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You Can Grow It: Farmers markets around the valley begin to open

People are celebrating opening day for some of Idaho’s local weekend icons – farmers markets. The Main Street Farmers Market in Meridian opens on Saturday.

BOISE, Idaho — Farmers markets are among Idaho’s most popular outdoor events and traditions.  And like so many other businesses and public gatherings, farmers markets have had to adapt to pandemic health restrictions.  But here’s some good news - many of these markets are starting to reopen for the season.

Garden master Jim Duthie talks with the director of one of the local markets that’s opening this weekend, to find out what you can expect, and how you can support these local small businesses safely, and still get the quality products and fresh produce that you love.

Every weekend from spring to fall, in many communities across southwest Idaho, you can find farmers markets set up in parks and parking lots. But with the onset of the pandemic last year, these small businesses had to adapt and adjust to some big changes in how they interact with the public.  And now, as a new season begins, local farmers markets are once more ready to welcome customers safely and efficiently.

Idaho farmers markets offer a wide range of products, including baked goods, arts and crafts, plants and flowers, locally-made food products like jerky, beverages, and condiments; and, of course, fresh locally grown produce.

But COVID-19 forced them to do things a little differently last year, and most of those changes are still with us as local farmers markets begin opening up in 2021.

Farmers markets in Boise have already opened for business, and now the Meridian Main Street Market is having its official grand opening this weekend. 

Director Cheree Eveland says they’re excited to welcome customers and vendors back to the market.

“This year there’s a lot more positive feedback from the community, and especially the vendors.  They’re excited to be back.”

“If anything 2020 and COVID did, it gave people a chance to stay home and create something new, so some of the vendors that we have are ones that started doing something just last year.  And now they want to get out there and show off their products and talk to people about what they’re doing.”

Even though attendance fell sharply last year due to the pandemic, regular customers continued to come and support the small businesses, and she expects numbers to increase again this year.

“And then the non-profits, and of course, you know, our youth vendors.  That’s what makes us a little different, is we have our youth vendors.  And we’ve got eight of them so far this year.”

Besides fresh produce and other specialty items, there’s live music by local artists.  But what brings most people out to Idaho’s farmers markets?

“I think people like that if they come on a regular basis that they get to know the vendors.  We have people that specifically come for a specific vendor.  I think they like being able to get out and support the community.”

“And downtown Meridian is growing.  We’ve got some new buildings going up, some new businesses coming in, and it’s a way for the Meridian market to support that and have people come down to the restaurants or the stores, and they come over to the market and vice-versa, go to the market and then still get to wander around downtown Meridian and see what there is to offer down there.”

For added safety and customer convenience, something new has been added this year – an online shopping app called Tap4Markets.

“Tap4Markets is something free to our vendors, so there’s no extra charge, but it allows our guests and vendor customers to submit an order online ahead of time.”

The app is free and user-friendly.  Select Meridian Main Street Market, then scroll through the list of available vendors, place your order by Thursday afternoon, and make your payment.  Then you pick up your order at the market on Saturday.

“The Meridian Main Street Market opens on Saturday at Meridian City Hall plaza, and runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through mid-October.   And wherever you live, other farmers markets near you will be opening up from now through the spring.

Other local markets that are now open or are opening soon include: Capital City Public Market, which opened last Saturday in Garden City, and the Boise Farmers Market drive-thru, which is open now for online orders and curbside pick-up.  The Nampa Farmers Market is having its grand opening on April 24th at Lloyd Square in downtown Nampa.

For a complete list of farmers markets near you, check out the website for the Idaho Farmers Market Association