New Hampshire From the Commissioner
A century ago New Hampshire experienced an especially fertile period in the development of agriculture and the institutions that continue to support it today. We can trace the rapid growth of the government, education and farm organizations that support our industry through the series of centennials celebrated over the last few years. The state Department of Agriculture was founded in 1913, followed closely by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension in 1914. This year it’s the NH Farm Bureau Federation’s turn to celebrate 100 years.
The 2014 Farm Bill included a program called Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) which is delivering two-way benefits at a growing number of farmers markets here in New Hampshire. FINI helps food-insecure families purchase more fresh local fruits, vegetables and other foods by doubling their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–formerly, food stamps) benefits at participating farmers markets. FINI programs are also directly supporting local farmers through increased farmers market sales. Granite State Market Match is the FINI-supported program here in New Hampshire, offering enhanced SNAP benefits at 31 farmers markets around the state in 2015. The NH Food Bank coordinates this effort as a sub-grantee in partnership with the Wholesome Wave Foundation.
Bruce Bascom of Bascom Maple Farms, Inc., in Alstead says the early start to this year’s sap run caught a lot of maple producers “with their buckets down.” Last Thursday (2/25) Bascom reported their own operation had already produced 15 percent of their expected crop in just two days, with only 25 percent of their taps in. He expected to have boiled a full 25 percent of expected total production by Friday (2/26) night.
“Surprisingly early” is how Bascom described this season of virtually “no winter.” He noted that working in the woods is easy this year with little to no snow on the ground—a major contrast to last year when sugarmakers had to struggle through deep snows and frigid temperatures to put in their taps.
Walking into the first-ever Farm to Retail Collaborative Matchmaking event last Thursday was like walking into a humming beehive. The large room at the Amoskeag Beverages warehouse in Bow was lined with rows of tables where farmers and specialty food producers displayed products and samples to tempt prospective buyers. The room was buzzing with activity, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. A total of 37 vendors and more than 20 buyers participated in the event, along with representatives from the department and our co-sponsors, the NH Grocers Association and NH Made.
Did you know that 100 years ago the state of New Hampshire had a Commissioner of Immigration whose responsibilities included a program to promote the sales of old farms as summer homes to city people? …
Consumers who are fans of local foods and other farm products often tell us they want more opportunities to buy local products. They especially want easy, convenient access that does not require a special trip or extra travel. Grocers and restaurant operators tell us they want to obtain more New Hampshire farm-fresh foods and products to offer their customers. Food and beverage makers are looking to access more locally grown ingredients. And a growing number of farmers are looking to add wholesale accounts to their marketing mix to balance supply and increase sales volumes.