The underground buzz on Boise's newest proposed-if-not-yet-confirmed farmers market—a several-months-old chatter by now—lies somewhere on the spectrum between outright rumor and clever spontaneous marketing plan.
On March 9, Bingo Barnes of Urbane Farms (and former Boise Weekly owner/editor) sent an e-mail so obviously cryptic that, really, only someone with a background in both small-acreage farming and media could have composed it.
"I don't want to tell secrets," the seventh paragraph of the e-mail began, "but I'm dying to let you in on some inside information. There might, just might, be a midweek Farmer's Market in downtown Boise this summer."
In fact, a small, Wednesday-night farmers market is in the works, thanks to Barnes and another small-acreage farmer, Lindsay-Rose Medoff who runs Puddin' Foot Farm with Tricia Hall. Medoff and Barnes had each been thinking about creating a midweek farmers market on their own until a mutual friend put them in contact. Together, they worked up a five-page proposal to host a market on Wednesday night at Capital Park at Sixth and Bannock streets.
The proposed market would include eight to 10 vendors and last about four hours. Medoff and Barnes' proposal is still under review by the Boise Parks and Recreation Department. Depending on staff opinion, it may then go to the city's Open Spaces subcommittee, then to City Council.
This is all to say that a Wednesday night market is far from a done deal.
"It's something that everyone has been talking about," said Barnes. "We just happen to be on the leading edges of organizing it."
Both Barnes and Medoff are careful to frame the proposed midweek market as an addition to the huge Capital City Public Market that takes over downtown blocks every Saturday in the summer, not as competition. Barnes, who sells vegetables at the Saturday market, made sure to talk to Karen Ellis, executive director of the Saturday market, about the newer, smaller market before the proposal went to the city.
Ellis says she is fine with other markets, as long as they don't conflict with the Saturday schedule. She said a midweek market would help smaller vendors who don't have enough produce for a booth at the Saturday market or vendors who need to sell more frequently.
"We are aware that farmers have to sell more than once a week," Ellis said. "We'll do anything to help the growers, and that means supporting other local markets."
Medoff said that the midweek market will have a different feel than the larger Saturday market.
"It could be a new way to consider the farmers market experience and what it could bring to Boise," she said. "It would definitely be the next step in what we're able to do as a community of food producers, how we can provide, in one shot, a place for everyone to get all of their goods, while having an intimate interaction with their farmers and neighbors. It would really give the consumer an option to say no to goods with a long paper trail while walking away with food for the week."
The idea, both Medoff and Barnes said, is that a midweek market downtown would be a more intimate, casual version of a supermarket, a place you run by after work to pick up food for that night's dinner.
"We as a culture have moved into the mode of going to the supermarket once a week, putting food in your fridge and eating that for the week," said Barnes. "With a more European model, where people get a little bit every day or every two days, you're going to have fresher produce, better quality of vegetables."
Casualness aside, the idea of an all-local-food taco truck has been floated, as well as the possibilities of a community oil press and a bike-powered flower mill. These three ideas, more than anything, go to the heart of what Medoff envisions the midweek market to be.
"In general," she said, "it's just a place for me to sell my food, see the CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] members and hang out with my friends on a Wednesday night."