You might have noticed Renee, clipboard in hand, surveying Winter Farmers’ Markets attendees while conducting research for her graduate thesis. At Farm Story, Renee shares some of her insights on the growing network of winter farmers markets in New Hampshire:
“Can New England feed itself?”
The notion wouldn’t leave me alone as I traveled around Tuscany last year drooling over the gastronomic pleasures presented at the many local food shops and trattorias and ogling the vegetable gems that were peaking out from within greenhouses. I was becoming increasingly jealous of their idyllic growing climate, rich soils and a food culture that rests so heavily on fresh, locally grown vegetables and grains as well as regional meats and cheeses. With the question still haunting me nearly six months later, I gave in and decided to focus my graduate thesis on the potentials and barriers facing a regional food system for New England, my home.
Once back in the United States, I discovered that I was not the only one asking this question. Various professors, engaged citizens, nonprofits and motivated farmers are working together to answer this question in the affirmative. Even the USDA is interested. However, my gut feeling is that for lasting change to happen, we need a bottom-up approach. With this in mind, I was curious to find out the motivations and preferences of people in New Hampshire responsible for the growing, selling and buying of New Hampshire (NH) local food.
As luck would have it, this was the first winter that NH has organized a strong network of winter farmer markets, offering consumers the chance to support their beloved farmers year round. If a truly sustainable and self-supportive food system is indeed possible for the state and the New England region, I decided that these public spaces set up to support local food commerce through the lean winter months offered a good starting place. My first winter market experience, held in the Wentworth Greenhouses of Rollinsford, NH, provided a great kickoff for my thesis work as I was instantly motivated by the sheer numbers of people. I was told by the market coordinators to arrive early because it was their experience that customers would be practically beating the door down to get in. These warnings didn’t prepare me for the throngs of people in line with their linen bags and steaming coffee mugs eagerly waiting to pounce on the vendors’ tables before valuable goods in limited quantities were depleted. Live folk music floated around festive poinsettias and through the warm, greenhouse air providing entertainment to chatting new-found friends.
Equally notable was the variety of local items on display – from heaps of shallots and crisp bunches of kale to Tuscan-herb goat cheese. I noted that same diversity in the representation of assembled farmers. Their varied interests and backrounds were mirrored in the items offered: heritage duck eggs; meat from pigs, goats, deer and buffalo; multiple types of fresh cheeses, maple syrup, wine and a cornucopia of vegetables. To read full article >