Farmers, chefs and store owners mingled Monday at a new event meant to connect local growers with local buyers.
The first-ever farmer-buyer meet-and-greet hosted by the Blaine County Food Council attracted about two dozen producers from around south-central Idaho and representatives from nearly 30 stores, restaurants and institutions.
The purpose of the networking event was to make it easier for local farmers and business owners to meet by gathering dozens of people in one place, said Stacy Whitman, co-director of the Local Food Alliance and the Blaine County Food Council.
“We’re trying to make it easy on everybody by providing a venue where they can meet, learn more about each other’s needs, and hopefully make business connections that will lead to higher profits for the farmers and more local food in our restaurants and stores,” Whitman said.
While the farmers hailed from as far as Emmett, all the buyers at the event were based in the Wood River Valley.
“The farmers don’t have time to go around to every buyer in the valley to try and make connections and tell them about their products,” Whitman said.
And while a number of restaurants and shops in Blaine County already carry locally sourced food and products, she said, “there are a number of others who want to do it but haven’t really made the connections yet.”
Phil Christensen, owner of Old Almo Creamery in Almo, had driven nearly three hours to attend the meet-and-greet with his friend John Klimes of Buhl-based organic farm Agrarian Harvest.
The creamery is “slowly developing sales” in the Wood River Valley, Christensen said, and already works with some businesses in the region.
“We’re making a bigger push to be more of a presence here,” he said.
Agrarian Harvest, which produces livestock, poultry, produce and herbs, also has some customers in Blaine County, Klimes said. As the event wound down, Klimes said it had given him an opportunity to check in with some current and past customers, as well as meet a few potential connections.
“There’s a lot of people here,” he said. “So it’s been good.”
On the other end of things, Liza Green and Ashley Roop, owners of Cafe Della in Hailey, were looking to connect with some local food producers.
The cafe, which has been open for about seven months, has started to work with some farmers and producers from nearby towns such as Bellevue and Carey, Green said.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to chat with so many people in one space,” she said.