Originally posted in the Monadnock Shopper News
August is New Hampshire Eat Local Month — a time to celebrate local food and farms, and recognize how a stronger local food system builds healthier citizens, communities and local economies. Who is cultivating a stronger “Eat Local” movement in the Monadnock Region? Feast on these featured initiatives:
Start With the Land
Land is the foundation of our food system and Land For Good, based right here in Keene, specializes in connecting farmers with farmland. Seventy percent of our nation’s farmland is expected to change hands in the next two decades. Without a focused effort, much of that land will go out of farming, and with it, the hopes of a new generation of passionate and savvy farmers. Land For Good leads such an effort, involving everyone — farmers, families, landowners, community leaders, agencies, service providers, advocacy groups and local citizens — to ensure that farmland stays farmland.
“If where your food comes from matters to you and your community, then you need to be concerned about keeping the farmers who produce that food on the land in a way that they can plan for the future of their business — and their farm’s legacy,” shares Jim Hafner, Executive Director of Land For Good.
Local Food as a Path to Improved Community Health
Many of Healthy Monadnock’s programs support a robust local food system, contributing to the ultimate goal of becoming the healthiest community in the nation. One of these programs, Monadnock Menus, managed by Cheshire County Conservation District, aggregates and delivers locally produced food to businesses and local institutions — creating a simpler way to buy local food.
New restaurant buyers include the Hancock Inn, Luca’s Mediterranean Café and Charcoal Charlie’s. The Fall Mountain School District, RiverMead Lifestyle Community, and Cheshire Medical Center purchase local produce for their dining halls, and caterers, such as Free Range Chick, are using Monadnock Menus to source local foods for events.
“Adding locally grown food to the menus in schools, workplace cafeterias and area restaurants makes it easy for people to make healthy choices,” states Linda Rubin, Director of Healthy Monadnock. “When access is easy, eating healthier is easier. Local farmers also benefit as demand for their products grows.”
Monadnock Menus recently created a Farm to Family Buying Club for Keene Housing Authority residents. Farm to Family members receiving SNAP benefits are eligible to get up to $10 in Granite State Market Match funds towards their order each week — making local, healthy food more accessible. “We are only in our fifth week of the buying club and 45 people have registered,” said Amanda Costello, District Manager at the Cheshire County Conservation District. “Keene Housing is an amazing organization with so much heart!”
Co-op Named Local Food Champion
Monadnock Menus recently named the Monadnock Food Co-op a “Local Food Champion.” The Co-op, a community-owned full-service grocery store and café in downtown Keene, purchases products from nine local food producers through Monadnock Menus, representing over one third of all program sales. Echo Farm Puddings, from Hinsdale, is among the hottest brands available at the Co-op.
By purchasing these and other local products, Co-op shoppers are supporting Monadnock Menus’ efforts to scale up and deliver fresh, local, affordable food to all the schools in the Monadnock Region. With the Co-op as an anchor, Monadnock Menus is able to reach twenty-four other buyers and offer products from twenty-eight local food producers.
In addition to its support for Monadnock Menus, the Co-op strengthens our local food system by bringing products from 186 farmers and food producers based within 110 miles of the Co-op all under one roof — open 7 days a week. The Co-op also offers events, such as farm tours and tastings that help shoppers get to know the farmers behind each product.
“Not only has the Co-op been an excellent outlet for us to sell our products, they have also provided many forms of marketing and advertising for our farm which has helped with our brand recognition,” commented dairy farmer Sarah Costa of Manning Hill Farm in Winchester. “I have customers telling me all the time, at both our farm store and the farmers’ market, that they purchase our milk at the Co-op.”
To find a local choice at the Co-op, look for the orange tags the next time you shop.
A Coalition of Food System Builders
The Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition (MFCC) gathers its 48 member organizations quarterly to support programs, identify and build new collaborations and share resources in support of its mission to build a sustainable food system in the region.
MFCC will host two community forums this fall. At the Conversations Around Local, State and Federal Policy forum on September 30th at Stonewall Farm, MFCC will give updates on policy work supportive of agriculture. During the Feast on This! Film Festival on November 9-15 venues throughout the region will feature movies that highlight a diversity of issues and viewpoints related to food and agriculture. These films will spark conversations around what we value about the farms in our region, and actions we can take to support them.
While New Hampshire Eat Local Month comes to close, learn more about all the initiatives strengthening our local food system at yardenofeatin.wordpress.com and mfccoalition.org. And put next year’s celebration in your calendar now and bookmark nheatlocalmonth.org on your web browser.