. Producing a perfectly-executed artisan sourdough loaf was never my goal—I just wanted to keep making bread that people loved at an affordable price point,” Bercaw says of her product, which is made with a starter that has been kept alive since 1870 and leavened bread from Montana to the Yukon and now back to North Idaho.
That “fermentation legacy” has inspired Bercaw to expand Blue Fingers Farm’s market offerings to include an array of flavorful and internationally inspired sauerkrauts, pickles and condiments. “When I started my own farm, I wanted a way to sell produce that doesn’t look perfect but still has phenomenal flavor and nutrient content. I am proud to have the first food processor’s license in Bonner County for lacto-fermented vegetables.”
Her current ferments include takes on Korean kimchi, Salvadoran Curtido and German Sauerkraut that can easily turn any piece of Bercaw’s bread into a gut-friendly meal. And while the pickles and ferments are tasty additions to Blue Fingers Farm’s offerings, they represent just one step in the growth of Bercaw’s small-scale farming empire. She currently supplies a few Sandpoint restaurants like Beet & Basil and The Fat Pig with her locally grown greens and produce, but Bercaw says she is “trying to push the local food scene past lettuce.”
“My long-term goal is a farm-based marketing cooperative; a hub of food businesses that center around the flavors and experiences of eating on a small farm,” Bercaw says of the future of Blue Fingers Farm, a 10-acre property on the outskirts of Sandpoint. “I love watching people become amazed at the flavor of produce grown in healthy soil.”
By Jeff Fijolek