Buying local food needs to be easier

The recent talk in New Hampshire, and across much of the country, about implementing a law that would require companies to include labels on packaging for genetically engineered ingredients resonates with us in thinking about the growing movement dedicated to bringing locally grown food to tables across our region.

It’s disappointing that the House Environment and Agriculture Committee has recommended shelving a proposed bill calling for the labeling. But it seems as though the conversation isn’t over. Legislators will likely be hearing from their constituents, especially in the Monadnock region, which has a thriving local food movement that not only supports local growers, but also advocates knowing where your food comes from.

We’re lucky to have so many farmers markets in this area, as well as stores and restaurants selling or incorporating locally made products and produce. With so many options, there are plenty of opportunities to bypass the nationally branded prepackaged food dilemma. But there’s still more work to be done when it comes to making locally produced food and locally grown produce accessible.

Some towns, Peterborough being one of them, have started agricultural commissions to help bridge the gap between farmers and the rest of the community, and to find ways to better support local agriculture in strategic ways. And Doug Williams of Peterborough has organized several forums in Peterborough and Keene, in an effort to connect the dots of the local agriculture and food movements.

Williams seems to have the right idea. At a forum in Peterborough late last year, Williams said, “Farmers markets are popular, but they take a lot of time. Farmers spend hours getting ready. We’re aiming to form some kind of a food hub, a central gathering place where food, dairy products and meat could be brought, prepared, stored and distributed. It will take some while for it to form, but the concept is building.”

The lack of a central gathering place for local food is what makes buying local such a challenge at times, especially for people who work during the day and/or are out of town. Getting to the Peterborough Farmers Market, for example, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, is difficult for many for just these reasons.

We’re a long way off from one-stop shopping when it comes to local food, but there are reasons to feel hopeful that we’re moving in the right direction. The important thing is for farmers to keep talking and strategizing, and keeping afloat.

Both Oxbow and Mayfair farms, of Dublin and Harrisville, respectively, held events on Plaid Friday, bringing local producers, artisans and others who don’t have storefronts together in one location. And it appears Coll’s Farm could get a second wind in February, if all goes well with a purchase agreement that would allow New England Everyday Goods owners Jim and Susan Therriault to buy the building at 16 Colls Farm Rd. The tentative plan is to rent part of the building’s space to the Coll family, who would then be able to carry on their longstanding farm stand and grocery store business.

Buying local is the way around the many concerns foods with GMOs raises. As much as we’d like to have industry responsibly report their ingredients, a world in which buying local is affordable and easy is even better.

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