The Wood River Valley is renowned for artful events and ultimate outdoor experiences. Our idyllic backdrop and high-class culture makes us a destination both for the elite and for adventurers seeking pristine wilderness.
However, as the nation’s ninth most expensive county in which to live, variants divide us: north and south valley, affluence and service strata, full time residents and part time holidaymakers, culture and ethnicity. We contribute time or money through local nonprofits, yet how else may we truly get to know our neighbors?
I cannot think of a better way to connect than through sharing food experiences. When we identify, promote and celebrate our own seasonal, regionally grown food we not only nourish ourselves, but also our community.
Sadly, aside from spuds, we are not known for our food. Within our own community, we lack food identity. But local people advocating for food change are clear about a few things: alleviating environmental impact through regenerative agriculture; bringing farm-fresh food into more markets, restaurants, organizations and homes; and economic growth for farmers and local businesses.
It is a misconception that local, nutrient-dense food is accessible only to those with deep pocketbooks. Think of “high-quality” as “grown the way nature intended, by farmers who care about the earth.” Such care for the earth and for our food creates the foundation of community resilience.
Organizations like The Hunger Coalition are creating space and programming to build deeper, more authentic and inclusive connections through food. Local Food Alliance, a subsidiary of Sun Valley Institute for Resilience, is creating a community of food heroes, stories from the field and shared resources. Blaine County Food Council members meet regularly to address key food system concerns and how to take action to improve them. Kraay’s Market & Garden is collecting and delivering farm fresh food and locally made food products to hundreds of families every week.
We are making noteworthy strides, and we can do more.
Idaho has some of the most expansive agricultural regions in the west, and yet we ship 98% of our food out of state. Our farmers make approximately the same income today as they made in 1920. Food activists have the same conversations about food inequality, poor access, and food disempowerment as they were in the early 1990’s.
The great news: The Wood River Valley has high potential to be known for bringing regionally grown food into every restaurant at every price point, to elevate farmers to the status of our Fortune-500 neighbors, and for a “Sun Valley destination” to embody an inclusive food community that celebrates Idaho heritage with cultural recipe twists.
To express our food identity, first we must purchase locally grown food every week and include it in every family meal-plan, road trip and backcountry adventure; ask chefs and servers about food sourcing during every restaurant experience; and bring our kids and neighbors to community farms, gardens and seasonal markets to meet our farmers and connect with the seasonal abundance. When our chefs, business owners, friends and neighbors hear us talking about local food, soon our own rich food identity will unfold, and people will come here to be a part of it.
My love for food has taken me all over the world, from backcountry to city, shack to palace, discomfort to hedonism. Community is what ultimately brought me back to Idaho. I am grateful to volunteer in our community’s food system and am proud to support our local food producers.
Let’s create a common table of local food experiences.