Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News
For the sixth year, Monadnock Buy Local celebrates local food, farms and our entire Monadnock region food system during New Hampshire Eat Local Month.
Our food system includes all the pieces needed to bring local food from the farm to our plates: the soil, farm workers, 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.
Now let’s dig in and discover what’s new in our Monadnock region food system this year.
Kin Schilling, founder of the Cornucopia Project, and beekeeper Melissa Stephenson teamed up to form the NH Honey Bee Initiative to protect honeybees and other pollinators -- animals critical to the health of our food system. Their first project raised over $16,000 through The Local Crowd Monadnock to bring artist Matthew Willey from The Good of the Hive to the Monadnock region.
The Good of the Hive is a global effort to raise awareness around the plight of pollinators. Matthew’s goal includes hand-painting 50,000 individual honey bees on murals and installations around the world. He spent August painting a mural of honeybees on an exterior wall of the Peterborough Community Center. Be sure to check it out!
“By inviting The Good of the Hive to our community, we will generate educational opportunities and events that will connect us all to a worldwide effort to protect honey bees and other pollinators,” shared Melissa. “The New Hampshire Honey Bee Initiative has some wonderful plans for future actions on behalf of all pollinators.”
The Monadnock Sustainability Network (MSN) partnered with the Cheshire County Conservation District to develop the Community Supported Solar for Farmers project. Based off the same Community Supported Solar model that brought solar panels to the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, this effort will focus on bringing renewable energy to farms.
“Our community proudly supports local farms in our region -- but buying local isn't always enough as farmers face substantial operating costs and tough competition from more conventional and larger farms from afar,” said Amanda Littleton, MSN Board Member.
Transitioning to solar energy will help farmers stabilize and lower a significant operating cost while decreasing their carbon footprint. To kick-start this effort, MSN recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on TLC Monadnock. As of today, they have secured 30% of their crowdfunding goal. Support this campaign at http://c-fund.us/glx.
Food Connects and its New Hampshire-based food hub Monadnock Menus deliver food from over 65 farms and local producers to 100 wholesale customers in the Keene and Brattleboro areas. In 2018, Food Connects raised over $250,000 to scale up operations by adding new delivery vehicles, cold and frozen storage facilities and more staff.
“We have demonstrated that our business model can work locally, but for years our farms have been asking for access to larger markets,” said Richard Berkfield, Executive Director of Food Connects. “These funds allow us to sell more local food to new customers in nearby markets, allowing farms and food producers to focus on what they do best, which is producing great food for us to eat.”
This year, Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition (MFCC) launched its new website, mfcommunitycoalition.org, to better promote local food and farm resources. Also, thanks to feedback from local farmers, MFCC will offer two quarterly forums on farm marketing and scaling up farm businesses. Save the date for their annual Feast on This! Film Festival, November 8 – 10.
Jess Gerrior, Doctoral Fellow in the Environmental Studies Program at Antioch University New England and Director of the C&S Workplace Organic Gardens Project, carried out a service learning project for MFCC this year. She created a digital resource called Cultivating Community to document the people working on our regional food system with photographs and narratives.
“As a service learning project, Cultivating Community seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of local food issues for participants as well as stakeholders and potential benefactors,” said Jess. “It seeks to nourish the connections among us, without which the work is much harder.”
Community Garden Connections (CGC) builds local capacity to grow food and ultimately our region’s food security. It focuses on food’s connection to community health and resiliency. With the support of Antioch University of New England and community partners, CGC supports thirteen community garden sites at social service organizations throughout the region. This year, their Westmoreland Garden site added a high-tunnel greenhouse, strengthening their capacity to grow food for charitable organizations like the Community Kitchen in Keene.
“By integrating gardens into the programming and structure of existing agencies, CGC seeks to best serve people often marginalized by the existing food system,” said Kristine Burke, CGC Member. “And we hope to provide a foundation for long-term viability of these community gardens.”
For the second year, the Monadnock Food Co-op’s Farm Fund awarded grants to local farms. This year’s awards went to support winter crop storage at Picadilly Farm in Winchester, production efficiencies at Echo Farm Puddings in Hinsdale, marketing efforts at Brookfield Farm in Walpole and planting efficiencies at Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam. The Farm Fund, a partnership between the co-op and the Cheshire County Conservation District, seeks to increase sustainable food production and wholesale sales to contribute to a thriving local farm economy.
“When we ask farmers in our area what some of their biggest barriers to growth and profitability are, the reply ‘infrastructure’ is usually just before or after ‘reliable seasonal labor’ and ‘the weather,’ reports Michael Faber, Monadnock Food Co-op’s General Manager. “While it is not within our scope of operation to help with the latter two, we hope to address the investment needed to grow efficient and reliable production for farms that can’t always meet all their infrastructural needs through the current financial system.”
Thank you to all the individuals, programs, policies and initiatives that continue to build stronger local and regional food systems in our corner of the state and throughout New England. Together, we’re cultivating healthier citizens, communities and economies.
The Local Crowd Monadnock - Mailing Address: 63 Emerald St. #114, Keene, NH 03431