Buy Extension (BE)- BE More, Be Local


To launch our blog series we felt it fitting to begin with an interview between Tim McKinley, the founder and Executive Director of Buy Extension (BE), and Seann Sweeney, a BE Board of Director and advocate for healthy living, sustainable communities and foods systems. As a result of this interview blog, our hope is that you will have a better understanding what BE is as an organization, why it came about, and how it adds value to the Treasure Valley.  


Q. To start off what is Buy Extension (BE): BE More, BE Local? And what is this new nonprofit’s vision and mission?


A.  Thanks Seann; Buy Extension (BE) is a developing nonprofit working to become a certified 501c3. We are a dedicated and ambitious group who strives to develop sustainable communities by establishing relationships with and among community organizations, local farmers, gardeners, artisans, and operating markets in the Treasure Valley through educational outreach, community engagement, and relationship development. BE strives to be more by being local. We want people to know who their local farmers and gardeners are, and where their food comes from in the Treasure Valley. We want people to know more about the incredible art and artisan communities in the area, and to see the work they are doing. And we want people to understand the importance of supporting local businesses and the effect it has on our local economy.


BE’s vision is to develop sustainable communities within the Treasure Valley that supports and promotes sustainable agriculture, celebrates art and artisans, and fosters a sense of community.  It is our mission to develop sustainable communities by establishing relationships with and among community organizations, local farmers, gardeners, artisans, and operating markets in the Treasure Valley through educational outreach, community engagement, and relationship development.


Q. Why did you start Buy Extension (BE)?


A. Well I started it for a number of reasons, mainly because I wanted to see how we can develop and reinforce sustainable communities in the Treasure Valley. I am very interested in the relationship side of sustainability and how through relational development we can support the communities in the area. So when I was initially thinking about sustainable communities in the Treasure Valley, my immediate interest was to identify ways that relationships can be developed between organizations (whether that be nonprofits, restaurants, businesses, grocery stores, schools, etc.) where local produce, or meat, or artisan crafts and goods are source locally helping to support each other while stimulating the local economy. From those basic ideals the foundation of BE was built, but we are continually evolving and changing that way we operate.  


Q. So you talked a little about the need for this in the Treasure Valley, so a bold question, why do we need a nonprofit like this in the Treasure Valley? Maybe talk specifically about why we need this if we have Idaho’s Bounty and Direct Local Foods? Different kinds of organizations, and how do you compliment those?


A. Yeah, absolutely. While  there are a lot of similarities between Idaho’s Bounty and Direct Local Foods with BE,  one of the most interesting things about BE is that we work to reinforce sustainable communities by developing interrelated relationships and link farmers, gardeners, and artisans to local operating markets. One of the main differences is that while we do work with farmers in the area, we also work with artisans, and our main focus is to develop sustainable communities. Another difference is that we are a boots on the ground model. The first thing that BE does is holds a relational meeting with the farmer, artisan, or business owner to learn more about their operation, and to learn about their personal narrative and share our own. Also during this meeting we explore the potential for collaboration with us and other businesses, organizations, artisans and farmers to better their operations. If we both agree to collaborate with each other then we develop a profile to capture more specifics of their operation and begin looking at businesses and organizations that may have a need that can be filled. We fill those gaps by linking a farmer, gardener or artisan to that operating market. So, for example we are working with the Leaf Teahouse who is interested in sourcing their produce locally and have linked them to True Roots Organics, who can fulfill the majority Leaf Teahouse’s needs. It has been really exciting and fun to see this develop.


Q. Can you talk a little bit about why it is called Buy Extension?


A. Yeah, well basically the idea behind Buy Extension was that this is extension based work we are doing, and we are trying to increase the amount of local produce sold in the area.  Our slogan is BE More, BE Local. As we continue to explore businesses, artisans, and farmers in the area we are identifying what they are doing and letting other markets know about it. So doing extension work and buying local is how we came up with the name.  


Q. Cool, so you talked a little bit about your audience already, artisans, farmers, ranchers, and businesses, do you want to add anything about the audiences?


A. Yeah, that’s exactly right. We are also interested in working with nonprofits in the area. One of the elements that makes BE valuable is that we have a focus on education and outreach in the area. So while we will be working on relationship development, we will also be hosting networking events, workshops and other education-based events. We also plan on hosting field-days and tours as well. BE definitely has the ability to appeal to school groups ranging from elementary up to university. And also new start-up businesses and businesses that have been going for a while but are interested in incorporating artisan crafts or products, or sourcing local produce from a farmer or gardener in the area.


Q. You talked a little about events that are going to be coming up. Do you want to talk about the networking event that is coming up in a couple of weeks?


A. Yeah, on September 25 we hosted our first event which was an Artisan Speed Networking Event, at the Leaf Teahouse in downtown Boise. The focus of this event was to get artisans from the community together to breakdown silos by providing an opportunity for communication. Since everyone is so busy, and there are so many things going on, we thought this would be a good way to get everyone together in one room and to talk about what’s going on. We wanted to learn about what people are doing, how it is working, and what current and upcoming events are. When I say artisans that ranges from food, crafted, wearable, and visual products; we have a large community in the area.


Q. Talking more broadly about Buy Extension what are some of your the goals for the next year, and maybe two or three years down the road beyond that?


A. Yeah, right now we are still in the development phase, and in the process of becoming a 501c3. So our goal for the next year is to continue developing relationships in the area, to build a reputation for who we are and what we stand for, and to indentify and secure funding. We are looking to see what grants and other funding sources are available and planning events to raise awareness and funds. We are also looking to see where partnerships and collaboration can be made. Our focus is to continue building a strong foundation for our nonprofit.  In the next couple of years I see us working with a number of organizations and really focusing on linking farmers, gardeners, and artisans to operating markets. Also, hosting several events and workshops throughout the year to help us reach a larger audience, and raise awareness about different topics. I see us in the next few years as being a resource that reinforces sustainable communities through relationship development, events, and an outlet to Be More, by being local.


Q. That is awesome. Do you want to tell people where they can find information about Buy Extension and how they can connect with BE?


A. We are on Facebook and Twitter, and we also just launched our website which is On our website you can find information about Buy Extension, who we are working with, info about our board of directors, and upcoming events. Also on the website is where you can find our blog.  


Q. Anything else you would like to add that would just summarize or give people more information about what has not already been mentioned?


A.  I think that one of the most unique things about BE is that we are so broad and have so many different ways of achieving our goals. So if you are interested and if you like the idea of BE, then contact us ( because there are a number of ways we can work together. Other than that stay tuned for upcoming events and programs. There are a number of things that we are planning for the upcoming months, and we are going to continue to utilize a number of avenues to keeping our relationships with our members strong, interactive, and beneficial.