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Sustainable steps

When all is said and done

Having food is a very important thing. Food is vital to living. Having access to local food is in my mind almost as vital. Why then is a farmer who raises food for people to live from not able to even make a living wage?

With the growth of the “buy local” movement more and more young folks want to try and make a living raising good nutrient dense food for their local communities. Many are trying, some have tried and failed, some are struggling not to fail. New Hampshire has a Right to Farm Act N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 432:33, which was put in place so that farmers could do the work that is required to produce food. It’s helpful but still we have fewer and fewer farms and farmers.

It is time for communities to think creatively and support your local farms and farmers in new ways. Many farmers are trying diverse activities to help keep farms afloat. Four Corners Farm in Wilton has opened a small cafe to serve their products to the public helping keep more moneys on the farm. Alysons in Walpole does weddings on the side. Others offer educational opportunities, like Stonewall in Keene, as well as producing vegetables and dairy products. East Hill Inn has stay overs on the farm to supplement the farm income.

Other ways of farming are also being explored. Pete and Jerry’s is developing working partnerships with farmers, whereby they provide the chickens and feed for farmers and buy back the eggs. This however does often involve as many as 20,000 hens. And while many would question it they are organic and certified humane.

The farms that have managed to stay farms are often because one partner gets an outside job! This begs the question how to keep the family farm truly a family farm. The idea that if you “just farm” the money will come, is not a present reality. Producing high quality food is labor intensive and we should be encouraging ways to help keep the high quality food in our stores and available to all.

It seems there are some in Peterborough who have gotten upset by the recent passing of Amendment M which allows farms to branch out into some of the activities I listed above. While the amendment had some housekeeping flaws it is obvious that the big unhappiness about the amendment is that there are not enough restrictions on it in their minds. Assistance in writing this amendment was requested and those writing were told that it was too late. The town is now working on “fixing” this amendment and I hope that the intent of the amendment is fully understood and honored, after all the town did vote it in. Access to local food is going to become more and more crucial in the near future and it should be high on every communities agenda.

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

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