No matter what day of the week it is, there’s a farmers market going on somewhere near you. We talk to the experts about this year’s harvest and when to look for your favorite farmers market items. Have you ever considered taking your own produce to market? We have a discussion with someone who’s done it. Since strawberries are one of the current market delights, we look a little more at these summer sweets. And, for the times you want to go straight to the source, we have a list of places where you can pick your own berries.
Time to hit the market.
It’s a busy market season
More markets bring more farmers to more hungry shoppers
By Karen Plumley firstname.lastname@example.org
According to Kris Mossey, president of the New Hampshire Farmers’ Market Association, this season will see the largest ever number of farmers markets.
It is expected that 80 markets will be in operation throughout the state in 2010, which is nearly double the number from 10 years ago. Some larger cities, such as Manchester and Nashua, will boast more than one marketplace in operation. Although fresh produce — whose flavors and health benefits their grocery store counterparts cannot even touch — is the major draw for many consumers, farmers markets have come to encompass much more.
Remember when a farmers market consisted of a single open tent with a half-dozen vegetable selections, or maybe just a bucket of corn? Remember how hard it would be to find a market because most of them were stuffed into back alley parking lots behind a church or near an ice cream stand?
Now that town officials, chambers of commerce and downtown promotion groups are beginning to realize the positive impact that farmers markets have on the community, they have blossomed into weekly events situated in prominent main street locations, with dozens of tents, offering fresh produce, meats, dairy products, craft items, handmade soaps, artwork, delicious sauces and jams, garden plants, freshly cut flowers and delectable pastries.
A community event
When a farmers market is established in a town, it can evolve into a highly anticipated community event. At the Downtown Manchester Farmers’ Market adjacent to the Manchester City Library (open Thursdays through October) consumers will find the true meaning of community. In addition to more than 25 vendors selling anything from corn to freshly cut flowers to baked goods, visitors will be treated to a weekly array of family activities such as cooking demonstrations, live music and entertainment for children across the street at Victory Park, and even petting zoos. The city offers free downtown parking on market days.
On Wednesdays through Oct. 6, the farmers market in Canterbury will celebrate community by bringing a different live musical band or guest to the marketplace, enticing shoppers to hang out a little bit longer. Popular local acts such as Two Fiddles, Timothy Gurshin and Grassdawgs will appear more than once during the season.
At the Bedford Farmers’ Market located in the heart of town in Benedictine Park, Tuesdays will be the day that shoppers can peruse the array of fresh local produce and enjoy free tastings, while children are entertained with weekly craft activities and games. Vendors at this market will be donating a produce basket each week to local Bedford families in need.
Visitors can listen to live music and learn how to preserve fruits, prepare a popular recipe or even get safe handling tips in a series of educational demonstrations at the Concord Farmers’ Market. Concord’s local marketplace takes place on Saturdays throughout the summer and early fall.
Hooksett will hold its first farmers market this season, sponsored by the town and the Hooksett Lions Club.
“We are very excited about it,” said Hooksett Town Planner Jo Ann Duffy. “The idea of establishing a farmers market in Hooksett came about during a village committee meeting. We felt that the market could bring activity into our village and revitalize the area, as well as preserve the historic nature of our village.” The Hooksett marketplace includes produce, honey, seafood, baked goods, salsa and barbecue sauce, handmade soap and live acts for entertainment. The New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture, Lorraine Merrill, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in mid-June.
Chuck Souther and his wife, Diane, own Apple Hill Farm in Concord and participate in several farmers markets such as those in Manchester, Concord, Tilton and Bedford.
“Benefits of farmers markets are numerous…consumer dollars stay in the local economy, preservation of farmland and open spaces, helping local farmers be economically successful, consumers getting a chance to talk directly with the person who is growing the food they are buying, etc. It is grassroots networking at its best,” Souther said. “I think that, generally, farmers markets have been evolving into a part of the social fabric of the community. In Concord, for instance, on Saturday mornings the farmers’ market is the place to be, to meet and visit with the farmers, visit with friends and neighbors, and buy some great New Hampshire products.”
Farmers markets going digital
Are you a regular market customer who rushes over in a panic every week to ensure you get a good selection of corn before it runs out? If lucky, you may now be able to take a deep breath. Many of the larger farmers markets across the state have their own websites, some offering the opportunity for customers to pre-order what they need. Your trip to the market can then be more leisurely — arrive and pick up all the products on the grocery list, already neatly bundled and waiting.
There is also a way to shop online for fresh farmers market products and not even go to the market itself. The New Hampshire Virtual Farmers’ Marketplace (www.nhfarms.com) allows the consumer to shop online for the items on their grocery list — or for unique items that are not guaranteed to be available at the market — directly from local farms. This concept is fairly new, and the site does not yet process online payments, but according to NHFMA President Kris Mossey that capability is not far away.
Eat local, the celebration
Keep an eye out at your local farmers market for special events and deals that may be offered to celebrate New Hampshire Farmers’ Market Week, Aug. 1-7. As part of the larger “New Hampshire Eat Local Month” promotion, the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with many businesses, individuals and groups in the state, are encouraging Granite Staters to shop at local farmers markets, visit a farm with the family for an educational tour and share in the harvest of local bounty. Visit www.nheatlocal.org to learn more.
On schedule for a tasty harvest
By Madeleine Staub email@example.com
Last summer was difficult for New Hampshire farmers and their crops.
It rained and rained, dumping about 10 inches more than average precipitation for April through August. Fortunately, things are looking sunnier for crops in southern New Hampshire this summer, and crops are expected to do significantly better.
This spring there was some unexpectedly warm weather at the end of April. Items that appear early in summer, like strawberries, have peaked a week to two weeks earlier than usual. This trend may not last, however, depending on what the weather is like for the rest of the summer.
“You never know. Things can start like this, early, and then it depends on what the weather does as the season goes on,” said Gail McWilliam Jellie, director of Agricultural Development for the State of New Hampshire. “It’s hard to predict.”
At this point, it’s difficult to determine whether any crops will be especially successful this year.
“Early crops are just starting to come. The peak for vegetables isn’t until late July or early August,” McWilliam Jellie said. She noted the farming community is concerned about how well the apple crop will do this year. There were frosts in some areas of the state that damaged apples.
“As these things go, they’re geographically spread. They’re not across the board,” she said.
The issues with last year’s crops stemmed from the massive amount of rain that fell in the spring and summer. Many items rotted on the plants, and the wet conditions were perfect for an outbreak of tomato blight that occurred after infected plants were brought into the area.
“We want rain, but we don’t want weeks of rain,” she said.
Thus far, it doesn’t appear that there is a significant outbreak of plant diseases or pest infestations.
“Farmers are always looking out for the pests they have to deal with for the plants they grow,” McWilliam Jellie said. There is a network within the state, including the University of New Hampshire, which helps farmers figure out the best way to deal with any infections or pests that are afflicting their plants.
“We’ve been promoting the ‘buy local’ concept for years. By encouraging people to buy local, that does good things for the economy,” McWilliam Jellie said. She said that there are fancier vegetables available than there were 10 years ago, when only the typical produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers and corn was available.
“I think farmers are growing for what their customers are telling them,” McWilliam Jellie said. “They are definitely trying to meet demand.” Market goers can look forward to some more winter crops in the future. “We’ve had tremendous interest in winter farmers markets,” she said. Winter crops are winter squash, potatoes, root crops and storage crops, like apples.
Head to market
Advice on how to get into the farmers market business
By Karen Plumley firstname.lastname@example.org
Rodney Thompson of Pelham loves to garden, and through farmers markets he has found an outlet for his passion. At home, he cares for a large nursery of hostas and exotic, colorful flowers suitable for cutting. At the farmers market, he sells them directly to his customers. In an e-mail interview with The Hippo, Thompson shared his insights and experience.
What product or products do you sell at the markets?
We specialize in unique hostas field-grown here in New Hampshire and companion plants like Heuchera and hardy ferns. We also sell fresh cut flowers and lavender from our gardens.
Why did you get started with selling your products at a farmers market?
We had been to a few farmers markets before and it seemed like it would be a fun experience to sell at one. We visited a Nashua farmers market and talked to some of the vendors; everyone was positive about their experience. We are a small home-based plant nursery and wanted to get our name out there, and it seemed like a great place to start.
What are the different requirements for selling at a farmers market?
This varies greatly from one farmers market to the next. It can take time to navigate through this — farmers need to be persistent to get it all figured out. Some markets require an application and the other sellers have to vote to let you in, while some markets only require an insurance binder. Insurance was a major barrier for us because it’s a pretty big expense. It can range from $400 to $600 for the market season. This almost stopped us from joining the farmers markets, but we decided to incur the expense for the exposure and experience. For people interested in joining a farmers market, talk to the person responsible for the market, get a list of requirements to sell in the market and ask what is required for insurance to sell at that particular market.
What are the pros and cons of participating in a farmers market?
You get very quick feedback from people on what they like and what they don’t like. It is a lot of work and commitment, and you have to be prepared for that. You are expected to be there each week during the selling season so it did shorten the weekends for us. You will have some weeks where you wonder why you are doing this and the next week you have a great week and it all makes sense. It was a great opportunity to meet and talk with other mom and pop businesses as well as all the customers.
Which farmers markets have you sold at? Which markets were most successful?
We have sold in Nashua, Pelham, and Mount Vernon. Success is really based on the number of people that visit a market. When a farmers market is new to a town it takes a while to build up a customer base. We sold at one farmers market that we had never visited before, and the attendance was low because the market was so new. But it was a good experience overall, because you still learn from others who are selling. It also depends on how you measure success. I enjoyed spending the day with my son (who is 9). When we would get really busy, my son would help out and when it was slow we would read books together and talk to the other vendors. In Nashua, we would always get to the market early, get breakfast and watch the first few vendors set up. It’s amazing to see how quickly a big market gets set up and broken down. We enjoyed the entire process.
What advice would you offer a newcomer to the farmers marketplace?
Firstly, do it to have fun and learn, and don’t focus too much on the money aspect when you are starting out. Before selling in a market, visit it a couple of times, see how many people are there and see what they are drawn to. Typically the farmers markets are busier during the first few hours, so if a market opens at 9 a.m., visit it at 10 a.m. to observe customer traffic.
Are all the markets basically the same, or are there differences? If so, what are they?
A little of both. In our case we were selling with some of the same vendors in all three markets. Good markets will have a range of products and the markets we sold in had this. There was a difference in the buyers from place to place. Just because your product doesn’t do well in one market doesn’t mean it won’t do well in another. For example, in Nashua there were always those same customers that came back week after week to buy a bunch of fresh cut flowers after church. But at other times it varied a lot from week to week. Sometimes we would sell out of cut flowers in the first two hours and sometimes we wouldn’t sell all of what we brought by the time the market closed.
Where else do you sell your plants? Has your experience with the farmers market improved your sales or exposure to the surrounding communities?
Because we are a home nursery, our customers come from farmers markets, our website (www.thecuttingedgehostafarm.com), auction sites, word of mouth and garden tours. Selling directly in the farmers markets has been invaluable to us. We learned very quickly what people liked and what they didn’t and changed our product selection based on this feedback. We sell to a range of customers from avid collectors to people that have never planted before. A farmers market gives you exposure to the full range of buyers and is a great way to get your name out there. If you decide to try selling in a farmers market, however, don’t forget to have some fun.
From plant to mouth
Where to pick your own summer fruit
By Karen Plumley email@example.com
Looking to get even closer to some of our local produce? Head to one of these pick-your-own farms.
• Northway Farm 216 North Road, 483-2130. Open June through October. Pick your own strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Call or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Ranch House Farm 361 Baptist Hill Road, 276-7551. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Pick your own raspberries and blueberries.
• Apple Hill Farm 580 Mountain Road, 224-8862, www.applehillfarmnh.com. Open daily except Sundays for berry picking, while in season, from 8 a.m. to noon.
• Rossview Farm 84 District 5 Road, 225-9656. Open in the summer for strawberry picking, June 15-July 15, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Blueberry picking is July-Sept. Call or e-mail email@example.com.
• Carter Hill Orchard 73 Carter Hill Road, 225-2625, www.carterhillapples.com. Open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Blueberries available for picking in July.
• Russell’s Certified Organic Blueberries 289 Maple St., 344-6913. Open Wed.-Fri., 3-7 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Pick your own blueberries July 12 through Aug. 20. Raspberries available July 12 through Aug. 12.
• Inkwell Farm 106 Hedding Road, 734-2117, www.inkwellfarm.com. Open daily, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Pick your own organic blueberries, starting in mid-July.
• Berry Good Farm 234 Parker Road, 497-8138. Pick your own blueberries in July & August. Open 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. during the season.
• The Mellen Patch 39 Merrill Road, Hillsborough, 464-3706. Open Mon.- Sun., 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pick your own blueberries starting in mid-July. Call or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Brookdale Fruit Farm 38 Broad St., 465-2240, www.brookdalefarms.com. Store open daily, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Pick your own strawberries in June, Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Cherries from mid-June to early July, Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Raspberries from mid-July through Sept., Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Blueberries from early July through Aug., hours not yet posted.
• Lavoie’s Farm 172 Nartoff Road, 882-0072. Pick your own strawberries from mid-June to July.
• Lull Farm 65 Broad St., 465-7079, www.lullfarmllc.com. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Pick your own strawberries, mid-June through mid-July. Blueberries and raspberries, July through Aug.
• Fairhaven Farm 743 Hopkinton Road, 224-0214. Open Tues. & Thurs., 3-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Pick your own blueberries.
• McQuesten Farm Route 3A, 424-9268. Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Pick your own strawberries.
• Wilson Farm Route 3A, 882-5551, www.wilsonfarm.com. Open daily, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Pick your own strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
• Durocher Farm 448 Route 3A, 429-0999. Pick your own blueberries and raspberries.
• Elwood Orchards 54 Elwood Road, 434-6017. Pick your own strawberries and raspberries.
• Sunnycrest Farm 59 High Range Road, 432-9652/7753, www.sunnycrestfarmnh.com. Pick your own strawberries, June 15-July 10, daily from 7 a.m. to noon. Early raspberries, July 10-Aug. 10. Blueberries, July 10-Sept. 15.
• Meadow Ledge Farm 612 Route 129, 798-5860, www.meadowledgefarm.org. Open Tues.-Sun., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Pick your own strawberries in June.
• Lyon Berry Farm 986 Route 129, 435-7640. Pick your own blueberries.
• Hillside Apiaries 31 Hillside Terrace, 429-0808. Pick your own summer raspberries and blueberries. Call or e-mail email@example.com.
• Sweetwood Farm 128 Amherst St., 672-6855. Open Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Organic farm. Pick your own blueberries. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Zahn’s Berry & Christmas Tree Farm 211 Jennison Road, 673-1908. Open daily, 9 a.m.-dark. Pick your own blueberries.
• Blueberry Gardens 40 Ingalls Road, 435-7218. Open Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-dusk, Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Blueberries available in July, August & September.
• Blue Moon Berry Farm 195 Waldron Hill Road, 410-9577. Pick your own blueberries starting in July.
• Hi-Berry Farm 338 Curtis Farm Road, 654-9819. Open from July 15 through August, Thurs.-Fri., 9 a.m.-noon, Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Pick your own blueberries.
Crop looks good, festivals scheduled
By Madeleine Staub email@example.com
Strawberry season snuck up on southern New Hampshire 10 days earlier than usual because of the unseasonably warm weather in the spring. While it was initially unclear what this would mean for the strawberry crops, it’s turning out that strawberry-lovers will simply have to enjoy their strawberries a week early. To celebrate the season of sticky red hands and faces, a few towns will hold strawberry festivals.
Bedford’s Second Annual Strawberry Festival will be held on Saturday, June 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Bedford Village Common on Route 101. The Hollis Woman’s Club and Hollis Town Band will host their 61st Strawberry Festival in Hollis’s Monument Square on Sunday, June 27, from 2 to 4 p.m.
“The event originated with the Hollis Town Band wanting to get people together for a concert,” said Jane Taylor, co-chair of the event. For the past 40 years, the event has been a joint project for the two groups. Taylor said preparing the strawberry shortcake can be quite a process. They purchase strawberries from Brookdale Farm and Lowell Farm, and then have a “hulling party” the Friday before the event during which they cut and clean the berries. On Saturday they bake the shortcakes, and on Sunday they prepare the strawberry sauces.
This year’s strange weather patterns have not dramatically affected the strawberries.
“The berries are nice and they are sizing up beautiful,” said Diane Souther of Apple Hill Farm. Initially, Souther was concerned that the warm weather would lessen the berries’ sugar content. “The slower they ripen, the more sugar they have,” Souther said. She said that the cool weather in the middle of the harvest enabled them to develop the desired sweetness.
“As the plants produce longer, the berries get smaller, but I think they get sweeter,” said Eleanor Whittemore of the Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis. Souther expects the strawberries to last until the end of June at her farm in Concord. She said that end dates will vary from farm to farm, based on how the irrigation and weather conditions were. She recommended calling ahead to farms to check that there are still strawberries available if you plan on doing a pick-your-own excursion.
Souther provided some tips for preserving strawberries. For strawberries to be used in sauces, add a quarter cup of sugar to four cups of berries before putting them in a freezer Ziploc bag. For treats like smoothies and milkshakes, she recommended cutting the tops off the strawberries and putting the berries in a freezer Ziploc bag without washing them. When they are taken out of the freezer, wash them and this will take any frost off.
Whittemore gave her grandmother’s recipe for strawberry whip, a treat they have made on the farm for many years. Take one egg white, one cup of sugar and one cup of berries; beat all these ingredients together with a mixer until stiff. Spoon strawberry whip on to a slice of angel food cake or yellow cake.