Category Archives: Share Your Stories

Cooks and farmers, a necessary connection

Cooks and farmers, a necessary connection
Remembering when: Jaffrey chef on his lifelong relationship with food
By Aylmer H Given III
Printed in the Monadnock Ledger Transcript, July 15, 2014
Available online here

Chef Aylmer from Summerhill Assisted Living in Peterborough, who is a huge local food and Monadnock Menus supporter, shared this essay with the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. We need to strengthen the connections between cooks and farmers as Aylmer says in order to grow a vibrant local food economy in the Monadnock Region. Thank you Chef Aylmer for your eloquent words and your support of our area farmers and producers! We need more champions like you!

summerhill aylmer and keith

Chef Aylmer (l) and Chef Keith (r) at Summerhill






Striving for Local Lunches at the Keene School District

Keene’s Food Service Program Making Connections and Serving Local

By Kate Kerman

A note at the top of my granddaughter’s school lunch menu caught my eye.  “We buy local!” it declared.  I went to visit Maureen Wells, director of the Keene Food Services Program, to see what that note meant.  The program is part of the New Hampshire Farm to School.

Here is something to boggle your mind.  The enrollment in the school district and the outlying towns served by this program is over 4,000 children from preschool through seniors in high school.  Try to picture the complications of serving that many children by extrapolating what it is like to serve two or three young ones at home.

Maureen told me that they try to buy local apples, for instance.  Here are some of the issues they faced this year.  The really local apples, like Alyson’s Orchard, suffered from a late frost, which meant that they didn’t have a lot of apples of their own to sell. The school district was able to purchase apples from New England, however. Second issue.  Federal rules require them to buy small apples – thinking about what a kindergartener can eat.  Another issue: schools are out during the time of year when local produce is most plentiful and inexpensive.  And how about the issue of introducing children to new food?  Kids say they would like to have meatloaf, but that means meatloaf the way my parents make it which means the program is almost certain to fail the taste test for most children.  Last year they tried to introduce a pork and gravy meal only to find that very few people eat it that way these days and the children rejected it.

The annual budget of the program is $696,000.  They receive federal funds for the free and reduced lunch program, but are self-sustaining in terms of local funds, which means that local tax dollars are not needed for the program.  One of the things that helps balance the budget is the “a la carte” menu at Keene High School.  Last year, the program stopped selling any kind of candy for the “a la carte” menu, although they were worried about the impact of this decision on their budget.  The school board took this a step further and made a new rule that there could be no candy sales during the day in any school in the district.  This means clubs cannot sell candy for fundraisers unless it is outside of school hours.  The program serves dessert only once a week, and they tend to pair it up with one of their less popular menus to encourage children to give it a try.

They buy milk from Oakhurst Dairy of Maine, which pledges not to use growth hormones. Eggs come from federal government surplus.  Local meat is too expensive to buy in sufficient quantities. A popular item at both the high school and middle school is the salad bar.  Food in the salad bar varies according to what is available seasonally.  They work with two produce distributors, and having let them know that they want to buy as locally as possible, they are glad when they can get products from New England.  Realizing that local farmers wouldn’t be able to supply them with all of any given produce item that they would need, they have expressed a willingness for local farmers to supply them with a portion of what they need.

I came away with a better idea of the vast complications of feeding a district’s worth of children in any fashion, and the amount of juggling and thoughtfulness that has to go into trying to move this large entity in the direction of serving local food.  Hats off to Maureen Wells and her staff of 56 employees for making the effort.

Our Goal at Keene Food Services is to serve healthy and fun meals to our students, while exceeding the State and Federal nutritional guidelines to enable every student to reach their full potential. Hungry kids don’t learn!

For more information about the Keene Food Services program, go to

(Photo from:

All Local Food at Your Neighborhood Tavern

By Emily Mason

Local food enthusiasts: meet your neighborhood tavern. The Cheshire Tavern at the Fitzwilliam Inn is serving a powerhouse mix of local, seasonal foods, warm atmosphere and a pricing scheme that is very user-friendly. Last Saturday marked the Nickerson and Crocker Family’s one year anniversary of owning and operating the area’s historic, 200 year old inn. How fitting that what makes this inn cutting edge today is the family’s commitment and return to the very (local and seasonal) culinary roots that would have been so traditional and commonplace in its first 100+ years of operation.

The Cheshire Tavern (formerly the Thistle and the Crown) is currently sourcing all of their meat, dairy, grain and vegetables from area farms such as Tracie’s Community Farm (veggies) in Fitzwilliam, NH, Manning Hill Farm (dairy) in Winchester, NH, Four Star Farms (flour and grains) in Northfield, MA, Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon, MA, Adam’s Farm (pastured meats) in Orange, MA, Diemand Farm (turkey) in Wendell, MA, Hijinks Farm (flowers, herbs and veggies) in Jaffrey, NH, Monadnock Berries in Troy, NH, and their family’s own EIEIO Farm. It is truly a family owned and operated business from farm to table. Impressively, year-round tomatoes, red onions and oil have understandably been the only exceptions to the otherwise all local cuisine.

I met with Leesa, Rachelle and Roxanne (owner, chef and bartender, respectively) of the Crocker family who were all equally passionate about keeping it local. Rachelle and Roxanne, who grew up on the family farm, developed their commitment to local food from experience. According to them, their dedication to local foods was a process. As kids on a farm, local was just the way it was done; it was always a part of their lives and how they thought about food. Over time, they learned more and more about the nutritional value that real food and pastured meats provide and of course they could taste the difference.

The great thing about tasting the difference between local and industrial foods is that it has made practical business sense as well. All three of the Crockers agreed that by using good-tasting, high quality area foods, they don’t need to get elaborate with the recipes to doctor foods of lesser quality into something better. This saves money! By keeping their menus simple, flexible and in-season, the Crockers have been able to keep their purchasing costs down and consequently, their menus are surprisingly affordable.

Another benefit to sourcing locally has been the relationships that the Crockers have built with their farmers. The Monadnock area and Tristate region farmers have a rich network established and are mutually invested in the success of the local economy. If one farmer is short on potatoes, for instance, that farmer will know who is flush with them and can offer suggestions. Money spent on local foods, after all, is money spent on local farmers rather than the packaging, advertising and transportation costs of industrial foods from afar.

On the horizon for the Cheshire Tavern are even more local food ideas. Rachelle is planning an expanded pub menu that will include homesteaded foods (such as cured meats, pickles, homemade sausages and sauerkrauts,  and wild foods and herbs) as well as locally sourced but classically identifiable pub fare in the form of hot wings, pizza and area beers.

For more information about the Fitzwilliam and the Cheshire Tavern or to see their current menu online, please visit:

Hours: Thursdays-Saturdays, 5-11 PM

If you have had the opportunity to experience the Tavern’s local foods this year, please do comment.

Farm to Fork story

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Farm to fork

By Donna R. Dolan Special To The Times Union
Published: 12:00 a.m., Thursday, September 9, 2010
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Max London and farmer Albert Sheldon hold some of the tomatoes Sheldon produces for London’s restaurant in Saratoga Springs. London’s Summer Vegetable Panzanella, at top, is made with vegetables exclusively from Sheldon Farms in Salem. Sheldon Farms is also a local supplier for Yono?s, Dale Miller, Mrs. London?s, Hattie’s, Sperry?s and March? (Luanne M. Ferris / Times Union)
See the full story…Farm to Fork

News from Tracie’s Community Farm

Tracie’s Community Farm, located in Fitzwilliam, NH is expanding their business in the Monadnock Region.  In her last newsletter, she highlighted the locations where she’s currently selling produce.  Interested in learning more?  Visit her website for up to date information about what is in season, how you can join her CSA and much more.


“We’ve been making calls to local restaurants, and have been providing vegetables in abundance to The Fitzwilliam Inn, Sunflowers Café in Jaffrey, East Hill Farm in Troy, Fritz’s, and Elm City Brew Pub.

So next time you go out to eat, be sure to order something with veggies from your local farmers!  And if the restaurant doesn’t buy local, ask them to.  It makes a difference.  We have cards in the farmstore you can leave at restaurants from Monadnock Menus, an initiative to get more local food into Monadnock Restaurants by Mondadnock Farm and Community Connection.  It’s more work for restaurants to order from a farmer as well as their regular supplier in their already busy schedules so they need to know you care.”