Boise Needs A True Farmers Market

Even with the qualifier of being a “Northender,” we doubt the people who want fresh veggies during the growing season under the politically correct greenie label of “sustainable,” will be able to overcome the powerful CCDC urban renewal agency (Capital City Development Corp.) or the Downtown Business Association. Those outfits control the popular Saturday market.

The GUARDIAN suggested a year ago the city use the huge publicly owned lot at 30th & Fairview for a farmers market.
The City never even considered it. Not a councilor or other city official ever stepped up to get the ball rolling. It appears the motivation at city hall is to cater to the downtowners with no consideration for the populace. Instead they have left vacant land to grow weeds and nothing else. HERE IS LAST YEAR’s TRY:

Boise is awash in “surplus land” publicly owned, but unused for any public purpose. City officials offer hollow claims about selling the land to fund other projects, but they just can’t “gitterdone.”

The GUARDIAN–in response to a reader’s challenge–suggests a farmer’s market be made available immediately on the land at 30th and Fairview/Main. It is an ideal site for such a venture and it’s a “green” idea that is “sustainable” and if done right will have a small “carbon footprint” while being “healthwise.”

There is plenty of space for parking, easy access from all parts of town via the connector, proximity to the greenbelt for bikers and pedestrians, and it would encourage sale and consumption of locally grown food.

Producers could easily back into spaces and sell from their pick-up or van, erect awnings for shade and rain protection. We could have a “county fair” every weekend–just like they do throughout the world. If it appears to be a success, we could build a permanent facility–funded by bonds approved at an election of the citizens. There would be no major cost to taxpayers, since rent would be charged to merchants using the stalls.

There is nothing unique about the open market concept. It is done all over the world as evidenced by photos (below) the GUARDIAN has made at just a few places we have visited. The difference between an honest to goodness farmer’s market and the current Saturday market would be access to ALL citizens of Boise and the Valley and not just a promotion for downtown Boise merchants and rental payments to the CCDC.

Jump in with your ideas–anything beats what Team Dave and the current group of councilors has been able to accomplish with their land speculation during the past 4 years.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. What a great idea, Dave !! That would attract people who would not be interested in trying to park downtown and could be greatly expanded from the current, too small, location.

  2. Amen!

  3. Wouldn’t it interfer with the contstruction activities from the new hospital announced a looonngggg time ago? (sarcasm)

  4. Great idea, Dave.

  5. Excellent idea. While we’re at it how about opening up some space to allow some of us frustrated gardeners to grow a plot of veggies. I’d pay rent for such a space if its convenient and any excess I could sell at this place. The timing is perfect. With food and gas prices skyrocketing there will be plenty of folks stuck in Boise this summer who’d gratefully devote the time necessary to bring in a crop.

  6. Absolutely YES YES YES. Brilliant idea.

  7. Great idea and beautiful photos, Fraz!

  8. Dave, this concept is not new to urbania as some contend that the first “Open Market” signaled the birth of the worlds first city, historically speaking.

    It would, although, help if you didn’t show ONLY 3rd world country’s in the image… Perhaps throw a few industrial nations in there next time.

  9. Well, there you go again Guardian! Haven’t you learned better than to mix logic and common sense into the mix whenever discussing the city with the baboon and his band of chimps. They will never approve of anything that might jeopradize CCDC’s precious Saturday market. Too bad, too! It’s an excellent idea.

  10. It’s a great idea, but the devil is in the details. First, the only available parking is that small section that’s been the Bogus Basin Park and Ride. There’s no parking on Fairview or Main or 30th.

    Maybe the city could reconfigure Fairview and Main with angled parking either permanently or for Saturday market only. Adding parking to Fairview/Main is indeed part of the 30th St Master Plan.

    Ryan suggested presenting comparables to first world cities. Here’s one, San Diego. At San Diego’s near-downtown Sports Arena they have a weekly swap meet. Here’s a good pic:

    Of course, this would not even be close to the highest and best use of that property. It would be a short term solution only. And then it will sit vacant in the winter just as it does now.

    EDITOR NOTE–Seattle’s Pike Place is our first photo andLos Angeles has the famous “farmers market.” Local state operated markets are all over Georgia and cities throughout the Midwest. Best use is what the community wants–not a councilor’s dream of more condos, convention centers, or hotels squeezed into too small a space.

    Parking on 7 acres which was formerly a used car lot shouldn’t present much of a challenge.

  11. I wonder if Team Dave would get heat from Albertsons, Winco, Boise Coop, M&W, for such an idea?

    My wife was shopping at Pauls in McCall over the weekend and noticed many prices in the produce area cheaper than the Boise big box stores . Amazing.
    I think the regular folks who live there probably can’t afford Boise prices. She even bought me a nice pork roast that was .20/# cheaper than Winco.

  12. Easy and simple idea. If implemented, the city should let Parks and Rec. administrate it. Park and Rec. deals with multiple properties every day for maintenance. They also are accustom to running “retail” operations and servicing customers.

    This property will not always be available. Parks and Rec would be better suited to transferring such an enterprise to a new location whether it be a existing park or a new property.

  13. Great idea for that property. Even if a farmers market was only there for a few years, it would test the idea plus be a great use for the vacant land and keep the weeds down. Lots of available parking there would really be a plus. Consider leasing the property and having a private party organize the market like the 8th street market. I have never seen government really successful in trying to run a business.

  14. I’m all about this farmer’s market! I love fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats; all while supporting local farmers that might sprout bakeries and restaurants, etc.

  15. Bob Blurton
    May 13, 2008, 2:26 pm

    I went to the Farmers market the week before last and found a small pile of radishes, a few bags of lettuce, old gourds, some bread companies and THOUSANDS OF ITEMS OF USELESS JUNK / ART.

    Maybe they could have FARMERS at the Farmers Market, …what a concept.

    What needs to happen is for the ‘real’ Farmers to get on a piece of donated land for a genuine Farmers Market and EXCLUDE the junk vendors. The UberConsumers don’t buy local food …yet, but do clog up the place making it difficult to actually find FOOD.

  16. Yo Bob,
    Been living in Idaho long? Do you even know a “real” Idaho farmer? real Idaho farmers get federal welfare for the crops they grow unlike the farmers/growers at the Saturday Market. Real farmers vote Republican so they can stay on the gubmint dole. Real Idaho farmers use illegal labor if they can get away with it and pass the expense of illegals on to the backs of Mr.Taxpayer.
    How bout cookin up some delicious real Idaho farmer sugar beets, a side of hay, some winter wheat, alfalfa, silage, some mega feedlot milk full of growth hormones and antibiotics, to wash it down. That yellow dye commodity brick cheese and dry peas and lentils would hit the spot too.
    Bob, you might be the only one at the “real” Idaho farmer market if they bother to have one. Oh, and don’t forget your dump truck, they sell by the ton.

  17. curious george
    May 13, 2008, 6:18 pm

    Been playing Silent Bob for awhile. But I’ve got to say that a Public Market is an ideal investment for downtown revitalization.

    Mr. Blurton — how disconnected from the land do you have to be to loose sight of the fact that you’re not going to find fresh LOCAL vegetables in Boise, in APRIL. Anything there was gleened out of root cellars from last year’s crop.

    Guardian — very nice pictures of farmers’ markets around the world. But please note that Public Markets are an integral component of every older American settlement. There are many fine PM’s in eastern U.S. cities. The Project for Public Spaces published a great series of articles on Public Markets in its October 2005 webzine:

    There are even consultants that will assist communities in establishing such markets, here’s one:

    Here’s a great article on such markets published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

    EDITOR NOTE–George, I seem to be missing your point. Are you FER THE IDEA OR AGINNIT? We certainly are NOT against the 8th Street Northender crowd at the Saturday market. The head of the group said on KBOI today there simply was not enough product (or space) to expand that market. Do you favor the weedpatch and status quo at 30th and Fairview/Main?

  18. I heard the interview on KBOI but only parts of the follow-up response from the head of the farmer’s market downtown. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what her objection was. Can anyone summarize it for me?

    EDITOR NOTE–We couldn’t figure out if she actually was opposed. It sounded like she just wanted to promote the downtown and, if actually opposed, it was for fear of “taking away” from downtown and a sense of loyalty to CCDC. Part of the GUARDIAN proposal is to call their bluff–do folks want a market, or it it just a promotion for downtown like ALIVE AFTER FIVE, FIRST THURSDAY, etc.? A real farmers market would be nice.

  19. I think it would be great to put the piece of land to use as a Farmers Market, but only as an incubator/test to determine if a full time Farmers Market could be viable. I think if would be better served in an permanent location that allowed for both indoor and outdoor areas.

    Many of Curious George’s and the Guardian’s links referenced market that were a mix of actual farm products, restaurants and shops. There needs to be a draw to make it a destination place year round. It also important to provide a mix of product types to extend the hours of operation. The longer you can activate a place throughout the day, the more opportunity you have for a successful project.

    A possible permanent location could be the Compton Warehouse building at 9th and Front. I proposed this for my senior thesis in school. Broad Street could be extended as a pedestrian street through the building to provide a link to BODO, the Greenbelt connector on 11th, and the possible new convention center. This building would give an opportunity for indoor and outdoor vendor booths depending on the season. It also is near a parking garage, enlivined shopping district (BODO) and with in walking distance of downtown residential properties.

    EDITOR NOTE–Can’t resist this one! We are talking apples and oranges. Your BoDo Compton warehouse may have legs (A Simplot family member floated something in the area as well). There simply is no parking available nor room for farm trucks to come and go in the busy corridor which is already crowded with busses and TV rigs far too often.

  20. Dave you are correct it does not nearly have as much area as the 30th & Main location, but I believe it has enough parking and access (it is already setup of for farm trucks on all four sides)

    These maps should be at the same scale.
    Compton Warehouse site:,-116.207199&spn=0.005523,0.010042&t=h&z=17
    30th & Main site:,-116.22568&spn=0.005522,0.010042&t=h&z=17

    Per your original post, Pikes Place does not have all that much room for farm trucks, buses and TV rigs but it seems to do just fine.
    This map is at the same scale as the ones above,-122.340794&spn=0.005143,0.010042&t=h&z=17

    There are two parking garages less than a block away (granted the rates may be raised)

  21. curious george
    May 14, 2008, 10:47 am


    I’m all for a permanent, year-round Public Market for Boise. The closer to downtown restuarants and hoped-for new residential stock the better. Access to the River and the Greenbelt would be a nice amenity for tourists (but not a necessary component for locals), as well as good access for delivery trucks and near-in public parking (or better yet, located a walkable/bikable distance to a strong customer base).

    Anybody who says that the Grove/8th Street, the former Lithia Ford site, or the Compton site, is the best location for a Public Market without doing the necessary market & technical research is jumping the gun.

    By advocating for a specific site (or none at all) is as Draconian and wrong-headed as any of the stubborn CCDC committments (think, Big Hole).

    Since a Public Market is a proven redevelopment tool (and simple good Urbanism), it should be a simple step to ask CCDC & Boise to hire a specialist to look at existing market conditions, probable costs, and multiple sites before building a case for any further public investment in the idea.

    And, before you disparrage any discussion of public indebtidness — successful Public Markets are (by nature) public investments, as critically necessary as schools, water treatment plants, and roadways. They provide a level of good urbanism, good public stewardship, and sales venues for small local businesses that the private sector has NEVER achieved.

    There’s a reason why Public Market’s in cities like Buffalo and Philidelphia:

    Have survived for over a Century and grown to become the heart of sustainable neighborhoods. Though a strong component of such markets, stalls have never been limited to only food products — Arts & Crafts, Pots & Pans, Toys & Games, Hot Dog Stands & Fine Restaurants have always been a strong component of such venues (even if Mr. Blurton considers them useless junk). Even street theater should be encouraged.

    Having seen Tucker’s senior thesis (I think I was even an invited critic – okay, maybe uninvited), the Compton site (especially with a re-established local street grid along Broad to 11th Street — as a truck service drive) is a very viable candidate site. The argument that there isn’t sufficient public parking around the Compton site must be a facetious remark – right?

  22. Unfortunately, we will drag the Saturday market and the CCDC kicking and screaming down every inch of this path. As invigorating as it is to actually discuss a positive for the city,The leadership in the city would NEVER do anything to jeopordize the downtown core area. This is a great idea that will come to fruition in spite of, not with the help of, the downtown core interests.

  23. The Comptons warehouse would be a perfect downtown location. The trucks would have plenty of axis to unload since they would need to do it very early in the morning or the night before. That building has a freight elevator indoors as well to access the basement which could make a cool Boise Underground type of gig. What is wrong with parking in the empty lot next to it? It makes much more sense to build a Farmers Market, sustaining many businesses than a giant hotel/convention center. The city will crush it with over regulation ,safety issues,etc. making the rent space too expensive for vendors. They will make sure something as progressive as a permanent farmers market will fail. Remember, these are the nimrods who can’t fix the hole in downtown Boise. They are spawn of the ones who brought us Boise Redevelopment in the 70’s. Same mind set, same gene pool. Simplot S16 folks won’t let it happen because they are afraid someone might make a dime and besides they couldn’t make a successful development if they tried. Goes back to the gene pool.

  24. Love this idea! The site is so central, it could work.

    I frequented what is now called Saturday Market regularly when it started at 8th Street Market Place beside and inside the old furniture store, which developers insisted on tearing down. At the time, there was parking available for it and it was great.

    After it got thrown out of 8th Street Marketplace, I continued going on an irregular basis on North 8th Street. It was fun but parking was a problem. Especially when you were lugging big bags of vegetables, fruit, bread and meat to wherever you found a place for your car.

    Currently, I am seldom in Boise on Saturday mornings but have a vegetable seller I use nearby. But I like this idea so much, I just might try to rearrange my life for it should it materialize.

    I’ve tried the Eagle market, but it doesn’t seem to be seriously committed to food.

    By the way, New York City sets up some great farmers markets in its numerous small parks and squares.

  25. Thanks for the reply, Dave. I wasn’t sure if I heard her complete message or not. I’m glad the confusion wasn’t just on my part. She talked in political double-speak and really didn’t give an answer.

    I will point out that one reason the powers-that-be won’t support a farmer’s market on an excess land location is because they fear the uproar that will happen when they want to bulldoze the land to put up a new convention center.

    I believe the talk of ‘selling’ the excess land is really just another attempt to get a convention center built. Maybe the “old” convention center could become the farmer’s market.

  26. sam the sham
    May 16, 2008, 5:27 pm

    I have a friend who has been a vendor at the market for years. He is lucky. His booth is small and he gets away with bringing his entire set up and inventory on the trailer of his bike. He used his van once and said no more!! It is a mess for the vendors to get out of the area!
    Each season, before the Boise’s Sat. Mkt. opens there is a meeting. At that meeting there is a pep talk to encourage vendors to charge more for their wares than ever before. Why? Well in part, it’s because the people who run the market get a percentage of what the vendors take in.
    This goes on year after year.

    But you do have it right Dave.
    We do need a larger area for the Market. It’s too bad that cars/parking is such a big part of Boise. No matter where the market is, one has to consider where all these people are going to park their cars. If the market was less of a “latte after market, show off your dog, shop downtown” event then the car turn over would be quicker, so perhaps less parking would be needed.

  27. I love the idea, but how about this time we make it a healthy option and prohibit fair food from the market. My brother in Anchorage says there is a farmer’s market there that doesn’t allow it and another one that does.

    Then I could feel good about bringing my kids because now it is a bit miserable as we don’t eat any junk food and I mean none! All of our food is whole and unprocessed. We would love an environment we could visit that didn’t try to push junk on us and that’s pretty hard to find in a public domain!

  28. Bpise native
    May 22, 2008, 7:39 am

    I agree, 30th & Fairview/Main is excellent place since the old Bob Rice Ford Facility is most likely to become the next “Hide Park wantabe” area. Start buying those houses around 27th St. before it becomes the next “North End”.

  29. Ok… I am so in favor of moving the “Capital City Public Market”
    It already is so crowded, and seems to be limited to adding more venders. The more space and place for parking is truely needed. Boise needs to step up and move along with the times.

    This lovely City is growing,and Boise really is not doing it’s part in keeping up. Why is the Market confined to “Just Sturdays 9:30-1:30”? Most likely because it would interfear with the merchants already there. This limits many people to enjoy what Boise Market has to offer. The “Market” in Seattle is an ongoing every day. It is busy at all times… rain or shine! It is a well known “Public” Market as well as a wonderful tourest spot. I say…lets just do it!!!

  30. For clarification. The two Anchorage markets are dramatically different. One is produce only, mostly organic and is about 4-8 vendors on a particular weekend day. The other is a tourist trap with over 100 booths, the vast majority of them t-shirts and Native tourist trinkets. It’s more of a flea market really and the times I visited last summer I only saw one or two produce vendors.

    When living in Dallas, the farmer’s market was a series of open sheds (very nice ones but still relatively cheap to build for a city) on the south side of downtown. Farmers could back their trucks in to either side and shoppers walked down the middle in the shade. At that time there were 3 football field length sheds I think and two were produce. The third had garage doors to pull down on the outside edge and was reserved for food producers (bakeries, candy, etc).

    Having a farmer’s market where the producers can back their truck/trailer and sell out the back. As a kid I sold sweet corn and tomatoes that way in Greeley, Colorado’s market.

    If a public action committee were to be formed to promote this idea and work with the city on it, I would volunteer to be on it or help coordinate it. My number is 761-9538.

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