Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Meat with a Story"

The Boise Farmers Market is a four-block long party that shuts down streets and reroutes city buses every Saturday from April toChristmas. On the north side of Idaho Street a knot of shoppers gathers each week at the Malheur River Meats booth, where Rob Stokes presides.

Sporting a Marine's haircut and a marathon runner's build, Rob displays the quiet calm of a seasoned school teacher and the helpfulness of an older brother. The label on each package of his beef, pork, chicken, and turkey says, “Natural meat with a story.” He tells that story every Saturday. When he is not pulling packages of frozen meat or cartons of eggs out of ice chests, he is the lone participant in a quiz show where an ever-changing audience asks the questions.

I stopped a few times to listen to Rob’s story and ask him some questions. Then I visited him and Michelle, his wife and business partner, who operates the Malheur River Meats booth at the Nampa Farmers Market down the road. I learned that the couple did not grow up on ranches, but were early innovators in the natural meat business. I saw that they raise animals using techniques that my parents remember from their childhoods. But my parents left farms for cushier lives in teaching, the profession you can always fall back on. Michelle and Rob chose to work on the
land and are using old-fashioned techniques to meet new consumer demands.

Read more in my my December, 2011 column in Rangelands.


  1. This is such a well written, researched, and formatted article that I have printed it out to send to the husband of a friend in Buffalo, Wyoming. I've had several conversations with this man who raises his cattle by hand but is frustrated by the lack of market and processing options for the quality of his product. I keep hoping he can find a way to sustainability.

  2. Linda,

    Thanks for your kinds words. When I asked Rob if I could write about them, he said, "Yes," immediately. He and Michelle let me pester them with questions at the market, spend a day with them (and keep them from getting any work done), and ask more questions by email.

    Rob and Michelle Stokes believe in what they do and they're even more remarkable than they sound; I just couldn't fit it all into one piece. Stay tuned...

  3. Cindy,
    Great treatment of an interesting topic. Come write about Salmon soon!

  4. Gina,

    I'm there! It's all happening in Salmon City.

    The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Tom Tidwell, spoke in Boise on Monday and mentioned one of your projects, the Lemhi County Forest Restoration Collaborative.

    And you know I plan my fall around Salmon Valley Stewardship's Harvest Festival. Seeing friends and hearing about your good work is a lovely way to top off the summer.