While I spent my summer working to promote and support local agriculture and food accessibility in the Seacoast area, for my last blog post I wanted to write a little about my first time going to my favorite local farm stand in Hooksett, where I am from and live when I’m not studying at UNH. I think it’s important to recognize as well as support local agriculture all across our state, so if you’re passing through the Concord/Hookett area sometime, check it out!
Last summer, I finally stopped into a tiny farm stand on the side of 3A in Hooksett, called Johnson Golden Harvest. The farm stand looks like a “tiny house” you might see on House Hunters, with lots of signs sticking out of the ground advertising for raw milk and “fresh produce picked today”. This farm stand had been sitting in this same spot for about 8 years now, and I had never really thought to stop by and check it out until that day.
My boyfriend and I stepped in and immediately saw bins filled with zucchini and spaghetti squash, apples, and onions, a table and shelf filled with little dessert bread loafs and pies. We turned to greet the cashier, and I immediately started chatting him up, telling him how I was a student at UNH studying EcoGastronomy, and I was so happy about the business and its cause. We came to find out he was the owner, and his name was Brian. Though he doesn’t have his own farm that he sells product from, he buys from local business and farms usually up to about about 20 miles away and sells a few products from each of them. He opened up right away and started telling me all about where the meats and produce in the refrigerator behind me came from; the meats and the raw milk came from a farm in Barnstead, where he also gets his Thanksgiving turkeys and his Easter hams, and how the spinach and arugula in the plastic bags were picked fresh that morning from a farm in Derry. He gestured around the entire store and told us that everything in there was sourced locally, and could name where it came from and what other items he got from them during every season, but made sure to point out that the little strawberry boxes he keeps stocked sometimes were sourced from an organic farm in California outside of strawberry season. He went through nearly every item in the shop, telling us where he gets it from, and that he got his food in nearly every day at varying times of the day, depending on when it was picked or packaged from the farms.
I asked Brian about himself, and what sourcing locally means to him; “About a 20-mile radius, usually”, he told me. “And that’s really large if you think about it.” I was really happy to hear that, and I asked him what made him want to open this farm stand, if he grows at home; “Nope. I have absolutely no desire to grow my own food,” he said bluntly, shaking his head. It surprised me a bit, so I asked him what made him want to do this in the first place; “I grew up doing it. My wife and I worked in corporate America for a long time, and we just decided that we didn’t want to do that anymore, and about 9 years ago, we thought of this place, and we’ve done really well so far.” I told him how great it was to hear from someone who was so passionate and knowledgeable, because that’s one of the major joys out of shopping and eating locally, and he agreed. I came out of there feeling so excited and like I had really learned something about the little business, and more importantly, that I had learned something about a member of my own community and was helping to support him and his cause. It felt awesome, and I couldn’t wait to go back for strawberry and peach season, which he raved about. We ended up leaving with a quart of raw milk and a box of the literal best strawberries we had ever tasted, and knowing that we would be coming back there a lot!
Today, my amazing summer with Seacoast Eat Local is finally drawing to an end, so I want to thank those that I have worked with and seen at market for bringing me an amazing opportunity. I am grateful that I could combine my passions for nutrition and local food through my work with SEL, and so happy to be surrounded such a beautiful, kind farming community. Thank you to you all for reading my blogs this summer, and thank you SO MUCH for supporting local agriculture and taking a huge step towards a more sustainable food system and a happier seacoast community!