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Home » Food System Builders

Shining a Light on Monadnock Region Local Food: New Hampshire Eat Local Month

By Jen Risley (August 18, 2013)

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, By Monadnock Buy Local

Eat-Local-NH-logoRGB_20101-300x198August is New Hampshire Eat Local Month – the perfect time to shine a light on local food, farms and our entire Monadnock Region local food system.

First let’s take a quick step back and define what a local food system.  Think of it as all the pieces needed to bring local food from the farm to your plate: the soil, farm labor, transportation to distribute these goods to markets, and the list continues.  These pieces come together to form our local food system.

How does a healthy local food system bolster our local economy?  While there aren’t yet comprehensive studies for the Monadnock Region, there are impressive findings from other states that quantify farms’ effects on local economies.

In 2011, the Capital City Public Market in Boise, Idaho spurred $4.5 million in economic activity in their local economy. Sales of local food by farmers in northeast Iowa increased from less than $10,000 in 2006 to over $2 million in 2010, creating 26 new jobs.  Mississippi farmers’ markets have a total economic impact of $1.6 million, including 15.88 part-time jobs, $213,720 in wages and $16,000 in state and local taxes.

Farms that sell their produce locally also create more jobs.  A 2011 Economic Research Service report found that farms selling at local and regional markets have 13 full-time workers for every $1 million in revenue. Farms not selling locally, however, employed only 3 full-time workers per $1 million in revenue.

When farmers come together to form farmers’ markets they multiply their effect on the local economy by attracting more sales to neighboring businesses.  In 2010, a study of the Easton Farmers Market in Pennsylvania found that 70% of farmers’ market customers also shopped at downtown businesses, attracting an extra $26,000 of sales each week.  Discover more about farmers’ markets as economic engines.

Now let’s turn to the Monadnock Region.  There are numerous businesses, organizations and initiatives working to strengthen our local food system.

Starting with the land, The Monadnock Conservancy & Land for Good are working to make more farmland available to farmers through farm transfers, agricultural easements and other programs.

Helping to move food from the farm to your plate is Harvest to Market, an online local food ordering system where individuals can pre-order products and pick them up a participating market.  The Cheshire County Conservation District’s Market pilot project connects schools and other institutions in the Monadnock region with local farms and fresh produce.

The life of local produce is extended by processing it into jams, sauces and other value-added products.  Neighbor Made provides a shared-use commercial kitchen in Keene’s Railroad Square to help develop and market these products.

There’s a medley of groups educating both young and old on how to grow local food: The Cornucopia Project, Orchard School, Transition Keene, Early Sprouts Program, Federick Hooper Institute, The Sustainability Project, Stonewall Farm and Keene Community Garden Connection – plus many individual schools.

The quarterly Monadnock Table Magazine does a beautiful job of highlighting the farms and farmers who grow our local food, while the Monadnock Localvores offer a variety of workshops from April to October, and their monthly newsletter helps you find (and inspires you to eat) more local food.  The Yarden of Eatin Blog features news and events about local food, farming and permaculture.

Educating farmers is also an important component of our local food system, and the Cheshire County Conservation District, Hannah Grimes Center, UNH Cooperative Extension, and Small & Beginner Farmers of Cheshire County provide such training, plus other resources, to farmers.

There are many places to purchase local food in our region, both fresh and processed, from Farmers’ Markets & Farm Stands, such as the Farmers’ Market of Keene, Alyson’s Orchard and Tracie’s Community Farm, to grocery stores such as the Hannah Grimes Marketplace, Blueberry Fields, Nature’s Green Grocers and the Monadnock Food Co-op.

To gather and support all these pieces into a more sustainable system, the Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition is a regional coalition whose mission is to support a sustainable food system by cultivating community action and building collaborations to implement effective programs, projects and policies.

There’s a wonderful website that summaries Cheshire County’s Food System at http://cheshirecountyfoodsystem.weebly.com; but there are many more working to bring more local food to our plates.  Know of one not mentioned above?  Contact us at monadnockbuylocal@gmail.com.   Together let’s work to build a stronger local food system – and a stronger local living economy in the process.

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