Ranching is a way of life in Idaho, and when driving into the Sun Valley area it’s hard to miss the thousands of acres planted with malted barley, alfalfa, and seed potatoes. But if you look closely, you’ll find something else: small farms that work to create products—meat, vegetables, and fruit—for the local community. Squash Blossom Farm, located in Bellevue, is one such farm.
When Wood River Valley native Sara Berman first learned about sustainable agriculture in a high school class at the Community School in Sun Valley, she didn’t yet know how that knowledge would shape her path through life. The class sparked enough interest for Berman to pursue the subject through college, and then spend time working on different types of farms and ranches across the globe. When Berman met Ed Zinader, who shares her passion for agriculture, the pair began to dream about creating a small, sustainable farm to grow to produce for their friends, family, and the community.
They began searching for the right property with patience and determination. When the opportunity arose to purchase a home with acreage just blocks off of Main Street in Bellevue, they jumped at the chance. “I didn’t think we’d be able to find or afford anything so close to town,” says Berman. “But we did, and it’s really special for us to be able to say that our crops and our products are grown in the Wood River Valley.”
After purchasing the property, which they named Squash Blossom Farm, Berman and Zinader immediately jumped in and got to work implementing their vision. While working full-time jobs they planted vegetables and herbs in one-quarter of an acre the first year, then one-half of an acre the next year, until reaching the one-acre they currently cultivate. Zinader was the first to make the leap to working on Squash Blossom Farm full-time, and Berman joined him last year.
Squash Blossom Farm focuses on growing their produce in a way that is good for the land. “We use what’s called bio-intensive techniques and methods,” says Berman. “It’s a sustainable method that is high efficiency and can produce a really high yield on a small acreage. Each of our beds sees between two to six plantings in a year.” The farm grows a diverse mix of vegetables, including radishes, turnips, tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, onions, garlic, and kale.
The Wood River Valley has a notoriously short growing season, but Berman says they have ways to work with it. “We push the shoulder at each end,” she explains. “We start in greenhouses, so we can hit the ground running, and make the most of it.”
The cooler weather of the Wood River Valley has its benefits, too, like the ability to grow more delicate plants throughout the summer. “Around Twin Falls and Boise the growing season is longer, but the farms struggle to grow cooler plants, like lettuces, in the heat of the summer. So, we’re trying to use our climate to our advantage as much as possible.”
Recently, Berman and Zinader added lambs into the mix of life at the farm. After acquiring ewes last year, the first lambs were born this spring. “We wanted to give our customers options for protein,” says Berman,
“but the whole reason we got lambs in the first place was to improve our [four acres of] pasture. We do rotational grazing of our small flock of sheep and our chickens, and it helps build and regenerate healthy soil. We’re always trying to improve the health of every part of our land.”
Squash Blossom Farm offers multiple ways for the community to support local agriculture and enjoy the fruits of Berman and Zinader’s labors. The farm has a booth at the Ketchum Farmers Market every Tuesday from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm from early June to mid-October, where they sell freshly harvested vegetables and herbs. In 2019, the Ketchum Farmer’s Market is located in the parking lot at the River Run base of Bald Mountain.
Produce from Squash Blossom Farm can be purchased at Atkinsons’ Market in Ketchum and Hailey, NourishMe in Ketchum, and online at Kraay’s Market & Garden. Many local restaurants and caterers use Squash Blossom Farm’s produce, including CK’s Real Food, Rasberrys Bistro, Glow Live Food, Vintage, and Roadbars.
The farm also offers Community Support Agriculture (CSA) shares. In a CSA, community members buy “shares” in the year’s crops before the summer begins. In return, Squash Blossom Farm provides shareholders with six to ten items of fresh produce each week for 18 weeks, which can be picked up at one of three locations through the Valley or delivered for an additional fee. Shares are available for individuals or families, and each week’s basket includes a variety of greens, herbs, root crops, and other vegetables. New this year, the Farm is offering a “market credit CSA” for use at the Ketchum Farmer’s Market.
In just a few short years, Squash Blossom Farm has nestled into the Wood River Valley community, providing a source for fresh produce, herbs, and protein for their friends, neighbors, and visitors to the Sun Valley area. Berman and Zinader had a dream and found a home for that dream in a place they love. This is what we’re made of.