Sharlene, Monadnock Menus Coordinator, was at MFCC’s Monadnock Matchmaker at Stonewall Farm last Wednesday signing up farms and buyers interested in using the service. The event put busy food system professionals in the same room to establish business relationships so food produced here can more easily end up on all of our plates.
Pungent cheeses paired with sweet and tangy sauces, bushels of crisp vegetables and fresh yogurt helped those in attendance feel less guilty about the gorgeous cheesecakes swirled with local fruit, spiced granola bars, rich whipped cream, jam, biscotti and decadent puddings being sampled. In all, 10 farms, 7 value added/specialty food producers, 5 retail venues, 3 schools, 2 distributors, 2 caterers, 1 restaurant explored each other’s products and needs, and built the foundations of future working relationships.
During a panel discussion including Michael Faber, the Manager of the Monadnock Food Co-op and Beth Hodge of Echo Farm Puddings, professionals shared challenges they have faced and advice on how to develop effective, mutually beneficial working relationships. Marianne Forshee, a beginning farmer found the panel most useful, while Fenella Levick of Monadnock Berries was looking for new wholesale buyers for fruit.
“Farmers’ markets are less and less lucrative [because of market saturation], what we need is reliable buyers who take the risk and high labor costs out of selling. At market if it rains I don’t sell anything and still pay someone to stand around, and the fruit doesn’t last long so we might have to get rid of it. If I sell to the County Jail or Neighbor Made, if it rains they still use our fruit. They pay less, but I’m not paying anyone to stand there”
Every business has different needs, it is our hope that by providing services like Monadnock Menus and the Monadnock Matchmaker Event we can help facilitate the connections that allow Farms like Monadnock Berries, retail outlets like the Great River Food Coop, restaurants like The Works, Distributors like Black River Produce, schools like Northfield Mt Hermon, value added producers like Merrymeeting Farm and facilities like Neighbor Made to provide local food for the plates of the passionate consumers of our region 365 days a year!
“The people are demanding local food, and it’s only going to get worse.” – John Ayer, Brattleboro High & Middle Schools (who is passionate about local enough that in the fall he buys all the schools’ produce locally except bananas and oranges!)
The 2012 Monadnock Matchmaker event’s collaborators are: Monadnock Farm and Community Connections, Stonewall Farm, Cheshire County Conservation District, Hannah Grimes Center, UNH Cooperative Extension, Monadnock Food Co-op, Small and Beginning Farmers of NH, NH Farm Bureau, NOFA NH, and Monadnock Buy Local, Keene State Dietetic Internship.