Eat local. The idea is simple enough: by eating locally produced food, you consume fresher, more nutrient-rich cuisine, reduce global carbon emissions by eliminating transport, and contribute directly to your local community and economy. Ultimately, it’s easiest to trace your food if you know who’s growing it. If you do a little bit of exploring just beyond the Main streets of the Wood River Valley, you’ll find the small farms and farmers that produce delicious, fresh food, and give us the choice to “Eat Local.”
Sara Berman and her husband Ed Zinader bought their seven-acre property in Bellevue in 2014 with the “simple vision” of building a small vegetable farm. Three years later, their vision is in full bloom as their creation of Squash Blossom Farm now grows lettuce, salad mixes, kale, spinach, chard, peas, beans, onions, garlic, squash, radishes, beets, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, and herbs– to name a few.
“The tenets of local farming that we value a lot are the health and nutrition side of it,” said Berman, who was born and raised in Ketchum. “Knowing the food that we’re eating and giving to other people to eat is grown cleanly and is so much fresher than most of the stuff you can get in the grocery store is part of why we do it. To us, it’s also really important because it’s our way to be contributing members of the healthy and active community that we live in and all love.”
This year Squash Blossom Farm is now at the Ketchum and Hailey farmers’ markets, but it also continues to operate as a CSA, the commonly used acronym for community supported agriculture. The farm’s CSA memberships have more than doubled since last year. Members pay up front in early spring and receive an assortment of fresh produce every week throughout the entire growing season, depending on what’s best and plentiful on the farm.
Seven miles south of Squash Blossom Farm on Highway 75, you’ll find the home of Wood River Ranch Beef. Katie Zubia has been in charge of the family business’s beef program for the past four years after returning home with bachelor and master’s degrees in animal science.
“I know the steers from the time they’re born to the time they’re taken to the butcher,” said Zubia. Wood River Ranch’s beef is “natural grass-fed and grass-finished,” as their 600 cows graze on the 4,000-acre ranch and adjoining BLM allotments.
“It’s important to me to make people aware of what’s involved in producing our food,” continued Katie. “With beef, so many people just don’t understand where that comes from. Being local, we can say, ‘Come see our cows and how it all happens.’ It gives individuals more appreciation for the food they’re eating and offers them something to connect to and give a better name to beef and agriculture, in general.”
If you head north from Wood River Ranch to Hailey, you’ll find Shooting Star Farm. The one-acre farm was started by Carol Murphy and her late husband Dan Freeman in 2000 and grows everything from arugula to beets to pea shoots.
“Starting out, we were looking for something to do while Dan was developing his patents, art and music, and we wanted to do something socially and environmentally responsible,” recounted Murphy. “Organic farming was socially and environmentally responsible, plus we liked being outside and doing something from home, especially when our kids were young. And it also meant we got to work together.”
Squash Blossom Farm, Wood River Ranch Beef, and Shooting Star Farm all clarified that they are not certified organic, but the invitations to visit where the food is produced says it all.
In the case of Shooting Star Farm, Murphy noted, “We can’t say we’re organic because we’re not certified. But, we use organic compost and don’t spray anything: no synthetic fertilizer and no GMO seed, no insecticides, no pesticides, no herbicides, absolutely no spraying of any chemical. On our poster at the farmers’ market, we write that it’s just organic compost, soil, seed, sun and water.” She laughed, “And a lot of weeds, too.”
When eating local, it is simple enough. Whether at the Ketchum Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the Hailey’s Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 3 p.m.-7 p.m., online, in select stores and restaurants, or just off Main Street, Wood River Valley farmers are working hard to do it right and give us the choice to eat from our greater backyard.