Ibrohim El Khoshimiy sits on a pair of plastic temporary fences overlooking a draw in the Foothills that points at the sea of trees broken only by Boises Downtown buildings. From this vantage point, everything below looks small.
He grins when he talks about the first thought he had on arriving in Idaho from Kazakhstan: Idaho is a big state with a small population: very good for animals.
El Khoshimiy works for We Rent Goats, a small Wilder company that herds goats to clear weeds and brush for towns, businesses and even private residences. But someday, hed like to raise his own flocks, not for eating weeds, but for slaughter.
A Muslim, he has found Halal meats meat procured in observance of Islamic tradition to be uncommon and prohibitively expensive for Muslims in the Treasure Valley.
Muslims like sheep meat, he says.
El Khoshimiy wants to someday receive a grant or loan to raise animals on 10 acres of land to bring a measure of financial security to his family and support the local Muslim community. He envisions operating his own small, environmentally friendly, community oriented business, much like his employers.
I hope to open my business, he says. God help, maybe I will open.
El Khoshimiys ambition doesnt just make environmental sense: In Idaho, not considering the environment can mean leaving money on the table. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, Idahos green jobs sector is the fourth fastest growing in the country and accounts for 17,059 Idaho jobs almost 3 percent of Idahos workforce. Those jobs also pay nearly $3 more than the median Idahoans wage of $14.43.
Boise and its surrounding environs are home to many who have dreamed small, opening thriving niche businesses. Because its a confluence of entrepreneurs, resources for small companies and a market for green and local goods and services, the City of Trees has become a hub for unique enterprises.
BEE WISE GOODS
Ive always wanted to be an entrepreneur, says Gabrielle Krake, owner of Bee Wise Goods. Krake started her company in 2008, when she needed extra income she could earn from home.
I needed something I could do out of my house, she says.
Her solution was to sell craft grocery bags made from oilcloth for $40 each on the craft goods website, Etsy.com.
Bee Wise Goods moved out of Krakes home two months ago and into a store on State Street in Boise. She now has 65 items and craft designs for sale at that location and on the Internet. She says that what she gets out of her business reflects the effort she puts into it, and that she hopes to make $20,000 this year. But the road to success has been bumpy.
Soon after Krake started Bee Wise Goods, other suppliers and some grocery chains began to sell their own polypropylene reusable grocery bags. To compete, Krake halved the price of her oilcloth bags and made the patterns on them less ornate.
Reflecting on the dark days of the recession and fierce competition, she says she has done well by herself, her family and her small business.
Ive made it over that hump, she says.
She even has an expansion planned: a mens gift shop in her current location selling everything from ties to aftershaves. She hopes to open before the holiday season and has invited 10 other artisans to display their wares in her store.
Bee Wise Goods products and patterns emphasize reuseability. Krake has branched out to include organic materials like denim and upholstery fabric, but she has received some criticism for using oilcloth and other plastic-based materials.
An environmental ethic runs deep in Bee Wise Goods business philosophy, but Krake doesnt think of herself as an environmentalist. Instead, senses of citizenship and community inform her business practices.
If you meet the person who grows your vegetables, theres more accountability there, she says. Are you a citizen, or somebody who lives off other peoples citizenship?
EARTHLY DELIGHTS FARMING AND LANDSCAPING
Casey OLeary couldnt agree more, and like Krake, the owner of Earthy Delights Farming and Landscaping is wary of the labels attached to small, environmentally friendly operations like hers.
Im not a hippie, she says.
Instead, her motivation comes from a love of growing her own food and encouraging others to take an interest in where their food comes from.
We try to get people to eat heirloom varieties of common food, she says.
OLeary started her landscaping company in 2003 and has been tending and consulting on her clients gardens ever since. Her goal is to maximize those gardens yields while minimizing their impact on the environment.
I like seeing our valued land stewarded as well as possible, she says. People can be better stewards of their own landscapes their yards.
A year later she opened her community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, where she harvests seeds for distribution and grows fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Members of the CSA subscribe to the farm for a fee and receive a share of its produce in return. For OLeary, eating local means teaching her shareholders the value of their food.
Its more about education than anything else, she says.
Among OLearys pet projects is seed production. This year, she hopes to have between 70 and 90 varieties available for distribution to gardens all over the Treasure Valley. Local seed varieties are important to OLeary because planting native species of plants is a first step toward a successful and sustainable garden.
Were selecting for seeds that do well in our gardens, she says.
OLeary didnt disclose her revenues but says her success is tangible.
Were drinking home-made wine, eating food we grew ourselves. Success for me is paying my bills.
UMOJA NA UHURU WORLD FARM
Its no wonder that Umoja na Uhuru World Farm has become a staple of Boises Capital City Public Market. With the farms emphasis on homegrown foods and sense of community, it has become a favorite of locals seeking fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
A Somali-Bantu refugee from Kenya, Ibrahim Musa, the owner, says the farm has deep personal, historical and community roots, even though it has only been open for two years.
When I was young in my country, we were a farming people, he says.
The secret of success which today brings corn, kale, carrots, beets, potatoes, basil and watermelons to Boise tables is simple: If you work hard in the garden, you can get any kind of food.
Since 2006, Musa has been growing vegetables with the Somali Bantu Community Farm in Eagle, and in 2008 he joined Global Gardens, a program run through the Idaho Office for Refugees, where he worked until 2010.
We did not know the system, Musa says about American-style agriculture and marketing. But we know how to grow organic food.
In 2010, Musa started Umoja na Uhuru World Farm, his bid to break into private enterprise. He contacted MicroEnterprise Training & Assistance, META, which pointed out problems in his business plan. META helped him refine it and set obtainable goals.
After interviewing Musa and checking his background (what he calls getting to know you), META approved him for a small-business loan. For Musa, the loan application process helped him better understand American business culture.
If you try your best, maybe everybody can know you, he says.
Musa declined to reveal his revenues.
Leaving Global Gardens and striking out on his own doesnt mean Musa has left his community behind. He still works with the Somali Bantu community.
Im still helping my community, but I have something of my own, he says.
Harrison Berry: email@example.com