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Column: Sustainable Steps, March 12, 2013

1. Refining our tastes

I love peanut butter. I grew up on Skippy peanut butter. As well as having peanuts, Skippy had added salt and sugar. Imagine my surprise upon tasting just plain peanut butter — nothing added. At first I found it too bland and didn’t know if I liked it, but I stuck with it. I now love to savor the taste of just plain old peanut butter nothing added. Being in a hurry and not wanting to take the time to go and get my jar, take it to the store where I put it on the shelf under the machine that grinds fresh peanuts into just peanut butter, I grabbed a jar off the shelf in the store and took it home. Even though it says “lightly salted” I found it so salty I could not eat it. I have refined my tastes.

I took my granddaughter, Greta, out for lunch last week. She is a girl who has been raised on a farm and eats, for the most part, local and seasonal. One of her favorite summer foods is a fresh tomato. So upon seeing a tomato on my sandwich her eyes lit up and I could see in those eyes the ambrosial taste of a fresh picked tomato. She could not help herself and grabbed it from my sandwich and pushed it quickly into her mouth. Her look quickly changed to shock and disappointment at the taste and she spit it out. Greta has a refined palate.

A part of eating local and seasonal can often involve the refining of our taste buds. Learn to savor the simple and rediscover the artistry in fresh.

2. On knowing where your food comes from

I have been concerned lately that the local food movement momentum is going to push farmers into a repeat of the get big or get out cycle. I am not writing about this because I have any answers, I am simply voicing my concerns and letting others know what is involved. One big example I have that concerns me greatly is hearing that some farms in New Hampshire that sell local meat and cannot meet the demand are going to auctions buying animals and selling it as their own. This is not the same as buying sheep from your neighbor who you know has similar farming practices, this is going out and buying any animal that comes up at the right price. The conundrum of this is that farms and farmers do not make a lot of money, so in order to make more money you need to produce more goods and to produce more you need to work more. Farmers already work more hours than most people. So buying from local farms helps support local farmers, which is good, but when the consumer is not getting what they think is locally raised is not good. Talk to your farmer. We need more farms and farmers who are getting a living wage from the goods they sell. My hope would be that getting decent money for what they do raise will help keep local farms selling local food.

3. What are they up to?

The local movement has stirred a lot of new state legislative action in the past year or two. Coming up this year are quite a few new proposals. Some of the ones I find interesting are SB 0141, asking to establish a Granite state Farm to Plate; HB 0531, an act allowing towns and cities to exempt farm buildings and structures from property taxation; and HB 0660, which would require the labeling of genetically modified foods and agricultural commodities.

The Peterborough Agricultural Commission needs help from the residents of Peterborough. One of our current projects is trying to figure out just how many people we could feed — out of a population of 6,500 — on the food that is currently grown here. If you currently have a farm or garden and produce 50 percent of your family’s needs, or you sell and barter what you grow, please let me know. What I need is the pounds of food that you raise in a year, be it vegetables, fruit or meat.

Please call 924-4436 or email The commission is also planning some local food dinners and the first will be at Four Winds Farm on May 22. Tickets will go on sale the last week of April.

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

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