More New Hampshire schools are buying more food from local farms. The New Hampshire Farm to School Program (www.nhfarmtoschool.org) reports the number of farmers selling produce and products to schools has tripled to 60 in the past three years.
A new survey shows that 60 farms and more than 300 schools are participating in the program, which began in 2003 with orchards selling apples to schools.
Apples and tomatoes remain the most popular items purchased by schools, but have been joined by blueberries, cucumbers, corn, beef, eggs, fish and maple syrup.
Program coordinator Stacey Purslow says cost and lack of refrigerated storage space remain barriers. She says 40 percent of the approximately 300 schools in the program spend between $100 and $500 at local farms each fall. Twenty-six percent spent more than $1,000.
Farmers Market Grants
Granite state applicants recently were awarded a total $189,125 in USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grants.
Merrimack County Conservation District will receive $55,968 to create a system to make the Cole Gardens Winter Farmers Market in Concord sustainable. Funding will help provide technical assistance and training to farmers to improve product quality, target marketing and promotions to the customer base, and educate consumers in a food desert area on the benefits of healthy, local foods.
Miles Smith Farm LLC of Loudon will receive $70,735 to facilitate a partnership with 20 to 30 New England meat producers to educate about and sell locally raised meats to health care institutions in local food desert communities.
Cheshire County Conservation District will use its $62,422 grant to launch a Buy Local campaign with targeted outreach to food desert areas through community partners, increase Community Supported Agriculture participation among low-income families with the use of subsidy incentives, and provide professional business and marketing skills training for farmers.
Farm to Institution
Monadnock Menus, a new pilot program connecting local farmers and producers with institutional buyers (schools, hospitals, correctional institutions, senior centers, restaurants), made its first delivery Oct. 3.
This program is funded through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant administered by the department to Cheshire County Conservation District, in partnership with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and University of Vermont Extension.
Wholesale buyers order online, and a refrigerated truck picks up food from farms and delivers directly to schools and other institutions. Conservation District Manager Amanda Costello reports that sellers include producers from throughout Cheshire County.
Local farm offerings this fall range from tomatoes and peppers, to pumpkins and potatoes, to yogurt and puddings. Plenty of pumpkins are available just in time for the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival.
To learn about the online market and participating farmers, visit www.harvesttomarket.com or the blog at monadnockmenus.wordpress.com.
To get involved with buying or selling food through Monadnock Menus call 603-756-2988, extension 115, or email sharlene<\@>cheshireconservation.org.
Project results will be shared with groups interested in developing similar programs in other areas of the state.
Lorraine Merrill is New Hampshire’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets & Food.