Brian Williams shares some great thoughts on local food systems and why they are important for building strong communities in his August 2017 article, Local Food: Turning your Greens into Greenbacks.
“There are many reasons to promote local food in your community: freshness; knowing where your food came from and how it was grown; supporting local farmers; having an alternative to fruits and vegetables that were trucked across the country from California or Florida.
But one of the best reasons is economic development: keeping your food dollars in your own town, county, and state.“
—Brian Williams, consultant for Local Nexus LLC
According to the USDA, more than 150,000 farmers, ranchers, and agricultural entrepreneurs are selling quality products directly to consumers nationwide. These direct sales at farmers markets exceeded $1.5 billion nationwide in 2015.
“As the number of markets grow around the country, so do the number of farmers. This means that with the help of farmers markets, hundreds of farmers choose to stay in agriculture over another profession, thereby helping to preserve our farmland and rural traditions.”
Farmers markets also act as an important “third place” or gathering space in your community. These places can cultivate a different kind of connection among people in our communities, welcoming people and providing space for neighbors and friends to meet one another.
As of today, there are over 8,000 markets listed in the National Farmers Market Directory, demonstrating the continued demand for community-oriented markets and the many contributions they make to local economies. Connecting rural to urban, farmer to consumer, and fresh ingredients to our diets, farmers markets are becoming economic and community centerpieces in cities and towns across the U.S. The Inland Northwest is no exception:
IDAHO FARMERS MARKETS:
Athol: Athol Farmers Market
Bonners Ferry: Bonners Ferry Farmers Market
Coeur d’Alene: Wednesday Market
Harrison: Harrison Grange Market
Hayden: Saturday Market
Kellogg: Silver Valley Community Market
Moscow: Moscow Farmers Market, Tuesday Community Market
Sandpoint: Farmers’ Market at Sandpoint
WASHINGTON FARMERS MARKETS:
Chewelah: Chewelah Farmers Market
Colville: NEW Farmers Market
Clayton: Clayton Farmers Market
Kettle Falls: Kettle Falls Farmers Market
Liberty Lake: Liberty Lake Farmers’ Market
Newport: Newport Farmers Market
Pullman: Pullman Farmers Market
Othello: Othello Farmers Market
Spokane: Emerson-Garfield Farmers’ Market, Fairwood Farmers Market, Kendall Yards Night Market, Millwood Farmers’ Market, Perry Street Thursday Market, Spokane Farmers’ Market, and West Plains Farmers’ Market
Spokane Valley: Spokane Valley Farmers Market
Lisa Brown, Washington Department of Commerce director, and Tom Kealey, Idaho Department of Commerce director, spoke Friday about the economies in their respective states during an Inland Northwest Partners conference at Banyan’s on the Ridge in Pullman.
“I see broadband as really a significant challenge to get right,” Brown said.
Part of the challenge, she said, is Federal Communications Commission maps showing the number of broadband providers available and overall coverage provided in the region is not adequate.
“We’ve got to understand what we have and what we don’t have in order to appropriately direct investment into that middle mile and last mile,” she said. “That’s always the most challenging piece of deploying communications or telecommunications technology.”
Washington is trying to help rural areas with this problem by establishing a statewide broadband office that would coordinate grants to governments and tribes for broadband infrastructure.
Washington 9th District Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, told the Daily News in April that she and her colleagues in the House supported the legislation because it will increase competition in the internet service provider marketplace and bring better service to rural Washington.
In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order in May establishing the Idaho Broadband Task Force, Kealey said.
The 40-member task force this fall will bring to the governor recommendations on ways the state can improve connectivity and speeds across Idaho.
The task force will try to map existing services and gaps in broadband infrastructure, which Kealey said will paint a picture for what resources are needed in rural and urban areas.
“We want to map what we have, be able to measure what we have in terms of access as well as speeds and features and services and options,” he said.
Brown pitched another idea that may bring people and commerce to eastern Washington. In light of Microsoft and other corporations last year offering funding to build a high-speed railway from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Portland, Brown said she would like to see a similar railway that connects western Washington with eastern Washington.
“How fantastic that would be to connect our communities, to connect our students and families, and also as an opportunity for people to be able to leave the megalopolis and see what the options are in other parts of the state,” Brown said.
Brown and Kealey highlighted some positives in Washington and Idaho economies.
“If we were a country, we’d be up there with Sweden or Belgium right now,” he said.
Kealey said Idaho is near the top of the rankings in several economic categories including first in travel dollars, third in the number of people moving to the state and fourth in job growth.