On Oct. 29, 131 farmers and gardeners joined us for our annual North Country Fruit and Vegetable Seminar and Trade Show. The program was co-hosted by Coos, Grafton and Carroll County Cooperative Extension staff, and provided a good end-of-season opportunity for growers from all over northern New Hampshire to renew old friendships, network, discuss the seasons’ problems and get excited for next season.
This was our fifth year of holding the event at the beautiful Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa (MVG) in Whitefield, NH. MVG is the ideal partner for this event due to their commitment to local food and their interest in including agritourism in the activities they offer their guests. They came thru again this year with a menu that included sandwiches, squash soup, beef stew, apple and fennel salad, broccoli salad and homemade pumpkin ice cream all made with ingredients purchased from farms across the region, including a couple who were at the event. Chef Adam Parker also came up to the stage to discuss the economic benefits to restaurants of buying local.
It was a rainy day, which for us is always an excellent thing. As one grower said, “If it was sunny, I’d feel guilty I wasn’t at home planting garlic”.
New Hampshire Agricultural Commissioner Lorraine Merrill and Gary Keough from the National Agricultural Statistics Service started us off with a summary of the 2012 Census of Agriculture and what the data means for New Hampshire. The most exciting piece of news is that the number of farms in New Hampshire is up 5 percent from 2007. Following them was Ruth Hazzard, a vegetable specialist from the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension, who discussed options for extending the growing season with low tunnel carrot production and crop storage.
After lunch, participants had a chance to visit 18 trade show booths from as close as Lancaster and as far away as Connecticut and Quebec, representing products like compost, irrigation and fencing supplies and goats’ milk soap, as well as services like insurance, agricultural mediation, marketing and financial services specifically aimed at farms. Johnny’s Selected Seeds even brought complimentary packets of “Custom Sample Seed Blend” lettuce specifically selected to appeal to northern growers.
The afternoon began with Brent Loy, who treated us all to a preview of the new varieties of pumpkins and squashes due to be released on the market soon. Loy is a recently retired plant breeder from the University of New Hampshire. Or theoretically he’s retired, but it’s hard to tell given the amount of exciting cucurbit breeding work he’s involved in.
Our last speakers were actually a panel of growers involved in season extension techniques. After a brief introduction of their farms and the techniques they use to extend their season, the panel answered audience questions on everything from food safety to post-harvest handling techniques that extend storage life. As one participant said, “It’s exciting to see the next generation of women farmers going strong! I’d be happy to be about 20 years old and interested in farming right now!”