More Monadnock Local Food, Farms and Food System Updates

Happy New Hampshire Eat Local Month, a month-long celebration of our state’s harvest. Enjoy Part Two of our annual update of local food, farms and our entire Monadnock Region food system. Read Part One of this article.

Community Supported Solar for Farmers

Last year, the Monadnock Sustainability Network and Cheshire County Conservation District joined together to create the Community Supported Solar for Farmers project. This project helps farmers harvest the power of the sun by bringing solar energy to local farms. Transitioning to solar energy helps farmers stabilize and lower a significant operating cost of their business while decreasing their carbon footprint.

Sun Moon Farm in Rindge will host this project’s first solar array. Farmers who are Eversource customers can purchase a share of this array. For six years, these farmers will receive discounted electricity (at about a 20% discount). After that, they will benefit from free electricity for the life of the solar array (25 – 30 years). Interested farmers can contact amanda@cheshireconservation.org or call 603-756-2988 x116.

“It fits in well with our mission of conservation of natural resources, but improving the viability of farm businesses as well,” said Amanda Littleton, District Manager of the Cheshire County Conservation District. “We just saw this as a really great opportunity to help farms be more profitable.”

Farmers Helping Farmers

Last winter, a group of farmers came together to help each other — and make local food more accessible to low-income households. The Farmers Helping Farmers mission reads: We are a group of Monadnock region small farmers who choose to recognize each other as allies and friends, rather than as competitors, because farming is hard enough. We want farming to be a viable and valued vocation and we want the high-quality food that we grow to be accessible to more families. We welcome support from other individuals and organizations but we reserve this space as being led by farmers.”

The main expression of their mission is to visit each other’s farms and lend a hand once a month. In June, they visited Hungry Bear Farm in Mason, July they visited Sun Moon Farm in Rindge, August will be Hillside Springs Farm. They’ll keep visiting and helping out at other farms throughout the year.

Together, they also created the Monadnock Farm Share Program that provides CSA shares at half-off the regular price to individuals with limited incomes. Eight CSAs offered 22 shares last year. The farmers cover 25% of the cost and a fund through the Cheshire County Conservation District covers the other 25%. Cheshire Medical Center for Population Health funds the program through its Healthy Monadnock Initiative.

Northeast Honey Bee Sanctuary

Dean & Jodi Turner, owners of Imagine That HONEY! in Swanzey, love creating buzz about honey bees. They teach beekeeping classes and created the Northeast Honey Bee Sanctuary. While honey bees are close to their hearts, they believe that all pollinators matter.

“We teach beekeeping, not to focus on honeybees, but to open our minds to the importance of all of the pollinators,” said Jodi. “By having a hive, you gain respect and admiration for the work these ladies can accomplish in their brief lifetime. Did you know worker bees only live about 42 days in the summer, and that Mason bees go into hibernation at the end of June?”

The Northeast Honey Bee Sanctuary, based in Greenfield, is a work in progress. It includes about 10 hives with gardens, electricity and water. The plan is to give honey bees and native pollinators a healthy and thriving place for them to live and feed.

Farm Fund

For the third year, the Monadnock Food Co-op’s Farm Fund awarded grants to local farms. This year’s awards went to Sun Moon Farm of Rindge, Archway Farm of Keene, and Bascom Farm of Charlestown. Since starting in 2017, the Farm Fund has awarded over $32,000 in grants to nine local farms. The Monadnock Food Co-op Farm Fund, created in partnership with the Cheshire County Conservation District, has a mission to support local farmers in increasing sustainable food production and wholesale sales to contribute to a thriving local farm economy.

Sun Moon Farm will erect a greenhouse structure to expand space for curing onions and garlic and will purchase a rolling dibbler (hole maker) to reduce transplanting time. Archway Farm will design and print new labels for five high-volume pork products to create more attractive and appealing packaging. Bascom Farm will remodel and equip their current barn to serve as a packaging and processing area for their produce.

“Our Farm Fund is an essential way to invest in the future of local, sustainable farming in our region,” said Michael Faber, Monadnock Food Co-op general manager. “It helps ensure we have a healthy, local food system for our community.” Funds for this program are provided by donations from Monadnock Food Co-op, its shoppers and the You Have Our Trust Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation.

Even with part two, we had to leave out other updates. So, again, 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.

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