Characters at Farms and Farmers Markets
Farmers markets are off to a great start, and are great places to connect with local character-or characters. Manchester Farmers Market cut their ribbon last week, with a Peruvian band, free slices of homemade carrot cake decorated with real carrot curls, and an enthusiastic crowd despite a light drizzle. Located on Concord Street between Chestnut and Pine, the market offers free parking, and occupies a prime spot adjacent to Victory Park and the city library.
Every farmers market in the state has its own character and characters. The Manchester market is a good place to talk politics, with both current and former state legislators as vendors. Former Milford Rep. Tim O’Connell, now happily farming with his wife Noreen and their daughter, brought brightly colored flowering plants and spring vegetables. Current Manchester Rep. Jane Beaulieu, who baked the carrot cakes, was at her Jewell & the Beanstalk booth, offering fresh baked goods and take-home dishes for supper from the café. The member of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee also brings fresh eggs from her famous city-slicker chickens.
Shoppers can sample soft-serve, real maple ice cream from Northwood’s Sugarmomma, and pick up a bottle of wine from either-or both-Jewell Towne or Candia vineyards to go with dinner. All the rain has plumped up the strawberries. Diane Souther brought berries as big as apples (see her Cabot berry above) to the Manchester market from Apple Hill Farm in Concord.
Caroline Robinson of Berry Hill Farm in Stratham reports that blueberries and raspberries are putting on size, too. Some sunshine would be welcome to prevent disease and rot as the fruits begin to ripen. Frustrated hay growers have been watching weather forecasts like hawks, ready to swoop in with mowing machines.
Speaking of character and sense of place, the Coos County Chambers of Commerce commissioned a marketing plan to boost the region’s destination-appeal. The new branding campaign will build on the ‘New Hampshire’s ‘Grand’ image around the county’s ‘Grand Resorts, Grand Adventures.’ Businesses including the three grand hotels participated this spring in a workshop on creating travel packages for ‘grand adventure’ experiences. One of the first two developed is an option for summer guests at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel to tour Weir Tree Farms in Colebrook. While at the farm, guests can tag a Christmas tree to be shipped in December.
The Rural Blog has recently featured several stories from around the country on how agricultural tourism has emerged as a success story in a tough tourism economic climate. Agricultural tourism has many manifestations around our state. For some farms, agri-tourism is a major income stream. Others enhance the educational and entertainment aspects of their operation to boost sales at a farmstand or PYO operation.
A menagerie of animals and birds, and an extensive museum of antique farm equipment and tools, are big draws for travelers, neighbors, friends, and customers stopping for meat and milk at the Eccardt farm in Washington. Hans and Julia Eccardt and their sons George and John don’t charge admission. Of particular interest is Hans’s extensive collection of scythes from Europe and North America. Hans learned to cut hay with a scythe in Germany and Switzerland before he came to the U.S. in the 1950s. He was such a master of this hand tool that for decades he captured the annual championship held in Vermont, discouraging all competitors.
Visitors may be surprised when Hans rolls up to greet them on his Segway personal-transporter. Manchester’s Segway inventor-entrepreneur Dean Kaymen ought to consider this hillside farmstead scene for advertising photos-the burly farmer poised on his high-tech mobility machine, maneuvering smoothly amongst the antique farm implements.
Lorraine S. Merrill, Commissioner
State of New Hampshire
Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food