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Fill up on fruits and veggies
Plus an update on this year’s farmers market scene

07/09/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



It was a hard winter for most New Hampshire farmers, particularly those without heated greenhouses, but after a long, cold season (not to mention a brief but pesky drought), they’re finally in the swing of things at the local markets.

Wayne Colsia, Paradise Farm owner and Milford Farmers Market organizer, and Jane Lang, New Hampshire Farmers’ Market Association president and Salem Farmers’ Market organizer, talked to the Hippo about the produce and happenings at southern New Hampshire’s farmers markets.
 
What to expect for produce
“We’re just winding down on the strawberries, and we’re about to begin raspberry and blueberry season,” Colsia said. “Crops are a little delayed, maybe about three to four weeks, and then the drought didn’t help. It was a very hard winter, so … everything’s a little late this year.”
Some of the produce at the Milford Farmers Market has been a bit smaller, a bit more sparse, “but most things are OK,” Colsia said. 
The Milford market, which is held Saturdays through mid-October, sees a mix of regular and new faces every day. All the vendors have different specialties; some, like Aquaponics Unlimited, are edgy and new (the produce is grown in an environmentally friendly aquaponics system without the use of herbicides or pesticides). But then there are farms who’ve been involved more than 30 years, like Butternut Farm, one of the market founders 38 years ago. Paradise Farm regularly brings in berries, peaches, greens, onions, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.
Lang said the Salem Farmers Market is seeing a lot of “nice-looking greens,” including more Asian varieties. She and Colsia noticed more farms are incorporating heated greenhouses in their production, which is why, even with this spring’s weather, you’ll likely still see things like tomatoes and cucumbers at the markets. 
 
High demand
“I’m seeing a lot of growth in New Hampshire’s farmers markets, especially this past year,” said Lang, who, at the market, usually sports a big floppy hat lined with flowers. “I’ve been contacted by more towns that want to get a farmers market going in their community.”
People like the markets, and they want more of them. In some cases, it’s happening; Pelham’s community has been rallying behind the idea for a while, and they’ll be kicking things off with a farmers market to start this August. Rochester’s downtown community members are also looking to start something up, though Lang said they plan to wait a year or two.
Lang said the NHFMA’s recent Specialty Crop Block Grant has also helped get the word out — because of it, the organization can better broadcast the markets.
“We’ll be running this program six months,” Lang said. “We’ve heard there are an influx of patrons coming to the local markets, so that’s very exciting.”
 
Need more farmers
The only bad news to this demand: there’s not enough supply. Many farmers, like Colsia, attend numerous markets. Colsia said he nearly always sells out of produce, which is a good thing, but the cost of spending so much time at the markets is less time in the fields.
“That’s the hard part of it — trying to get farmers to commit to many different farmers markets. They can’t go every day. They still need to go work in their fields and get their own products together,” Lang said.
She sees hope; she’s noticed new local farms established or improved the past couple years. She pointed to Vernon Family Farm in Newfields, a young business that produces meat, mushrooms and a variety of produce like garlic, beets, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, etc. She also referred to White Cedar Farm, which took the old Bakie Farm, previously a dairy operation in Kingston, in 2012 and turned it into a breeding ground for fresh food. It currently boasts more than 6 acres of no-spray vegetables and two large greenhouses.
 
Why shop local
“Most of the stuff you’re getting at the farmers market [is] grown without chemicals and pesticides. It’s really clean stuff,” Colsia said.
Lang agreed and also noted the practical advantage.
“These products have more longevity in the fridge, and they [provide] more nutrients. … How many times have you walked into Market Basket, bought a cucumber and had it go soft after a few days of being in the fridge?” Lang said. “It’s all about getting involved with your community, getting involved with your local farmers, and being part of a locally farmed revolution.” 
 
As seen in the July 9, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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