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A rundown of the farmers market scene in North Idaho

Cold, gray, drizzling rain doesn't dampen the spirit or smile of Juaquetta Holcomb as she spins wool inside her booth at Kootenai's Saturday Farmers Market in Hayden (Wednesday's evening market is in downtown Coeur d'Alene). Holcomb shares how she hand-picks, cards and dyes the yarns she names according to their whimsical colors — Puff's Magic, Snowy Birch, Grasshopper — to make her so-soft fingerless gloves, slouchy hats, shawls, neck cowls and the like.

"I love it when customers come back to show me what they have made with my yarns," says Holcomb, who has been active in the Kootenai market, which opened in 1986, for about nine years.

That's the kind of connection you make here: personal, long-lasting relationships where learning about your baked goods, produce, lamb or knitted cap is vital to the process. It's just one reason that people have been flocking to North Idaho's farmers markets since the 1970s.

In Moscow's farmers market, which opened in 1977, Swallowtail Flowers has sold fresh-cut bouquets for 15 years, while photographer Alison Meyer has more than 20 years on-site. Although Meyer's work, including the book Palouse Perspective, is sold throughout Northwest shops, the market provides an opportunity to share firsthand her love of Idaho country living.

Talking with people also is important to the Stanley family, who own Good Shepherd Lamb Company. They've been making round trips from their Bonners Ferry farm to Kootenai twice weekly for the past decade.

"We love the people, for one thing," says Marlene Stanley, "but we also feel that we have a really good product and we're excited to promote it."

Besides selling lamb burgers, smokies and sausage, they take orders for meat and provide cooking tips. For the past five years, Marlene and her husband, Gordon, split weekends, one at Kootenai, and the other at Sandpoint's Saturday market in Farmin Park.

Divide and conquer is an approach Josh Yake of Gourmet Foragables & More uses to capitalize on his expanding business. You can find his mushrooms, fiddleheads and other forest delicacies at Kootenai's Hayden and Liberty Lake markets on Saturdays, in downtown Coeur d'Alene on Wednesdays, and at South Perry on Thursday evenings.

In addition to familiar faces, North Idaho's farmers markets continue to grow, offering new vendors every season, as well as special events and live music — even more reasons to live and buy local. ♦

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