Dover holds Local Gardening and Energy Fair
The average meal travels about 1,500 miles before it lands on a Seacoast resident’s plate. All that transportation equates to loads of fuel, packaging and carbon emissions, leaving a nasty footprint on the environment.
But that kind of waste is largely unnecessary. Area residents can grow much of their own food in backyard gardens or buy it from local farms. The first ever Local Gardening and Energy Fair in Dover will teach guests how to grow healthy foods and reduce energy consumption. The fair takes place on Saturday, April 18, at the McConnell Center at 61 Locust St.
Sponsored by Dover’s Cassily Community Garden and the Dover Energy Advisory Committee, along with Seacoast Eat Local, the fair will feature a number of workshops on gardening and energy efficiency from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. University of New Hampshire professor of natural resources John Carroll will deliver a keynote talk on the connection between energy and agriculture at noon.
Eric Stelzer, chair of the Dover Energy Advisory Committee, said the idea for the fair emerged after discussions with former committee member Eric Kelsey, chair of Cassily Community Garden.
“With the success that they’ve had with their own group as well as ours, we were just chitchatting a little bit about how both of them are very complementary to each other,” Steltzer said. The two began discussing ways to collaborate and decided to host a day-long event that would address both agricultural issues and energy efficiency in homes and businesses.
Local experts will lead workshops on a total of nine different topics, including healthy soils, pests and diseases, biofuels, beekeeping, renewable energy sources, EnergyStar appliances, energy tax credits and rebates, and residential energy audits. Between 10 and 15 energy-related vendors and organizations will offer displays and answer questions at the fair. Organic food will be available throughout the day at Green Bean restaurant in the McConnell Center.
“The highlight of all of this is going to be a presentation by Dr. John Carroll of the University of New Hampshire, who’s done years of work on the connection between energy and agriculture,” Steltzer said. A question and answer session will follow Carroll’s speech at 12:30 p.m.
The Dover City Council created the Energy Advisory Committee three years ago and voted to make it a permanent committee last summer. “We were initially formed by the City Council to come up with an energy action plan for the city, which we did,” Steltzer said. Since then, the committee has been coming up with ways to improve energy efficiency within the city.
The City Council will soon vote on whether to hire an energy service company called Johnson Controls to conduct a number of energy improvements to the city’s buildings and infrastructure. The improvements would total around $2.5 million. Steltzer supports the resolution.
“In my opinion, it’s the biggest vote of the year for the term of the City Council,” he said, noting that the improvements would provide $260,000 in savings for taxpayers in the first year alone. Long-term savings would eventually pay off the initial bond, he said, while the improvements would also keep tons of carbon dioxide out of the environment. He added that the agreement would stipulate that if Johnson Controls does not meet certain levels of energy efficiency, the company must pay the difference.
Steltzer said more and more New Hampshire communities are prioritizing energy efficiency. There are now more than 90 energy committees across the state. Portsmouth is preparing to hold its second annual Sustainability Fair in May, and many other communities hold similar events.
“This issue, as far as energy and community grassroots investment, is spreading rapidly throughout the state,” Steltzer said. “We just want to expand on that and have a little bit more informative workshops on specific topics.”