Sweet and crisp corn-on-the-cob, juicy heirloom tomatoes fresh off the vine, and snappy green beans are the true shining stars of summer in the Monadnock Region. Our area of the country has a short growing season and when it finally arrives, we revel gloriously in its delicious bounty.
Farms and food producers are plentiful, and they are lovingly supported by appreciative community members. The shop local movement is a strong mantra here, and food is no exception. No doubt, it runs even more deeply through our veins since the pandemic, as tight-knit communities rallied around their own, and dedicated farmers vowed to keep everyone fed, whether they had the money to pay or not.
Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, shares have seen immense gains in popularity over recent years. The concept enables people to support local farms through the purchase of a share of the farm’s harvest each season, picking up pre-purchased baskets of produce weekly. Farms such as Stonewall Farm in Keene, Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam, Hillside Springs Farm in Westmoreland and Hungry Bear Farm in Mason, utilize CSA programs to distribute the fresh-from-the-field goodness of their harvest.
Many of our highly skilled chefs and restaurateurs appreciate and take full advantage of the local ingredients, as well, partnering with farmers and proudly serving robust menus of farm-to-table fare. The Hungry Diner in Walpole is one such example, where the owners source meats and other ingredients directly from their sister business, Walpole Valley Farm, offering a dining experience of dishes that couldn’t possibly be more fresh-off-the-farm.
Self-serve roadside farm stands pop up like wildflowers during the summer months, or function year-round in some cases, selling everything from eggs and meat, to veggies, jams, baked goods, and honey. Stonewall Farm operates a well-stocked farm stand that recently even began selling its own ice cream. Right down the street, the Archway Farm stand sells its own pasture-raised pork, and across town, Green Wagon Farm stocks a cornucopia’s worth of fruits and veggies.
In Peterborough, Rosaly’s Garden is proud to be the oldest and largest certified organic farm in New Hampshire and its farmstand is open daily. Barrett Hill Farmstand in Mason is a strawberry lover’s paradise and the farm sells its own wide selection of meats, fruits, and vegetables—plus, there’s no shortage of baked goods and jars of yummy homemade delights.
Monadnock Berries in Troy is a picturesque, pick-your-own berry farm with a breathtaking view of Mount Monadnock. It offers 10 acres of blueberries, as well as gooseberries, raspberries, and black, red, and white currants. With a promise to “cultivate memories, health, and kinship,” their farm stand sells berries, preserves, pies, and many other treasures. A popular wedding venue, the berry farm also boasts a sudsy sister business right down the street — Granite Roots Brewery.
Farming is a lifestyle that many out-of-towners flock to experience. In Troy, The Inn at East Hill Farm offers “a vacation atmosphere coupled with a unique farm-oriented educational experience.” Those who stay at the inn can participate in hands-on farm activities that include feeding the animals, milking cows, collecting eggs, hay and sleigh rides and horseback riding. Meals featuring deliciously farm-fresh ingredients are served daily.
For a one-stop shopping culinary experience, check out one of our local farmers’ markets. Many also feature live music, demonstrations, and serve snacks or meals, making them a true seasonal experience. The Farmers’ Market of Keene springs up on Gilbo Avenue every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning, where purveyors offer everything from fruits and veggies to plants, essential oils, jewelry, and Adirondack chairs.
Toward the eastern part of the region, the Peterborough Farmers’ Market sets up at the Peterborough Community Center on Wednesday evenings through December, and the Milford Farmers’ Market welcomes shoppers across from the NH Antique Co-op on Saturday mornings. But these larger area markets are by no means an exclusive list. You can also find smaller farmers’ markets popping up in many towns across the region, including Fitzwilliam, Rindge, Chesterfield, Winchester and New Ipswich.
It’s also worth a trip to Cheshire Garden, a small family farm in southwestern New Hampshire (Winchester), which produces organically farmed heirloom berries, fruits, and herbs. These products are sold fresh and also made into preserves and other delicious products sold in their Tiny Farmstand, online, and in many local places year round.
They are a beloved summer tradition and a connecting thread in our tight-knit communities. Stonewall Farm in Keene also began hosting Friday Community Market Nights this summer, offering yet another welcome opportunity for the community to pick up produce and more from local vendors.
As summer fades to fall here, the crops may change, but the farmers plant and harvest on with a never-ending energy and devotion to their craft. For visitors and locals alike looking to satisfy their foodie cravings later in the season, Stonewall Farm and co-host Monadnock Table, an award-winning magazine and guide to the Monadnock Region’s food and farms, will hold a Harvest Festival at the farm on October 2, 2021, from 10 am to 4 pm, with farm-to-table foods, breweries, distilleries, artisans, crafts, music, and more.
Note that many of the local farms sell their produce and products at local markets such as the Monadnock Food Co-op (Keene) and Gomarlo’s Supermarket (Swanzey) and to local restaurants who incorporate these items into their menu offerings. For example, CC&D’s Kitchen Market (Keene) takes pride in their Localvore fare and Farm-to-Table Catering.
Our seasons turn as quickly as the farmers turn the soil in the fields, preparing for the next planting and harvest. Celebrating the lifespan of a seed here means much more than just a trip to the grocery store—it’s a way of life.
Editor’s note: Blog was written by a guest writer, photos were obtained from a variety of sources, and the blog was formatted and posted by Susan Karalekas.