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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






Monadnock Menus and Windham Farm & Food in the News

Check out the recent article in Parent Express about the growth of Farm to School programs in the Cheshire County, NH and Windham County, VT region. Monadnock Menus and Windham Farm and Food are working hard to make it easier for our local schools to access fresh, local produce and other local food products through our aggregation and delivery services. You can find out more about our producers and how to become involved by visiting our website at Now is the time to join as more fresh fruits and vegetables become available each week.


Monadnock Matchmaker a Delicious Success

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.

Hot off the press – NH Farm To School Report

New Hampshire Farm to School LogoHere is the NH Farm to School Report examining farm to school purchasing over the last three years in NH. It highlights both barriers and successes, and the undeniable rise in direct and distributed local farm-to-school purchasing!

Ten Reasons to Fix School Lunch and Save Our Children’s Future

Thank you to Katherine Gillespie of Windham County Farm to School for sharing this – I think it deserves a re-post here to inspire us!


Five Facts to Motivate Us

  1. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that of the children born in the year 2000, one out of every three Caucasians and one out of every two African Americans and Hispanics will contract Diabetes in their Lifetime – most before they graduate high school.
  2. The achievement gap, which is truly a social justice issue will never be shrunk unless we clearly understand that healthy food is linked to academic performance. Hungry or malnourished students cannot learn to the best of their abilities.
  3. Studies have shown that a diet consisting of foods high in fats, sugars, food additives and artificial colors, and low in vitamins, minerals and other protective factors such as fiber and phytochemicals commonly found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can negatively impact learning.
  4. National Institutes of Health has stated that, of the six leading causes of death in the United States, four are linked to unhealthy diets. The gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor has widened by almost 50% in the last 20 years – much of that can be attributed to diet and exercise.
  5. Exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals through our food supply is being increasingly linked to such conditions and ADD, ADHD, antibiotic resistance and early onset of puberty, as well as diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Five Facts to Give Us Hope

  1. Because Harry S Truman was right when he said; “No nation is healthier than its children or more prosperous than its farmers.”
  2. A study done by Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the CDC of a school in New York showed that 80% of the children and or parents changed the way they cooked, ate or shopped because of the school’s food program.
  3. A recent study in Berkeley CA done by the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health provided findings that children in the school districts program ate three times as many vegetables when eating school lunch as those students who brought their lunch from home.
  4. A study done by Massachusetts General showed that children served a nutritious breakfast were better able to learn and had less behavioral problems.
  5. Removing chocolate milk from schools could remove 4 – 6 pounds of sugar from children’s diet every year.

Green Mountain Creamery Greek Yogurt is #1!

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – Green Mountain Creamery yogurt, manufactured by Commonwealth Dairy just across the river in Brattleboro VT, has just taken top honors in the Greek Yogurt category of the World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest! Using only local milk and real fruit, without any preservatives or fake ingredients of any kind, local institutions will soon be able to proudly offer these delectable top-class products through Monadnock Menus!

Green Mountain Creamery Vanilla Yogurt First PrizeGreen Mountain Creamery’s Vanilla won first place, and Pineapple second place, in a competition that drew entries from all over the country. One of the largest contests of its type in the world, the World Dairy Expo Dairy Product Championship Contest is the only one in North America that evaluates and ranks all types of dairy products. It’s the fastest growing contest, with over 700 entries last year. Professional dairy judges evaluate samples for flavor, body, texture, appearance, and color. Green Mountain Creamery’s two winning entries were in the Greek Yogurt category, meaning they are strained giving a rich, luxurious texture. Mmmm… if you haven’t tried them already, these judges think you won’t be disappointed!

Green Wagon Farm

Bill wanted to be a farmer since he was twelve because his grandfather grew peaches, apples, and vegetables.  He went to school to study agriculture and has been farming ever since, first in Vermont and has now owned Green Wagon Farm in Keene for almost 20 years. Bill describes the rewarding cycle of soil preparation, planting, and transplanting.  This repeats until, “all of a sudden, boom!  There it is.  It’s just seeing it I guess, seeing it come out.”  Seeing the vegetables spring forth from the ground is worth the hard work.

Green Wagon Farm grows on 20 acres in Keene and Surry, with a farm stand located on Court Street in Keene.  Bill Jarrell grows vegetables using sustainable methods, and is current experimenting with composting municipal leaves in order to naturally improve the soil his vegetables draw their nutrients from, since composted manure is not readily available. His main crops are tomato, corn, onions and vines crops, such as cucumbers, squash, and melons – crops that are very popular with the loyal customers of his farm stand.

Bill has previously tried to sell through farmers markets and wholesale.  However, he does not have enough time to pursue these markets.  When he tried selling wholesale to local restaurants, it might take an hour to deliver a 20-pound box of tomatoes.  Furthermore, when having to meet both the demands of a restaurant and the farm stand customers, sometimes a product may run short.  Then he would have to face the difficulty of disappointing one of these two customers.

Monadnock Menus may be able to provide a solution by delivering products, instead of Green Wagon, and with other famers helping to supply the produce; a shortage of a product from Green Wagon can be compensated for by another farm.  Bill thinks that Monadnock Menus will be good for the community and that “it would be neat to get some local stuff into the schools.”  When Green Wagon has surplus food they give it to the volunteer-run Fall Mountain Food Pantry in Langdon, which serves the elderly, chronically ill and low-income families of Northern Cheshire County.

by Erika StimpsonImage

Alyson’s Orchard

A beautiful, winding drive up the hill gives scenic views of Vermont in the distance.  The apple trees are in sight at the top of the hill and our excitement mounts as we approach.  Alyson’s Orchard is situated on four hundred and thirty acres in Walpole, NH. As we pull into the parking lot, I am delighted to see the red farm stand because it looks so quintessential.  Apples are their main crop, but they also grow peaches, plums, apricots, and vegetables, such as pumpkins and winter squash to add some variety. We meet Homer Dunn, the orchard manager, and he tells us about how Alyson’s got started.

Bob and Susan Jasse founded Alyson’s Orchard in 1981.  “Bob used to be in the big corporate business, got involved in the space program, and built a worldwide business.  And then about the ‘70’s, he got sick of the corporate world, sold it, and came up and started this,” explained Homer.  The orchard now works to support its local community.  The growing technique is Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.  This method reduces the amount of sprays necessary for conventional growing methods.  Homer said of IPM, “it’s something I believe in, but no matter where you are we got to be concerned about the farmer and how we do it, so it can be sustainable forever.  I still feel that farmers are the cornerstone; if the farmer disappears, we’re in trouble.”

Alyson’s have mostly sold fruit wholesale, with shipments going as far as Texas.  However, they have been working to increase the pick-your-own business.  Homer says they joined Monadnock Menus because, “We should be buying local.  It helps support the community and keeps local farmers in business.  It only makes sense.” According to Homer, Alyson’s Orchard’s biggest problem with local wholesale products is delivery.  Local businesses rarely buy enough volume for it to be profitable to spend the time, labor and fuel to deliver.  With Monadnock Menus’ aggregation and delivery system, the burden is taken from the farmer and as Homer says if “I don’t have to bring it anywhere, that would work excellently.”

Increased local to access to Alyson’s apples means a larger selection of apples for those around the Monadnock Region.  Alyson’s Orchard in unique here because they have over 48 different varieties of apples, including heirlooms.  A new block is being created that will contain over 100 different varieties, including scion wood from the apple’s birthplace of Kazakhstan to be grafted onto rootstocks suited to New England. This orchard even contains a one-of-a-kind apple tree that is a mutation of a Macintosh; Homer has named it the Andrea Star, after his wife.  Alyson’s Orchard is a welcoming place and Homer remarks on pick-your-own, “It’s still, I think, more or less a family experience.  I’ve seen families here for 4 or 5 hours, just having a great time walking around, enjoying the place.”  He continues that with increasing pick-you-own, developing a local wholesale business, and adding 100 new varieties, “the thing that still excites me about this place – is beginning to see it’s potential!”

by Erika Stimpson

The Inn at East Hill Farm Gets Local on the Menu

By Jess Skinner

From the top of Mt. Monadnock looking South-West, you can catch a glimpse of a farm that has attracted families and farmers to the Monadnock Region since the mid-1800’s.  Since establishing as a farm in 1785 and building the farmhouse and inn in the 1800’s, East Hill Farm has been a family destination hot spot for over a century.

The Inn at East Hill Farm today fills a unique niche in our community.  Visitors come from all over the country to stay at the farm and enjoy the pond, the hiking on nearby trails and the direct farm experience.  Naturalist workshops are offered including a mushroom walk with David Wichland of Wichland Woods Mushrooms, cheese making with Farmer Dave and traditional farm crafts such as candle making.

While at the farm, visitors sit down to as many as three meals a day, all prepared fresh at the farm.  The typical menu ranges from homemade soup to freshly baked bread that melts in your mouth, roast turkey and mashed potatoes.  What’s unique about this menu is that it not only uses some of the products from the farm, but purchases produce and other value-added products from local farms and businesses.

When asked whether the Inn is hoping to shift their menu to include more fresh produce and local items, the owner, Sheri St. Laurent, commented that there are significant efforts being made to buy more local products.  They currently purchase seasonal produce from Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam, produce and corn from Coll’s Market in Jaffrey, berries and fruit from Monadnock Berries in Troy, milk from Manning Hill Farm in Winchester, and sausage, hamburger, eggs and ham all come from their own backyard at East Hill Farm.

What is unique about the Inn is that they aren’t just selling meals like many of the Monadnock Menus member restaurants.  They are attracting people to come stay in the Inn andenjoy an authentic, relaxing family vacation- the food is just one element of the visit.

“We have made the commitment to buying local because it feels right. It feels right because it is beneficial to everyone involved.  Consuming as much locally produced anything makes sense” says Sheri when asked why they make the commitment to buying local.  “Its not easy to change the menus for our visitors based on available produce because many people appreciate the regularity of the menu”.  As a resort location, the Inn is trying to think of ways to increase the amount of local food being served to visitors while keeping everyone’s favorite meals on their plates.

One way they hope to go about doing this is by creating a Local Farm Fare dinner one night per week where they focus on the ingredients within the meal and try to source as many of the items within the meal from nearby farms as possible.  Jennifer Murray, Sheri’s sister, who is an integral part to the Inn’s operation and marketing, hopes to post a sign next to the menu in the dining hall with a list of locally sourced items and where they came from, as well as post the local menus online with links to the farmers and businesses.  The Inn hosts a Growers Dinner as a part of the NH Farm to Restaurant program each year, and both Sherri and Jen want to see this type of local food enthusiasm at the farm more often.

One of the challenges to buying locally is simply balancing the cost, but the Inn has found success through attending community events and being a part of local food networks, such as the Monadnock Farm and Community Connection’s Matchmaker Event.  “Network, network, network!” Sherri emphasizes the importance of being a part of events such as the Matchmaker and making an effort to meet with farmers and community members that are acting as food advocates.  They met David Wichland at the Matchmaker, as well as connected with Cheshire Gardens, located in Winchester NH.  They met Tracie of Tracie’s Community Farm at a community forum in Keene and regularly receive updates from the Conservation District about upcoming events and opportunities to connect.

Excitement over local food and farms is increasing in the Monadnock Region and around the United States.  Here in the Monadnock Region, we want to continue making connections between our local farms, food establishments and consumers.  The Inn at East Hill Farm is yet another great example of a family owned business that is not only taking the step to feed their customers high quality, fresh products, but they’re connecting everyone they touch with the source for where it came from.  “If you can, buy in season. Just do it !”

Until next time, keep your eyes out for the Monadnock Menus logo and encourage your local food establishments to “Get Local on the Menus!”