Traveling is always an exciting adventure, especially after being homebound for so long. I’ve been itching to get away, as I’m sure we all have. Wherever my travels take me, it’s important that I get a sense of local life. I have found that there’s no better way than to visit a farmers market, as the locals grow, sell and buy the food and wares. There’s always an opportunity to chat with the merchants and the shoppers while picking peaches and plums or ogling baked goods. It’s a wonderful history lesson in local culture. Even in Paris, I managed to hold a decent conversation with the farmers with my fractured high school French.
This week I’m in Sun Valley, Idaho, a town that I’ve been to several times and just adore for it’s small town charm, beautiful mountain vistas and heavenly outdoor ice rink. I’m a figure skater and there’s no better place in the world to skate than under the big blue sky of Idaho, even when it’s sunny and 90 degrees.
Having spent several glorious weeks here in the past, I knew that there was a small but charming farmers market in nearby Ketchum, on Tuesday afternoons, and so scheduled my itinerary to include a visit. In years past, it was right in the center of town, amidst the chic shops and restaurants. This year it was moved to the base of Mt. Bald – not as convenient, but much more spacious.
Here’s the thing about Sun Valley. When they say it starts at 2 p.m., it starts at 2 p.m. We (my husband and myself) were early and had to queue up which gave us a head start on chatting with the locals. A lovely lady right in front of us offered great information on scenic places of interest beyond the Valley. Much more helpful than the internet. We already felt a part of the community.
Once allowed in, I browsed table to table to see what was farm fresh and available in this part of the country. I have to say that I was disappointed not to find baskets overflowing with Idaho spuds. Perhaps the wrong time of year. One vendor, The Atomic Kitchen, did sell fresh potato chips made from local russets. After sampling, we bought a big bag of the salted variety. Delicious! There were several tables of fresh vegetables, including the largest cucumbers I have ever seen, tables laden with bags of cherries and stone fruits, fresh baked goods from the local fruit, and more.
One stand in particular caught my eye — Shooting Star Farms, with its hand drawn sign and checkered tablecloths. Carol Murphy, the farmer, shared with me that she has lived in the Valley for 30 years and started this farm 20 years ago, a first in the area. Her plump bags of lettuce looked bright green and fresh and were scooped up 2 or 3 at a time by the shoppers. Laid back and friendly, she epitomized the local feel here.
In addition to fresh produce, there were heavenly scented lavender products from Lavender Goddess Farm, magnificent hand turned wood bowls by Sean Petersen of Pinkchef Woodturning and glorious fresh cut flowers, from Rustic Petals, sold right out of a vintage horse trailer. Everyone was friendly and accommodating when I asked for photos and information for this article. There’s a lot to be said for the peace and quiet of small town life.
While I decided not to cook this week, other than a bowl of locally made granola or locally baked bread and jam for breakfast at our condo (all amazing), it was still fun to peruse the Idaho farm goods. Just like our Larchmont Farmers Market, The Ketchum Farmers Market brings out the best in local life.
Next time you travel, be sure to investigate if your destination has a local farmers market. Even if you’re not going to be cooking, it’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in the rich history of a community.