Each year the crisp autumn season kicks off with the fall harvest. This time of year has long been celebrated to mark the end of an often toilsome growing season. Those final weeks of summer warmth were spent in the fields day after day for two to three weeks after the first hard frost. They were up before dawn, working hard out in the fields everyday until the very last of the day’s light, until the whole harvest was picked.
As soon as settlers came to the Boise Valley with the intention to stay they began claiming riverside properties that could be irrigated for food. The Valley’s farmland was able to produce enough food and supply to keep locals fed and mining towns supplied in the years leading up to the 20th century. Very early Boise grocers offered “an agreeable variety in the dietary department.” Families relied on their kitchen gardens each summer for easy to grow and store foods. At the turn of the century private and federal irrigation projects helped multiply the amount of viable farmland that could be developed much farther from the river banks. Since that time the Boise Valley has multiplied the fruits of its labors, lucky to be both consumer and producer of fresh berries, fruits, and vegetables, wines, ales, corn and wheat, potatoes and onions; all grown in the outlying farm towns and regions along the Boise River.
Technology has changed the face of the family farm over the years; in the 1950s school children were dismissed from class for at least two weeks every fall so they could help in the fields. Janie Burns, of Meadowlark Farms in Nampa said that “before mechanization, human labor was extremely important in a community supplying its own food as well as food for export. There were many seasonal and full time jobs. No doubt the hand labor was very physical, dirty, and dangerous in some cases.” She also notes that “humans have long known shared labor” and that ties of kinship were developed in the “rhythm of work.” Fruit wagons gave way to trucks and then refrigerated rail cars, which made it easier to ship local produce away to nearby metros. Today commercial and family farms have machines to do much of the work that men, women, and children did before.
Recently people have been trying to get back to their roots. The ‘eat local’ movement that has become so prevalent in this decade has only strengthened relationships that have long been forged, even if they seem to have been forgotten. It’s true that today locally grown food does make its way onto the shelves of even the biggest-box chain stores every now and again. And Win-Co, Fred Meyer, and Albertson’s do have local seasonal selections as well as supplemental out-of-season selections. There are fruit stands scattered around major roads in town that are a sure way to buy locally and regionally produced fruits and vegetables, but they are closed during the winter months. The reality of eating with the seasons is that it proves to be a little inconvenient. Several local organizations are trying to change that by building networks back to the community by raising awareness through their Buy Idaho campaigns. This map shows how many producers there are in the Gem State, what they produce, and where they are located.
Stonehenge Produce, located at Overland and Columbus, in an old closed down Circle K building, is filled with locally produced seasonal goods. The market is colorful and open, the food looks fresh, it’s perfectly ripe. These guys also run a commercial kitchen that turns out sauces, scones, pies, and other baked goods using local ingredients. They offer local organic, milk, butter, honey, meats, spreads, and cheeses year-round. Tom Miller, store manager, said that giving neighborhoods an easy point of access for local, high quality farm foods has been very popular with the neighbors, with whom he has built an intimate relationship. He’s been open at that location for two years. He says he used to work in construction, but after finding himself out of work, he and some friends decided to go back to what they knew. Having grown up in the Middleton farm area, produce is what these men knew. These kinds of home-grown markets have always been welcome in Boise. Stonehenge Produce has shown that we can make new efficient uses with outdated spaces, and that it’s never too late to go back to your roots.
Have a question about Boise’s history? Ask a Historian.
“Markets for Boise Valley Crops” Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series no. 177 (1974)
 Loretta Hoagland, “Blisters and Burlap” Oh! Idaho (Autumn 1990) pp. 43-45+
 Idaho Daily Statesman August 20, 1864 Vol I Issue 12 p.3
 Tom Miller, manager of Stonehenge Produce