Q: I heard Filer is the bean capital of the nation. Is that true?
A: “There is kind of a ‘yes but no’ answer to this question,” Idaho Bean Commission Executive Director Andi Woolf-Weibye said. “The shorter version is that while Idaho ranks No. 5 in bean production for the nation, we are at the top one or two (depends on the year) of bean seed production.
“So, if you consider that without the clean, top quality seed that we produce here, the other states wouldn’t be able to be as successful in their edible (or commercial) production, you could state that Idaho is the bean seed capital of the nation. There is a lot of companies very close to the Filer area and a lot of research is done in that region, so you could then deduce that Filer would be the capital of the bean seed production in Idaho, therefore making it the Bean Seed Capital of the Nation.”
For dry bean production, you’ll have to look east of Idaho to find a capital.
“Today North Dakota is the largest producer of dry edible beans based on volume, No. 2 is Michigan, and No. 3 is Nebraska,” Kraig Kelley of Kelley Bean said.
But Idaho is still in the business for sure.
“It’s hard to date when the Magic Valley, or Filer’s, claim to fame would’ve exactly started,” Woolf-Weibye said. “The commission’s inception was in 1957, and there were rules in place to build a bean growing experiment station with regents of the University of Idaho, which ended up being in Kimberly, in 1949. So, it’s a pretty safe assumption that with all the research being done on the university level, it likely moved to the private sector as well over the course of the following decades. I do know that the garden bean seed industry was behind that push in a pretty major fashion.”
“The growers in the area learned that they had near-perfect conditions to produce ‘disease-free seed’ with our soil, our climate and the amount of growing days available. We have very low humidity, which means diseases don’t grow quite as well here as in other areas, and with our cold winters, the diseases that do exist, can’t ‘over winter’ here. I have also been told that in the beginning, the farms that produced seed were pretty small, ranging around just a few acres apiece, so that you didn’t have to be quite as worried about cross-contamination. The availability of water to irrigate is also quite vital to the production of beans, as well as most of the crops that can be produced here,” Woolf-Weibye said.
“The producers at the time recognized a need and an opportunity and it just took off from there, similarly to the production of the bean seed itself.”
And the town likes to celebrate its beans.
“The Filer Fun Days Committee use to do a bean festival back many years ago. They restarted it as ‘Beans, Bingo & Brew,’” Filer City Councilman Samuel Callen said.