BFM after Covid

Farmers’ markets in Idaho struggled at the start of the COVID pandemic, but they appear to have rebounded well since then and some are reporting record sales, traffic and vendor numbers.

“We bounced back,” said Tamara Cameron, executive director of the Boise Farmers Market. “We are back to our pre-pandemic numbers when it comes to sales. It’s been a good year.

There are 50 farmers’ markets spread across the state.

“From what we’ve heard…most farmers’ markets have rebounded well from the pandemic closures and restrictions, and some were actually seeing record numbers of sellers and buyers…” said Ariel Agenbroad, a University of Idaho Extension Educator for Food Systems and Small Farms in Ada County, who is also treasurer of the Idaho Farmers Market Association Board of Directors.

A silver lining of the COVID pandemic is that it’s really underscored the importance of farmers’ markets, said Dawn Larkzeiler, Idaho Preferred marketing specialist for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture which sits also on the board of the IFMA.

“People want to know where their food comes from,” she said. During the pandemic, “they were trying to go straight to the source, to meet the farmers and their families. It’s something we haven’t seen go away. It’s a blessing in disguise.

One of the things the pandemic has done has been to force agricultural markets to adapt and innovate, and in some cases that innovation has proven to be permanent.

In the case of the Boise Farmers Market, COVID restrictions caused the market to create a drive-thru option that allowed people to order online directly from a vendor and then pack their items into bags to pick up while they were crossing.

“We have a consistent number of customers who love it, for a variety of reasons,” said BFM seller Janie Burns, a board member of the marketplace.

Burns said the market would never have created this drive-thru without COVID. “We had to do it,” she said. “And now it’s easy and we’ve adopted this technology. It’s just another way to reach customers.

Larkzeiler said much of this type of innovation, including delivery services, has happened in other farmers’ markets around the state since COVID hit.

Agenbroad said that although many farmers’ markets are seeing record numbers of sellers and buyers, they have faced a new challenge in terms of “dramatic increases in primary input costs for both sellers and markets”.

This is especially difficult for markets with vendors who travel to bring produce to their markets in more remote locations or places with a short growing season, she said.

“Some market managers have been thinking about how to incentivize these vendors to keep coming to their market, whether that means reducing or eliminating vendor stall fees, offering them gas credit, etc. “said Agenbroad.

She said almost all types of suppliers have had to raise their prices to reflect higher input and labor costs.

The good news about farmers markets in Idaho is that they are open and seem to be thriving, at least in terms of the number of crowds and the number of vendors.

These markets are an important source of income for many small and medium farmers in Idaho, and they also provide plenty of food for many people in the state.

With 50 farmers’ markets in Idaho, “it’s pretty easy to find fresh produce no matter where you are in the state,” Larkzeiler said.


Comments are closed.