FARE Idaho to hold first Field to Fork Festival
By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
BOISE – FARE Idaho will hold its inaugural Field to Fork Festival in January with the aim of bringing the state’s farmers and independent restaurant owners together so they can find solutions to challenges that both sides face.
Other members of the state’s food and beverage industry are also invited to the Jan. 19 festival, which FARE plans to make into an annual event.
The trade fair will be an all-day event held at the JUMP (Jack’s Urban Meeting Place) facility in downtown Boise.
FARE Idaho was formed in spring 2020 with the goal of connecting Idaho food producers with Idaho food and beverage retailers in order to build a more resilient food system, said executive director Katie Baker.
FARE stands for food, agriculture, restaurant and beverage establishments.
The main goal of the non-profit organization is to help farmers and ranchers sell more product more directly to independent restaurants, Baker said.
A major goal of the Field to Fork Festival, she said, is to try to facilitate that by introducing Idaho farmers and ranchers directly to representatives of independent restaurants and other food retailers.
The festival will include a trade fair in the morning where that can happen.
“Our main goal with this festival is to advocate for the farmer all the way up to the people that support them, the independent businesses such as restaurants and beverage establishments,” said FARE Idaho board member Dave Krick, who owns three restaurants in downtown Boise. “This trade show is a great opportunity to bring these two sides together.”
One of the results of the COVID shutdowns is that “a lot of our retailers have actually said it’s harder to source nationally, so they want to start sourcing more local product,” Baker said. “I had a restaurant owner … say to me, ‘Look, I don’t want to source anything nationally anymore. I want to get as much as I can from Idaho. I’m sick of the supply chain disruptions.’”
The festival will include chef-led classes using locally sourced ingredients and highlighting local food producers.
It will also include panel discussions led by people representing various links in the food system.
Both the chef-led classes and panel discussions will be free to the public.
“The goal is really to educate community members about the importance of sourcing locally and also, when you are able to meet your farmers, you have a direct connection with them and you want to source from them,” Baker said.
“The festival is an opportunity to build engagement among community members and help restaurants find more local food sources,” she added.
Krick said putting together a trade show “is challenging and this first one is probably going to be humble. Our goal is to grow it year to year.”
The trade fair will also be a celebration of Idaho’s farms and independent food and beverage businesses, said Rocci Johnson, the incoming president of FARE Idaho’s board of directors.
“We have a unique food and beverage industry in Idaho and one of the purposes of this event is coming together to celebrate it,” she said.
Johnson said FARE Idaho’s goal of strengthening the local food supply system is not meant in any way to compete with the Idaho agriculture industry’s existing supply chains and infrastructure.
“We’re just augmenting what our already great Idaho food and beverage industry is about,” she said.
For more information about the trade fair or to register, visit the FARE Idaho website at fareidaho.org and click on the Events tab in the top left section of the homepage.
According to FARE, there are about 3,300 independent restaurants in Idaho.
FARE Idaho now has 300 members, including about 45 farmers.
The organization’s first year of existence was heavily focused on helping independent restaurants and beverage establishments survive the pandemic-related disruptions, Baker said.
A big focus of the group going forward will be on helping small and medium-sized farmers and ranchers, she added.
“We really want to help our farmers,” she said.
That includes educating them about tax credits and other resources they may not be aware of. The group is also working on livestock processing issues and health insurance options for producers.
FARE is in the pilot phase of setting up an online ordering program that connects retailers directly with producers.
“For a lot of farmers, the current ordering system is really archaic for both parties, the buyers and producers,” Baker said. “We are trying to figure out how FARE Idaho can simplify that process of sourcing locally.”
She said the organization hopes to take that online ordering system statewide within the next year.
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