NH Eats Local Month: Shining a Light on Local Food, Farms, and our Food System

For the ninth year, let’s shine a light on local food, farms, and our Monadnock Region food system during New Hampshire Eats Local Month, a month-long celebration of our state’s harvest in August.

Discover more

What do we mean by a food system?

Our food system includes all the pieces needed to bring local food from the farm to our plates: the soil, farmworkers, transportation networks, markets, and more — everything needed to grow, harvest, and distribute these goods to us.  These pieces come together to form our local food system.

Please dig in and enjoy this year’s bounty of updates!

A Profession of Hope

Land access remains the top challenge for beginning farmers in New Hampshire. Land For Good, a leader in farmland access based right here in Keene, helps address this challenge. Their New England Farmland Finder helps connect transitioning farmers with farm seekers. Over 4,000 farm seekers have subscribed to this service, hoping to secure land.

“Farming is a profession of hope. Farmers of all types and scales anticipate every new growing season and production cycle with hope, now more than ever,” shared Lisa Luciani, Land For Good’s communications manager. “They move forward with hope about weather, market conditions, and sustaining their farms. We all remain hopeful for a more robust, equitable, and resilient post-COVID food system that strengthens our communities, economies, and ecosystems.”

Garden Angels

Thirty gardeners are growing produce on more than forty plots at Monadnock View Community Garden (MVCG) on Park Avenue in West Keene this season.  MVCG also includes a pollinator garden and a communal raspberry patch. Subsidized plots are available for community members who may need assistance, courtesy of Antioch University’s Community Garden Connections.

Area businesses donated 250 plants, and “garden angels” planted them in available plots to grow vegetables for The Community Kitchen and Hundred Nights Shelter.  Garden angels share in the watering, weeding, and harvesting in these plots.

If you are interested in securing a plot at the garden, contact Kristy Morrison with the City of Keene at [email protected]. Contact Rowland Russell to learn more about becoming a garden angel at [email protected].

Food Hub Grows to Meet Demand

Food Connects, a food hub based in Brattleboro, VT, has leveraged its longstanding ties with community producers and wholesale customers to meet increased demand for local food.  This year, they hired six new employees—doubling their staffing levels. They also built a second walk-in cooler and added a fourth refrigerated delivery vehicle.

“As we responded to the community’s need for fresh, regional foods, we saw our sales double in 2020, growing to over $1.1 million,” said McKenna Hayes, Food Hub Co-Director, “The year 2020 shined a bright spotlight on regional foods. Our challenge going forward will be to keep that light focused and carry the momentum of 2020 forward.”

From Farm to Fork

During its 15th anniversary, Cornucopia Project in Peterborough expanded school garden programming to thirteen classrooms. Garden Educators delivered in-person lessons and developed classroom-ready lesson kits to support outdoor learning during the pandemic.  Culinary programs continued with meal kits designed for kids, bringing locally produced ingredients and fun lessons into families’ home kitchens.

Cornucopia Project also worked with twenty-five restaurants and the Town of Peterborough to sponsor Peterborough Community Meals To Go. This innovative project raised over $85,000 to pay local restaurants to prepare free, healthy meals for community distribution through May of this year.

Another new project, the Monadnock Farm to School Network (MF2S), is a partnership with the New Hampshire Farm To School Network and Stonewall Farm. The Network builds capacity for our region’s farm-to-school programs by collaborating on key issues like funding, finding resources and tools, sharing contacts, and brainstorming strategies.

“By introducing food systems programs to students from preschool onward, we prioritize education that is rooted in sustainability and nutrition,” said Executive Director Lauren Judd. “These experiences enhance personal connections to food and the environment. We are committed to strengthening our community with healthy food education from farm to fork.”

Local Food Stars

Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition (MFCC), Monadnock Food Co-op, and Food Connects plan to launch a new “Local Food STAR” campaign, highlighting restaurants that source from local farms.  Stay tuned for more program details.

MFCC also invites you to this year’s Monadnock Farm Tour on Saturday, August 21, from 12 pm – 5 pm. Seven Monadnock farms are opening their barns, pastures, hoop houses, flower gardens, and pudding plant.  Purchase tour wristbands at each farm for $5 per person ($10 per car).

“Our community looked to local farms and farm products for secure, accessible, and affordable food over the last year, and our local food system answered the call,” shared Roe-Ann Tasoulas of MFCC. “Farmers worked together to offer each other’s products at farm stands, CSA sales were at an all-time high, and new programs were developed to get local and charitable food onto the plates of all members of our community. We are grateful to be an integral part of our Monadnock Local Food System.”

Mobile Food Pantry

The Community Kitchen and MFCC collaborated with food systems consultant Russ Moore to complete the Monadnock Mobile Food Pantry feasibility study.  The study found strong community support for enhancing food security services, emphasizing healthy, locally grown foods, by bringing a mobile pantry into communities across the Monadnock Region. Stay tuned for updates.

“As The Community Kitchen celebrates NH Eats Local Month with more than a year of the pandemic behind us, we find our strength lies more than ever in community partnerships,” said Sarah Harpster of The Community Kitchen.  “There’s an incredible commitment within the community to close the loop between a strong local food system and people struggling to meet their nutritional needs.”

Ten Years Growing

Community Garden Connections celebrated its tenth year of educating gardeners and supporting garden programs throughout Keene. They assist social service agencies and community-based non-profits by providing funds for infrastructure, plants and seeds, and quality education and technical support.

During the pandemic, they distributed 150 free container gardens and hundreds of seed packets to individuals throughout Cheshire County, donated over 1,000 pounds of fresh produce to The Community Kitchen, and provided take-home soup kits to Antioch University students.

Join them at a volunteer garden work party at the Westmoreland Garden Project at 702 River Road on Wednesdays from 4:00-6:00 pm.  Contact CGC at [email protected].

Thank you to all the individuals, programs, policies, and initiatives that continue to build more robust local and regional food systems in our corner of the state and throughout New England.  Together, we’re cultivating healthier citizens, communities, and economies.