By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
BOISE – Many vendors who sell their food at the Boise Farmers Market weren’t sure what to expect when the market moved to a new location this year.
Six months into the 2019 season, that trepidation is long gone.
“It’s always a huge risk to move because you have a good thing going and you don’t know for sure about how the new place is going to work,” said Meadowlark Farms owner Janie Burns, chairwoman of the BFM’s board of directors.
“But within five minutes of the farmers market opening in this new location in April, we knew we were on to something,” she added. “It was awesome the first day.”
According to BFM Manager Tamara Cameron, average crowd counts this year are up 24 percent compared with 2018 and the market added 10 vendors this year, pushing the total to 85.
“The success of the market here is beyond our wildest dreams,” she said during a busy Saturday in August. “The new location is amazing.”
Seven years ago, a couple dozen farmer vendors at Boise’s Capital City Public Market left that market, by far Idaho’s largest farmers market, to form their own food-centric market.
Burns and other BFM vendors said they wanted to form a market where food and agriculture, and not artisans and other vendors not related to agriculture, were the main focus.
There are still plenty of food vendors at the CCPM, which easily remains Idaho’s largest farmers market in crowd count, but the BFM has gained a reputation as the city’s foodie market, where people go specifically to buy fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products.
For the first six years following the split, crowds easily flowed between the CCPM and BFM, which were both located downtown, only a few blocks away from each other.
In April, the BFM opened in a new location in a large parking lot between Americana Boulevard, River Street and Shoreline Drive. The spot is easy to access and the new parking lot is much bigger and has a lot more parking spaces than the market’s previous parking lot location in downtown Boise.
“The market outgrew that parking lot downtown where we were at before,” said Rob Stokes, owner of Malheur River Meats, which left the CCPM and joined the BFM five years ago.
He said his sales volume and customer base have increased this year.
“It’s been great,” he said of the new location. “Our customers really like it. It’s easy for most people to get to and our customers seem more relaxed. They’re not in a big hurry and worried about parking like they were at the downtown location.”
Stokes said the CCPM, which attracts crowds pushing 15,000 most Saturdays, is still a great market, it just has a different customer base and includes a lot more people who enjoy browsing.
“This market is basically a true farmers market,” he said of the Boise Farmers Market. “It’s fruit, vegetables, meats and dairy products.”
The new location has also helped clearly differentiate the BFM from the CCPM, Burns said. Because they were located so close together before, many people just assumed they were part of the same market.
“This has helped us with our identity,” she said. “When we were just a few blocks away before, it was unclear we were a separate market but not it’s clear just by the distance.”
The BFM is now located in the large parking lot of a spacious facility that at one time used to house a Kmart. That gives the market plenty of room to grow and add more activities, Cameron said.
“In our old lot, we were pretty much out of space to do some of the things we wanted to do that would take up more space, like cooking classes for adults or chefs’ demonstrations and things like that,” she said. “With this location, we have plenty of space to add in those new things. We’re super excited to be in this new location.”