Granite State Farm to Plate bill sets up future legislation for local farming and fishing
Governor Maggie Hassan gets ready to sign the Farm to Table bill at the Tilton Friday with State Rep. Tara Sad of Walpole, left, and State Senator Martha Clark Fuller, who co-sponsored the bill.
Governor Maggie Hassan helped give a USDA Certificate of Appreciation to Joan O'Connor, right, for her efforts on promoting Farmer's Markets including the Tilton Farmer's Market.
The Farmer's Market in the outlet mall in Tilton.
Next to two rows of tents full of New Hampshire farmers selling their produce, Gov. Maggie Hassan ceremonially signed a bill declaring that local farming and fishing is important to the state and should be considered in future legislation.
“Congratulations,” she said to the crowd, putting the pen to paper at the Tilton Farmers’ Market yesterday. “This is a great law.”
The Granite State Farm to Plate law supports local agriculture by outlining a set of principles that agencies and local governments should take into account when creating future agricultural policy, proponents said.
“It ensures all state agencies encourage and support the grow-local, eat-local revolution,” said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Portsmouth Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, at the event yesterday.
The legislation doesn’t have any funding attached, and doesn’t include any mandates, but it paves the way for future legislation that could cultivate the state’s growing local movement.
“This is a mission statement . . . it is just the beginning,” said Rep. Tara Sad, a Walpole Democrat who co-sponsored the bill. “We envision food hubs, farm stands, community supported agriculture, farm incubators and accelerators, farm-to-school, farm-to-institution and farm-to-restaurant sales growing and growing.”
It is too soon to tell what impact the bill will have, said Gail McWilliam Jellie of the state’s Department of Agriculture. But the law will likely play a role in future bills dealing with local farming or agritourism that the Legislature takes up in its new session.
The new law specifically lays out a state policy to “encourage and support” several different types of local food producers, farmers and fisheries. It calls on several state agencies and local governments to adhere to a set of principles – including consideration for the protection of farmland and recognizing that agriculture represents a vital part of the state’s economy and the public’s health – when making and enforcing law.
There are more than 70 farmers markets set up throughout the state during the summer and about 30 during the winter, Department of Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill said at the event.
And the number of farms in New Hampshire is on the rise, increasing from 3,363 in 2002 to 4,391 in 2012, according to data from the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture.
Many of the local farmers at the Tilton market hadn’t heard specifically of the Farm to Plate bill, but said the industry would benefit from some changes.
Sean Sullivan, 29, moved from Maryland last year to start farming a 1½-acre plot in Danbury. Yesterday, he was selling a variety of vegetables from his “Good Enough Farm” stand and said he hopes the state institutes a mandated label or ban on genetically modified foods. He also hopes to see the state provide greater access to grants for new farmers.
“Getting started is really tough,” he said.
Nearby, Leandra Mema sold produce she grew at Pritchard Farms in Pembroke. She started the business last year and said beginning farmers would benefit from a tutorial on the paperwork. “We’re still learning a lot,” she said.
Hassan spoke with both of them when she toured the market after the ceremony. She left after purchasing some berries, bread and tomatoes – all local.
(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)