Banding Together, Farmers Hope To Grow Profits
At 7:30 on an August morning in Colebrook Julie Moran pulls up and bounds out of her pickup to greet waiting farmers.
“Hi, how ya doing,” she says.
Moran manages the North Country Farmer’s Co-op – which was incorporated earlier this year. Twenty farmers and two bakers are members.
It is part of an effort to make it easier for farmers to survive in the North Country and to help restaurants and businesses respond to the demand for local foods.
“It is hard enough to just do farming fulltime without worrying about the marketing aspect of it and the delivery aspect of it,” says Dean Stockwell. He runs Stockwell Farms.
On this day, he’s got 210 pounds of squash and zucchini.
Other farmers are there, too, and their produce is loaded.
Moran’s drives a 200-mile loop through Coos County, picking up food from farmers and dropping it of at restaurants.
Along the way her pile of carefully marked grey crates shrinks and expands and it is not unusual for her to stand in the cargo compartment and talk to herself.
“So, Notchland (Inn) is under there. Mountain View Grand. What? Are they buried?”
Other co-op customers include The Mt. Washington Hotel, The AMC Highland Center, Libby’s Bistro, Margarita Grill, and Moat Mountain Smokehouse.
By mid-morning Moran arrives at the loading dock at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield.
And crate by crate she lugs it into the kitchen.
“How ya doing, Patrick,” she says.
The Mountain View’s director of food and beverage, David Roberts says he is trying to meet a growing demand for local food.
“The guests are asking about products made in New Hampshire because they are coming from other states and other countries,” he says.
Roberts estimates that about two-thirds of the Mountain Views produce is now grown in the North Country.
In Twin Mountain, Moran pulls into a parking area and meets Kim and George Stroup to get some of their Old Man Maple Syrup.
Kim Stroup says the coop is helping them build a brand.
“It’s been phenomenal. It has taken us out of our comfort level of being in the closet, basically selling out of the sugar house to getting our name out there,” she says.
But that’s not to say the Co-op doesn’t face struggles. Last year its sales totaled about $25,000.
This year the goal was for sales to top $125,000, but so far they’ve reached only a tenth of that.
Farmer Dean Stockwell says bad weather in the spring was a big problem
“The rain, the cold. We had some freezing weather in May. So, it has been really tough,” he says.
But the co-op members remain optimistic that the model can work.
They are planning a chef’s challenge starting this month to raise money for a larger truck for next year.
And there are still more crops to be delivered before growing season ends.