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Sustainable steps

July’s view from a farm

July happenings

The growing season is full upon us right now. “Knee high by the Fourth of July” is the saying for corn. Some farmers I have talked to in Vermont haven’t even gotten out into their fields yet because of the wet. Here at Sunnyfield Farm, we have managed to get some hay in in-between the rain, but we could sure use some dry days now. Vegetable farmers I know are saying that weeds are thriving.

July is truly a month when eating local seems fun and easy. There are more and more farmers markets around; I had one person suggest to me that there are too many, and that maybe two or three big ones would work better.

Also, a new co-op has opened in Keene that is working with area farms to sell local goods. With the plethora of local foods, many area farms and organizations are doing local food dinners.

Mayfair Farm in Harrisville is doing monthly meals and the Harrisville General Store will resume its Monday dinners in August. The Cornucopia Project will be doing their yearly dinner in August at the old Armory. The Peterborough Agricultural Commission held its first dinner in May at Rick and Duffy Monahon’s. An incredible dinner was prepared by Chef Sam Rule and a great time was had by all in the beautiful barn. The next Agricultural Commission dinner will be this month on July 24 in the beautiful Bass barn. Tickets are available at Rosaly’s and Steele’s.

Visitors

In June, I had two important visitors to Sunnyfield Farm. The first was Roger Noonan, a New Boston farmer who is also the president of the New England Farmers Union. He had two things on his mind. The first was updating us on the Food Safety Modernization Act.

I had been under the impression that we smaller farmers would be exempt, and if you sell less than $25,000 per year that is true. What farm can thrive and have continued growth at $25,000 a year? If you sell more than $25,000 but less than $500,000 and half your sales are to qualified end users, direct to consumers, to restaurants and to grocery stores, you can be exempt, but most restaurants and stores may request that you meet stricter standards than what is required by law, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Roger also told us if we sell any products for other local farms we will not be exempt. Which is not helpful to many of us who are trying to cooperate and help each other out by selling other farm products.

The other thing on his mind was getting us to join the New England Farmers Union, which we did because we feel it gives New England farmers a voice in Washington.

Our other visit was Patrice Hampson from Everything Farm.com. She came and worked a morning with us and told us about everythingfarm.com. It is a new website set up to be used by farmers for buying and selling anything from livestock to haying equipment. This gives New Hampshire farmers another tool for managing their farms.

Our next generation

There was a very nice and encouraging article in the Watertown Daily Times about a 16-year-old son of dairy farmers who wants to continue farming and believes that organic farming makes a difference. He plans to continue down that path when he takes the reins. His mother had a very important point in that “Farming is a lifestyle, not a career choice, because you’re not going to have vacations and weekends off and the kind. It has a different set of rewards and that has to fit what you want in life, because if it doesn’t, then you won’t be happy.”

Good luck to our next generation and raise a toast to farmers everywhere.

Ruth Holmes is one of the principal farmers at Sunnyfield Farm, a nonprofit community farm in Peterborough.

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