Wood River Farmers Market
When Sheila Plowman accepted the job of Wood River Farmers Market manager in early March 2020, she had no idea what a bumpy ride she was in for. Managing two weekly markets is a big job in a typical year, but as we know, 2020 has been anything but typical. An experienced businesswoman who launched a line of veggie chips at the Ketchum market 10 years ago, Sheila tackled all of the challenges caused by COVID-19 with professionalism and a smile.
Here's what Sheila had to say when asked about her experience and food philosophy:
What inspired you to get involved with managing the Wood River Farmers Markets?
In 2010, I had just come back from a family trip to France and was feeling very inspired by the fresh, creative and delicious foods there. I ran into Kaz Thea, the Wood River Farmers Market manager at the time, and she encouraged me to have a booth at the Hailey market. The idea of selling some sort of creative food sounded like fun, especially since I have loved to experiment with (aka not follow) recipes since childhood. I love being a vendor at the market, and although my business grew quite large, my best and happiest years were the ones when I was selling at the market. So when I saw the position open up, I was interested in being part of that culture again.
What has your first season been like?
The first season has been challenging due to COVID-19. Right off the bat, we realized that we needed to offer an online buying option for customers because we had no idea how long we all would need to social distance, etc. So a lot of the first couple of months was spent on researching and then learning and implementing our online program. I am still in the process of learning some of the basics of the job since initially all the “regular” tasks had to be put on hold to get the online system up and running.
What’s the response been to the new online ordering system?
Great! Customers seem to really appreciate it and they got the swing of it very quickly
Aside from shopping at the market, what can community members do to support local producers?
Buy local wherever they can. There are quite a few creative folks who offer crafts locally and local prepared food and produce is usually offered in all of the valley grocery stores.
You launched a business from the farmers market years ago. Can you tell us about it?
The farmers market is a great place to test market product ideas. I got the green light from my market customers that they liked my kale and mixed veggie chips. I ended up growing my business over four years to 400 stores, mostly in the western United States. I learn a lot from that experience and I would recommend that anyone interested in growing their product tries to keep it at a regional level, where it is more manageable, rather than going national.
What’s your definition of “good food”?
Fresh, delicious, not necessarily pretty and made with good intentions (JUJU).
How did you get interested and involved in the local food movement?
I realized that environmentally it is just better for the planet to buy from local farmers, minimize trucking costs. Some of the added benefits are that fresher produce has a higher nutrient value and we are supporting small farmers, not mass produced food.
Describe your favorite meal made with local ingredients.
My most recent favorite is using some of the lettuce from Shooting Star Farms and other greens from my Squash Blossom Farm CSA to make a delicious salad, often with some sheep cheese on it from Mountain Valley Farmstead.Throw in some pecans and dried cranberries, too.
Also, for a more hearty meal, I love a good hamburger with Wood River Ranch ground beef—add some lettuce tomatoes and jalapenos and you have got a delicious and filling meal.
Who is your food hero?
I have two. The Wood River Farmers Market because they make so much great food available to our community and the Local Food Alliance because they really saved us when we needed both funding and boots-on-the-ground help getting our online ordering program up and running this spring. I really don’t think we would have been able to offer the online shopping option without the help of LFA.
What change would you like to see in the Wood River Valley in terms of food?
More people buying locally and stores offering a bigger selection of locally grown/produced items.