MANCHESTER, N.H. — “Growth Through Yankee Ingenuity” was the theme for the New Hampshire Farm and Forest Expo this year. That the population of small farms is growing in the Northeast is testimony to the interest in locally produced agricultural products. Moreover, the diversity of products is indicative of Yankee ingenuity.
With a program spanning two days and an evening, one hardly had time to sample all that was offered. The full-day workshop "Growing a Better Beer in NH" was one example of the breadth of the program.
If your desire was to make mead, you would have had to split your time between the growing beer sessions and the local honey session.
In addition to learning what is new in agriculture and forestry, visitors could learn of the past, about barn foundation construction and stone wall building. Talks on forest history in New Hampshire constituted another all-day session, where Thad Guldbrandsen of Plymouth State University documented the history of the wood industry in New Hampshire from the late 19th century through the mid-1960s. The Society for the Preservation of Old Mills and the generation of electricity with water power educated many.
Suzanne Brown of the New Hampshire Institute of Agriculture & Forestry discussed “Growing New Farmers and Foresters.” The group works with beginning farmers in incubator projects around the state. The model is to work with wannabe farmers on a small scale to see them become profitable and eventually able to lease/purchase farm land and expand their enterprise.
Representatives from the New Hampshire Timber Owners Association, New England Forestry Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service discussed the science, myth and future of forestry in New England. As with agriculture, there is an increasingly negative perception of forest management which will mold public policy. All seemed to agree that education is the only way to combat ignorance of best management practices. Visiting managed forests several years after a harvest could be very educational to those protesting how trees are harvested, the speakers said.
The American Chestnut Foundation discussed bringing back one of the primary forest trees along the Appalachians; conversely, management and control of invasive species was presented by folks from the University of New Hampshire.
Also on hand was Bruce Hooker, who welcomed guests at the New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association booth. Last year, his giant pumpkin weighed in at 1,326 pounds and was awarded first place at the Deerfield Fair. He was distributing small packets of pumpkin seed with 500-pound genetics.
Carolyn Eastman represented Granite State FISH, an organization established to protect New Hampshire's commercial fishing industry and the communities it serves. Eastman is a full-time fisherwoman and works with her husband on their boat off the New Hampshire coast. They market some of their catch through a CSF, community supported fishery, called Eastman's Local Catch. Recently she has been one of the movers behind a fish to school program in New Hampshire.
Representing the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association was Fred Sullivan, who dispensed milk flavored with maple syrup and maple syrup samples. Always interested in chatting about maple production, Sullivan noted that he had to use snowshoes to get about in his sugar bush this year because of all the snow. With a chuckle, he suggested that he would probably have to use a step ladder in the spring to remove his equipment from the trees.
Other diverse topics addressed included goat nutrition, chainsaw use and maintenance, equine anatomy, backyard maple sugaring, llama and alpaca care and soil health, to name a few.
For more information, visit www.nhfarmandforestexpo.org.