Kootenai County Farmers’ Market

kootenaifarmersmarkets.org

Wednesdays, 4pm-7pm
Season Ends September 29
Fifth Street & Sherman Ave
Coeur d’Alene ID 83814

Saturdays, 9am-1:30pm
Season Ends October 30
SE Corner of HWY 95 & Prairie Ave
Hayden ID 83815

Agriculture and farming have a fertile history in North Idaho. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe provided for their people throughout the centuries by utilizing the region’s plentiful natural resources to farm, hunt, fish, forage, and produce a wealth of products. As settlers moved West and loggers began clearing forests, more land opened up for farming. In 1880, there were around 20 non-native farms in Kootenai County. Recent information puts that number at more than 800 farms totaling close to 125,000 farmed acres.

In 1986, a few farmers got together and decided to start a farmers market in Kootenai County. That spring, the City of Coeur d’Alene closed off downtown Sherman Avenue for the day, and 25 vendors set up shop in the street, selling fresh produce and local goods from the beds of their trucks. The community showed up, and the farmers were encouraged by such a prodigious start.

But the following year the city didn’t extend the same invitation for the market to occupy downtown, so eight farmers endured the second season in a vacant lot by the jail. Fortunately, the third year, they were offered space on a more lucrative treed lot at Highway 95 and Dalton Ave, where they thrived for seven years. In 1994, they had outgrown this spot and moved up the highway to their current location at Prairie Avenue in Hayden, which Susi Faville, owner of Mountain View Farm and known as “The Tomato Lady”, calls “a haven under the trees.”

Today, KCFMA is one market held on two days in two highly-visible locations: Saturday mornings in Hayden and Wednesday afternoons on Fifth Street off Sherman Avenue in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Yes, the city asked the market to return to its original location and bring its producers back to the heart of downtown. Registered with the Idaho Farmers Market Association, KCFMA is dedicated to a balance of 70% agricultural vendors and 30% craft vendors. For vendors and customers alike, it’s more than just a place to sell or pick up your produce for the week. It’s a gathering place, alive with music, fresh produce, unique crafts, verdant plants, scrumptious food and drink, bustling activities for the whole family, and a congregation of smiling humans enjoying the Inland Northwest’s stimulating outdoors and vibrant community.

“I think there’s been a lot of growth in the market as an experience,” says Ellen Scriven, co-owner of one of the founding farms, Killarney Organic Farm. “It’s something people want to do outside with family, friends, or visiting relatives. And some, especially single, older people, come to socialize with vendors and other shoppers.”

Susi, the second longest-standing market member, agrees and adds, “The experience of coming here, buying something real and good and well-made from the human being that made it – that’s valuable to people. Unlike shopping at a box store, you can actually talk about your life and the products and have a real, personal experience. I think the whole planet needs that right now.”

More than 100 members and food court vendors submitted their applications this year, paid their fees, and will show up on Saturdays and Wednesdays to serve and offer the fruits and vegetables of their hard labor to generous locals and eager visitors. About an hour before the market opens, a crowd of “day vendors” gathers at the Market Manager’s booth to put their names in a hat for the open booths up for grabs on any particular market day. Then, once the opening bell rings, the action begins and doesn’t stop until the bell is rung again to signal that selling is done.

The hearts, souls and passion of the team behind the scenes make KCFMA one of the most established, organized and beloved markets in the Inland Northwest. They run their own businesses and booths while tenaciously fighting for a high-quality market, farmers and vendors, and a thriving, sustainable food future in North Idaho. “It’s no longer just ma and pa trying to grow their veggies and run a farmers market,” says Ellen, “It’s hard now to imagine trying to do it the way we did many years ago, and there’s only gonna be more pressure to expand and get bigger.”

by S. Michal Bennett

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