Hoel Rojas begins his week driving across southern Idaho picking up produce and prepared foods, while returning empty cartons and boxes to farmers for reuse. His rounds are part of a synchronized system of delivery and pickup from Kraay’s Market & Garden in the south end of the Wood River Valley.

Larry Kraay bought his farm in 1978. His dream was to raise Arabian horses. But with his wife, Sherry, Kraay has reimagined his spread as an organic farm with flourishing greenhouses and animals. The farm is now the hub of a south central Idaho local food movement.

Idaho’s Bounty, an online food co-op, initiated the idea of a direct-to-consumer food system. But over the years, its focus evolved into a wholesale service for grocery stores and restaurants. To fill the home-delivery gap, over the past several years the Kraays put together a transportation system that benefits consumers as well as fellow organic farmers.

Consumers can order online for home delivery each Wednesday. But secreted within those deliveries is also a complicated pickup and delivery system from farms and producers to Kraay’s Market.

Some of what Hoel picks up from southern Idaho farmers and producers is delivered by Larry on Tuesdays to various Wood River Valley grocery stores and restaurants including Sun Valley Community School, Galena Lodge, Maude’s, NourishMe and Atkinson’s Market in Ketchum. On the way back to the farm, Larry will make further pickups from Wood River Valley based producers. These items will be added to Hoel’s produce for home deliveries the next day.

Julie Johnson, owner of NourishMe, a health food market in Ketchum, says, “It’s a connection—you get good vibrations. This food is nutrient rich and being delivered by caring people. The cycle is what makes the energy so high.”

Other farms closer to Boise bundle deliveries to the Wood River Valley to be delivered to the Kraays’ hub. There are nearly 50 vendors around southern Idaho with whom they steadily work.

After orders have been sorted—there are about 130 regular customers, among a total of 800 registered—the team heads out to make deliveries. By the end of the day, the team has covered the entire Wood River Valley, delivering food in a soft market bag with an ice pack inside.

Learn about how the day unfolds at Kraay's Market & Garden in Ketchum, Idaho.
Learn about how the day unfolds at Kraay's Market & Garden in Ketchum, Idaho.

The Kraays have help from Hoel and Lindsay Mollineaux, the market manager. They calculate that they collectively cover about 20,000 miles each year. Sherry says, “We started delivering in Larry’s car, then a truck, then two vehicles plus Larry’s car. Now we have a van and two employee cars.”

“We do love the mood of the company, and the vendors love the way we work,” Larry says. “We do the marketing and sell for them. We’re the only USDA-recognized hub in the state. It’s all been word of mouth through vendors.”

Do they get a few days rest? Hardly. Planting, watering, harvesting, washing, bagging, cooking, canning and inputting orders are time consuming farm activities.

“Vendors have to have a list of what products are available on Saturday at noon,” Lindsay says. “I put it into the computer. People order Sunday through Monday and then I email or text the vendors what their orders are for the week.”

She adds that vendors have been able to add greenhouses, make improvements and, for one family, even stay on the farm they’d planned to leave, due to the demand for fresh, local produce.

Kraay’s Market & Farm also hosts more than two dozen field trips for area schools and organizations. In 2018 more than 200 overnight visitors including agritourists took advantage of their well-appointed teepee, with so much demand they plan on erecting another.

It’s a busy yet serene operation. The mountains are visible in the distance from this flat part of the Wood River Valley. Sherry tells me they feed birds. This is an understatement. There is birdsong everywhere. Trees are bursting with aviary activity. Horses scamper in the fields. Chickens and goats share an enclosure.

The Kraays are committed to the operation and the mind-set behind growing and sharing local organic produce, while connecting farmers to each other and to consumers.

“We allow gardeners to garden and we do the business part,” Larry says. “It’s not part of their rhythm.”

“There’s nothing more personal than feeding people,” Lindsay adds. “We’re all part of the same community.”

Some customers leave notes of thanks. One woman creates an original card each week and leaves it in her returning bag. These now grace a wall in the sorting shed.

“It’s a service business; we sell the concept of the service that we provide,” Larry says. “It’s a fun journey.”

Reposted from Edible Idaho South.