As we find ourselves firmly in the middle of the summer growing season, local farms gain more prominence. The farmers of the Monadnock Region are dedicated to bringing the freshest vegetables, meats and dairy products to local residents, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
For the last several years, the Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition has striven to provide rich experiences that are educational and fun for the community while infusing much-needed income into the pockets of local farmers. Their flagship event is the Monadnock Farm Tour, which takes place this year on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. During this event, farmers will be opening their barns, coops, hoop houses and pastures to foster a better understanding of their day-to-day lives, working to bring food to our tables.
Several new aspects have been introduced to the tour this year, including farm-fresh sandwiches, salads, gelato, turnovers, pies, cookies and much more.
“This is our second year of hosting this event,” said Roe-Ann Tasoulas, director of the Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition. “We’re collaborating with the Monadnock Travel Council and the Cheshire County Conservation District, because we felt strongly that this area of New Hampshire isn’t really known for its variety of farms as much as being a recreational destination. We actually do abut Vermont, which promotes its local agriculture much more than we do, so it’s important that we highlight the fact that we have a huge variety of farming operations in this area.”
The list of participating farmers is wide and encompasses pretty much all of the Monadnock Region. Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole will be offering barbecue from Kirby’s Q, out of Alstead, as well as sandwiches, snacks, wagon rides and pick-your-own fruit. Meanwhile, there will be a “Brunch and Blade Beer Garden” at Archway Farm in Keene, as well as farm-fresh sausages offered for sale. Over in Surry, Crescendo Acres will host alpaca fiber-making demonstrations, along with the opportunity to visit their alpacas, mini-horses, chickens and more.
Draft Gratitude in Winchester will be showing off their rescued draft horses, while Earth Haven Farm in Marlborough will be featuring horse-drawn hayrides, hand-spinning demonstrations, farm oil paintings and much more. Over in Hinsdale, Echo Farm Pudding will host a pudding plant tour along with free samples, while Foggy Hill Farm in Jaffrey will sell Crooked Hill Hollow sausages, along with farm vegetables, cut flowers, eggs and honey.
Granite Roots Brewing in Troy will tempt your taste buds at their Monadnock Berries’ fruit-infused ale taste-testing, while the Inn at East Hill Farm, also in Troy, will offer face painting, pony rides, arts and crafts and a chance to visit their animals. The Inn at Valley Farms in Walpole will hosting an ongoing organic and no-till gardening question and answer session, along with home-made cookies.
The Monadnock Agricultural Center in Marlborough will be hosting hourly tours of the Maple Homestead Farm, while the Old Ciderpress Farm in Westmoreland will feature 74 varieties of pick-your-own apples. They will also have an 1870 cider press on display and will offer farm-made pies and turnovers for sale.
Phoenix Farm in Troy will host pig-training demonstrations, and sell barbecue chicken and pork, while Stonewall Farm in Keene will demonstrate cow milking, as well as host a gelato tasting, while offering their own yogurt and cheese. Over in Rindge, Sun Moon Farm will be selling sandwiches made with farm-baked bread and their own produce, as well as ice cream and honey.
Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam will host hourly farm tours and will offer ice cream, honey and more. Walpole Valley Farms in Walpole will host farm tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and serving lunch at their farm-to-table restaurant, The Hungry Diner.
Finally, Windyhurst in Westmoreland will offer lunch at the Sugarhouse, as well as ice cream, maple syrup, candy, sugar and spread.
As the event is a family affair, there will be plenty of activities for the kids, including the opportunity to visit with farm animals, learn how to milk cows, collect eggs and make cider, engage in numerous scavenger hunts and crafts. They will also be able to pick their own flowers, berries and apples, and as an added bonus, they can collect three farm stamps and turn them in for a free kiddie cone from Walpole Creamery.
This being a tour that encompasses a number of farms, there are some rules which must apply to all attendees. First, no pets are allowed on the tour. Secondly, there is no visiting the farms after hours, unless specified, and attendees will not be allowed to enter the farm homes.
Additionally, certain recommendations are advised, such as bringing a cooler, as you’ll be able to purchase eggs, cheese, meat and other produce at most of the farms. It’s also important to use the hand sanitizer at each farm after petting an animal. Some farms may also ask that you disinfect your shoes to prevent farm-to-farm transmission of germs that may stick to your shoes.
“Basically, this program is a way to providing a marketing opportunity to farms so they can increase their direct sales," Tasoulas said. “I don’t think people understand how difficult it can be for local farms to get their produce into markets. A lot of these farmers rely on CSAs to make ends meet. When those sales are down, they suffer a lot.
“A lot of these farms operate from season to season, and they have to get a second job just to augment what they make on the farm. There are a lot of reasons to support local farms apart from the fact that they produce the freshest and healthiest food out there. They are economic engines, providing 13 jobs for every million dollars they sell in produce, whereas the big factory farms only provide three jobs per million dollars.
“They preserve farmland and are great stewards for the environment. They engage in sustainable farming practices, and eventually this ends up being a positive situation for everybody."
The Monadnock Farm Tour will take place Saturday, Aug. 25, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 per individual or $10 per carload and can be purchased at farms during Farm Tour hours only. They are good for all farms on the tour. All proceeds go to pay for next year’s Monadnock Farm Tour. For more information, contact the Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition at 756-2988, extension 116, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.