Photography partners Arlie Sommer and Mo Valko can't help but giggle when they talk about their latest project: a playful calendar showing Boise Farmers Market vendors posing in the buff (or strategically shot to appear that way) at their farms, ranches and bakeries, surrounded by the fruits of their labor. The idea started as a way to spread the word about their new business, Double Dutch Photography, but quickly spiraled into a full-scale project to raise money for the BFM, with the enthusiastic blessing of both participants and market staff.
"In the emails that we send people and in our artist statement, we're asking people to 'bare it all' for the market," said Valko over lunch at The Funky Taco. "People can wear whatever they want in the photoshoots. We want people to feel comfortable, and so whatever that comfort level is we're meeting them where they're at. Some people are like, 'You said naked photoshoot, I'm ready!' and other people are like, 'How much do I...? What's okay here?'—Anything is okay."
Valko gave Sommer credit for the idea, which the pair said was inspired by the ubiquitous "sexy firefighter" calendars commonly used as fundraisers. According to Valko, the on-site shoots involved "lots of strategic placement."
"Super creative placement of vegetables, plants—" Sommer chimed in, setting the tone for the back-and-forth patter that she and Valko kept up throughout the interview.
Valko picked up the thread, adding, "—tractors, onions, irrigation hoses—" before the two dissolved into laughter.
- Double Dutch Photography
While the calendar is certainly meant to be funny, Sommer and Valko were quick to point out its serious roots. Both of them have strong ties to Boise's local food movement—Valko is the marketing manager for Boise Co-op and Sommer's family owns Purple Sage Farms—and they don't make light of what it stands for.
"It's a serious deal," Sommer said. "Local food, organic food, it's pretty ethical and moral. Everybody [at BFM] is pretty seriously into the environment, seriously into good taste. It's really hard work, but these farmers also have a sense of humor, and I think that's what we're kind of touching on."
Using their connections, Sommer and Valko started the project by approaching their market friends and casually tossing out the idea. A successful Australian nude farmers' calendar they'd stumbled across, which was created to raise awareness for mental illness in rural areas, laid a foundation for the concept. When the pair were met with what Valko described as "resounding yeses," they went to BFM Market Manager Karen Ellis and proposed to do the work entirely pro bono, with proceeds going toward the market as long as it covered the cost of printing.
Ellis loved it. With her green light, Sommer and Valko were ready to start shooting.
"Probably the most challenging part was the people we didn't know as well. We started with our friends. It was like, 'Let's get comfortable, see how weird this is,'" Valko said.
Sommer added, "But even that was like, 'Oh my god, what's going to happen?' Like, the nervousness, but once we got into it—"
"—it was just so fun," Valko finished. "Everyone was having fun."
- Double Dutch Photography
- Photographer Mo Valko (right) said there was "lots of strategic placement" in the photos—which this shot certainly proves.
Rachel Higgins, whose family co-founded Desert Mountain Grass-Fed Beef, was one of those friends. She'd worked with Valko for photography projects in the past before agreeing to appear in the BFM calendar.
"I was nervous and excited, both," she said. "I haven't seen the pictures, so I guess I'm even more nervous [about that]."
For her shoot, Higgins and her sister Lisa Wilsey took their horses out on the range at their parents' ranch in Marsing. While they were happy to participate, neither wanted to get too risque, particularly on a chilly morning.
"We sure weren't going to get naked," Higgins said, adding that she stayed fully dressed throughout, just pulling down the straps of her tank top to give the illusion of nudity while posing behind her horse and saddle. "But it was fun to be able to participate and help. I thought it was a great idea."
Along with Desert Mountain, representatives from Acme Bake Shop, Cafe Mule, Fiddler's Green Farm, Flowers with Rye, Ohana No-Till Farm, Purple Sage Farms, Snake River Seed Cooperative, Tailor Made Beef and True Roots Organics all star in the calendar, which will sell for $20. BFM supporters can order copies at theboisefarmersmarket.com or in person at the market starting Saturday, Nov. 10, to get to know their farmers a bit better.
To help kickstart sales and spark conversation about the calendars, which will arrive for distribution in mid-November, Sommer and Valko plan to open their own booth at the market.
"We want to touch on the funny side of Boise and hopefully have some fun with people," said Sommer.
If the farmers benefit too—whether from fresh funds, new customers or just a few belly laughs—so much the better.