Janie Burns, Meadowlark Farm
Janie Burns of Meadowlark Farm in Nampa raises lambs, chickens and chicken eggs using organic methods. She is one of the leading voices in Idaho’s “local food movement.” She has watched with dismay as Idaho farms have dwindled from more than 40,000 in 1950 to just over 25,000 farms today. Most of those producers grow only one or two specialty commodity crops.
“Not only are the crops not grown but the infrastructure to support those crops aren’t here. The packing houses, the processing facilities for the meat, for vegetables, storing those things, the canneries, the flour mills – all those things that used to be here, that used to support our economy and feed ourselves have vanished.”
After more than two decades of growing produce and livestock, Burns says the nature of her conversations with customers at the Capitol City Public Market has taken on a more meaningful tone. These days, people want to know how the animals are being raised.
“I’m selling much more than the meat. I’m selling the values – the managing the vegetation, the integration with the whole farm. Animals that are treated well just pragmatically are better. I think it speaks to our soul if they’re not feeding them well. There’s a very fine line between feeding animals poorly and treating humans poorly. There’s something emotional perhaps we can’t measure that’s important to me in this.”
Though she is a “die-hard” locavore, Burns and many other farmers are the first to acknowledge Idahoans cannot eat everything local twelve months out of the year. However, she believes consumers do have a say in the direction our food system is headed.
“We can’t always get everything we want all the time locally and we have to build the demand. So by you asking for it and buying it you’re helping to create the system that will help you have it all the time.”