Buhl, Idaho sits on the rim of the Snake River Canyon, planted in the volcanic soil that covers the surrounding farmland. Cloverleaf Creamery sits in the middle of Buhl, churning the best ice cream in the state. In a recent blog post, while loving the ice cream, I dissed Buhl. I am sorry, I now would like to recommend a visit to Buhl. After reading the comments, I decided to broaden my outlook on Buhl. This is our first adventure of many more to come. I would love a guide, a recommendation, a local historian, more perspective… Contact me if you are in the Buhl area and want to show me something.
Buhl is not a small rest stop town off I 84. To get there you have to get off the interstate and penetrate rural Idaho. My favorite way is US Route 30 (The Thousand Springs Scenic Byway). Katie and I take this road down the Snake River Canyon into the Hagerman Valley and straight to Miracle Hot Springs many times a year.
In 2010 Katie and I spent Thanksgiving in one of the geodesic domes eating pumpkin pie lying on the geothermal floor while outside it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It was amazing how warm a canvas tent can stay with a heated floor. If you stood up however; everything above your thighs froze, it’s best to stay lying down in extreme cold. The desire to soak ones bones in a geothermal pool has been attracting people to this spot forever. It is as popular as ever, expect a crowd, and make reservations for private tubs.
To insure a fresh perspective, we decided not enter Buhl from Route 30. Instead, we took some strange back roads that I am unsure of now. Immediately we were surprised by a sign: ‘First Ascent Fish Farm: Fish, Shrimp, Oysters.’ somewhere between Wendell and Buhl. I thought, “somebody’s growing fresh water shrimp! I have got to see this.” We followed signs through Twin Falls County turning right, left, right, right… We passed old farm houses, some agricultural fields, trophy houses on big lots with horses (horse people) and pasture.
Finally, we pulled into a cool little aquatic farm. Steaming hot water bubbled up from the ground and spilled down the hillside, directed by ditches, towards the Snake River. These farmers had built concrete tanks terraced down the hill. Water cascaded from one tank to the next. There was so much hot water flowing from the ground, I imagine them running out of concrete as they worked their way down the hill so they just started making little perfectly round ponds in the earth. In the middle of a dead cold Idaho winter these crystal clear ponds were surrounded by bright green grass. The steaming ponds and tanks where absolutely full of gold and gray tilapia eagerly waiting for food to fall on the surface of the water. The only shrimp I saw was frozen from Ecuador stored in a chest freezer.
Turns out they truck the fish to Seattle and bring back shrimp and oysters. We bought three tilapia for $5. From there we headed straight for Cloverleaf Creamery. Once again outstanding ice cream, we are coming back for a tour. Once in town we hit US Route 30 for Miracle.
As we passed corn stump after brown corn stump I thought about life being as complex as the farming methods used on the rim of the Snake. I think the industrial model of agriculture has taught us a lot; I am thankful, just don’t think it’s a good idea any more. It’s time the farmers of Twin Falls County look beyond corporate sponsored farming. The factory dairy industry, commodity farming and the mega meat market has nearly destroyed rural America and made most of us fat. The “Round-up” agriculture practiced by the majority of farmers in the area is something you’ll never convince me is a good idea no matter how many monocultures you grow be it beans, corn, potatoes, wheat, milk or meat…