Growing New Hampshire’s food system

  • Lunch is served at the sixth annual New England Food Summit at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut Thursday.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/9/2016 6:00:29 PM

Joel Moyer lives in Hopkinton and provides financial and technical assistance to food entrepreneurs through the Fair Food Fund. And yet, he works mostly with clients in the Boston area.

“The crazy part about my work is I haven’t spent a lot of time in New Hampshire,” Moyer said. He knows Massachusetts food producers due to his previous job, and he said he’s still having a hard time connecting with those in the Granite State.

And that is the reason why Moyer said he attended the annual New England Food Summit this week at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Conn.

“I wanted to start to get involved in the New Hampshire food system,” he said.

That local food system isn’t as organized as it is in other states. Lack of funding and staffing at the state level has left much of the organizing to the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Institute, which tries to work with farmers, fishermen, distributors, business owners, educators and nonprofits.

At the two-day conference this week, many of those players came together to think about how the system can be improved on a state and regional level.

“I think we’re moving in that direction,” Moyer said. “What’s next?”

The next steps include policymaking; examining existing regulations like the Food Safety Modernization Act; creating food action plans on local, state and regional levels; more local production; and making food businesses viable and profitable.

More than a dozen New Hampshire food system players at the summit met to discuss how they could carry out Food Solutions New England’s “50 by 60” vision. The vision aims to have 50 percent of food in New England produced locally by 2060.

Gabby Bradt of the New Hampshire Sea Grant said the Granite State’s fisheries need to be involved in the conversation.

“One of the things that’s really glaring and missing is support for the fisheries sector,” she said.

Garrett Bauer of the Kearsarge Food Hub in Bradford suggested capitalizing on the “New Hampshire Made” marketing campaign, while others suggested better education for consumers and coordination among local food outlets.

Erin Hale of the UNH Sustainability Institute said most of these items should be integrated into the “Farm, Fish, and Food Enterprise Viability Initiative” being rolled out by the New Hampshire Food Alliance.

As for what will happen at the regional level, Tom Kelly, founder of the UNH Sustainability Institute, told the 190 or so New England Food Summit attendees Thursday that the sixth annual conference would be the last regional convention, at least for now.

The past six years led to the “50 by 60” vision, Kelly said, and with that “powerful galvanizing step to really harness the collective impact of this network,” it’s now time to put plans into action.

That sounded good to Joel Moyer of the Fair Food Fund. As he explained how he saw New Hampshire improving its food system, Moyer talked about coming up with joint projects, and then doing them.

“Really coming together to work on something,” he said.

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