How New Hampshire's Local Food Economy is Evolving

Jun 6, 2016

This warm weather means farmers markets are moving outdoors again, offering up all kinds of products grown and made here in New Hampshire. Jim Ramenack of Warner River Organics has been participating in a variety of farmers markets around Merrimack County. He talks with All Things Considered Host Peter Biello about how New Hampshire farmers markets have changed over the years.

You’ve been participating in farmers markets for more than 11 years—various ones—in the Merrimack County area. How have they changed over the years?

In a couple of ways. One is that there weren’t very many to begin with. And then maybe two years ago there was an explosion of markets, so there were many, many markets. Unfortunately the number of farmers didn’t increase, so you’d have farmer’s markets with two or three farmers in them. And so that has caught up with the farmers markets, and there’s been a little contraction in the number of markets and more venders at the markets. So that’s one big change.

The other big change is consumers. Consumers, in the last three years, have really taken on to farmers markets. Buying local: there’s a big “buy local” movement that’s supported. Plus, growing sustainably: customers really like that and want that.

What about the kind of things that have been appearing at farmers markets over the years? Has it tended to be mostly New Hampshire products or has there been more stuff from other states coming in to these New Hampshire farmers markets?

It depends on the market. Most markets have rules about where the produce can come from. Most of it is local, or they’ll say something like, “it has to be 25 percent local.” Or if you are doing a farmers market and none of the venders sell corn, then they may allow you to buy corn from a New Hampshire vender. Usually you can’t buy anything from out of state.

What do you look forward to most as a participant in these farmers markets?

Producing a lot, meeting customers, getting the product out there, introducing new products. We started growing ginger last year (it took about three years to figure out how to grow it but we were successful last year and we’re going to be really successful this year). The introduction of new products and meeting customers is always really great.

What do you think is likely to change about New Hampshire farmer’s markets in the years to come?

There was an article in the paper the other day about a big salad mix-producing company in Louden, and I don’t know the impact that those will have on the markets. I think the number of markets will drop down and the number of customers will increase per market, so that’s the trend that we’re looking at. And again, it’s still “Buy Local,” and people continue that trend.

Fantastic. Well Jim, thank you very much.