Foodstuffs
2:40 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Boscawen Community Kitchen Survey Underway

Community kitchens could help farmers package more cheese
Community kitchens could help farmers package more cheese
Credit Emily Corwin, NHPR News

A New Hampshire college student's proposal for a community kitchen in Boscawen is in line to undergo a USDA-funded feasibility study.

A community kitchen would provide farmers and entrepreneurs with access to processing, packaging and storing facilities. For smaller enterprises, the access to such a facility would mean a chance for expanded production and profits.

Drew Pehoviak graduated from Colby-Sawyer College in May with a degree in environmental studies. For his senior thesis, Pehoviak argued that Boscawen would provide the ideal location for a community kitchen in southern New Hampshire. Along with his written report, Pehoviak used GIS mapping technology to create a map demonstrating that 63 farms and up to 33 percent of New Hampshire residents are within a 45-minute driving parameter of Boscawen.

GIS map of a 45 minute parameter of Boscawen
GIS map of a 45 minute parameter of Boscawen
Credit Drew Pehoviak via Colby-Sawyer College

    

"GIS is a really important part of the project because it illustrates just how many people this potential kitchen could have an effect on," says Pehoviak.

Local farmers have voiced support for the project. Ray Conner of Evandale Farm in Pittsfield notes that "a number of farmers who don't have access to this kind of equipment would find this resource to be amazing...a lot of New Hampshire farmers would be able to benefit". 

The project was taken up in partnership with the Boscawen Agricultural Commission (BAC). Director of the BAC John Keegan remains conscious of the project's vulnerabilities.

"We don't want to create something that has to be subsidized, which is why we're doing the survey. We are now in the process of looking at what the market can do if we can put the pieces together," says Keegan.

Sarah Waring is the Executive Director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) in Harwick, Vermont, and oversees the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC). The center is cited as a model for successful community kitchens, but Waring warns that the business is far from stable.

The VFVC has been operating for two and a half years, she says, and has yet to hit capacity for member space.

"For people trying to start a community kitchen, my advice is to take things slow and find out if you have enough people to fill the space," Waring says.

Although the venture is risky, the VFVC provides farmers with the opportunity to make connections with distributors, which expands sales from weekend farmer's markets to year-round shelf time in grocery stores. .

Requests for feasibility study proposals from the BAC closed July 18. Keegan estimates that once a consultant is chosen, the comprehensive study will be completed within 6 months. 

For more information about how New Hampshire food networks differ from other local food economies, check out Across The River, Vermont Puts Its Money On Local Food