Monadnock Region Food System: Shining a Light on Local Food and Farms
For the fourth year, Monadnock Buy Local shines a light on local food, farms and our entire Monadnock Region local food system during New Hampshire Eat Local Month. Our food system includes all the pieces needed to bring local food from the farm to your plate: the soil, farm labor, transportation and more to grow, harvest and distribute these goods to markets and directly to you. These pieces come together to form our local food system.
Stronger local food systems build healthier citizens, communities and local economies. Who is cultivating a stronger “Eat Local” movement in the Monadnock Region? Feast on these featured initiatives:
Growing Young Farmers
The Cornucopia Project and Farmer John’s Plot in Dublin recently launched a “Farm to Fork Fellowship” at ConVal High School in Peterborough. It’s an entrepreneurial program that teaches students how to grow produce throughout the year, run a CSA farm and then turn their harvest into value-added products like sauces, jams and dried spices.
Starting with four sophomores, students will participate in a sustainable agriculture course and use the Monadnock Art X Tech Makerspace as a “laboratory for innovation” to modify farm equipment and carry out hands-on projects. Once these students become juniors, they will return to the program to help train the next group of sophomores.
“We are empowering youth to do real work and gain life skills as valuable partners in our local food systems,” said Hannah Bissex, Farm to Fork Coordinator. “We’re giving young people the opportunity to gain unique entrepreneurial and agricultural skills by co-creating an economically viable business model that gives back to the community.”
Learn more at cornucopiaproject.org.
Farmers Lincoln Geiger and Anthony Graham now own the land where Temple Wilton Community Farm in Wilton sits — the oldest CSA farm in the country. Woo-hoo! This purchase happened thanks to over 340 individuals who donated or loaned $108,000 and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and other organizations that contributed $508,000 in grants and loans.
“From this place, farmers will be able to bring forth food for many, many generations of people to come,” shared Lincoln Geiger. “It will be land that belongs to those who farm it, those who come to get their food, those who come to walk or visit and for the creatures wild and tame that share it with us.”
Discover more at twcfarm.com.
Finding Affordable Land for More Farmers
Access to affordable land is a major struggle for many beginning farmers. The Monadnock Conservancy recently produced the report “Farming on Conserved Land: Stories from Land Owners and Farmers” exploring the use of conserved land as farmland. Currently, the Monadnock Conservancy holds 45 easements on land with agricultural potential, but less than a quarter is farmed.
The report found that landowners of conserved land want their land farmed and where farming is already happening, owners want to increase their acres in production. However, landowners face obstacles like their inexperience with the realities of farming (the smells, sights and sounds) and the lack of technical expertise to draw up farm leases that balance the farmer’s business sustainability and the landowner’s desire not to “tie up the land.” Future efforts to overcome these obstacles may include training and technical assistance to draft leases and a local land-linking program to connect more farmers and potential farmers with interested landowners.
The report, done in collaboration with the Cheshire County Conservation District, Land For Good and the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, includes case studies of three successful farming arrangements on Monadnock Conservancy conserved land.
Find the complete results at landforgood.org.
Supporting Beginner Farmers
Small and Beginner Farmers of New Hampshire is a statewide network of farmers supporting new farmers. In addition to training events, they offer beginning farmers access to shared equipment.
“Our mobile processing unit for poultry processing continues to be popular, and with the new law farmers can now sell poultry slaughtered on farm to restaurants,” shared Kate Kerman of Phoenix Farm in Marlborough. “Our newest addition is a barrel washer for root vegetables.”
Learn more at beginnerfarmers.org.
More Local Food for All
The Community Kitchen of Keene, through its Gleaning Project, is increasing access to local food for families on very limited incomes. Gleaners harvest the surplus produce from farms, gardens and the Farmers Market of Keene and distribute it those who need it most through their Pantry Program. Since beginning in 2013, the project has provided over 100,000 pounds of produce to the Community Kitchen.
“Offering freshly harvested, locally grown fruits and vegetables can make all the difference to families going through the Pantry,” said Phoebe Bray, Executive Director of the Community Kitchen. “It’s very encouraging to see clients take home bags full of lettuce, kale, cucumbers, summer squash and hear them discuss what they will make with the produce.”
Gleaning volunteers needed! Learn more and sign up to help at nhgleans.org.
From Field to Market
Stores like the Hannah Grimes Marketplace in Keene, at the forefront of the “Buy Local” scene since 1997, and the Monadnock Food Co-op, a community-owned grocery store, are making strides in bringing more local food to you. For example, the Monadnock Food Co-op sold close to $3 million worth of food produced within 110 miles of Keene this year.
In order to help farmers meet the demand for their goods, the Co-op is working with the Cheshire County Conservation District to establish a Farm Fund, providing farmers with grants to help them produce more local food.
“I truly believe it is possible for our communities to sustain themselves in a healthy way if we invest in leveling the playing field for small businesses and build the infrastructure to allow more people to both grow more food and access food that is good for them,” shared Emerald Levick, Monadnock Food Co-op’s Marketing Manager. “I am so proud to now be working for Monadnock Food Co-op, which exists in order to further both of these goals.”
Of course, there are many, many more people, programs and policies to highlight –but space is short. Please read past local food system highlights at monadnocklocal.org/nheatlocal.
Thank you for celebrating our harvest this August and supporting our local food system throughout the year.
Monadnock Buy Local is a regional network of citizens, businesses and organizations that promotes the positive economic and community benefits of spending dollars locally, while supporting programs and policies that forward a local, green and fair economy.
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