The recent challenges to big agribusiness, in this historical moment of social distancing and pandemic, has created some serious cracks in the food chain. Even in normal times, farm products travel an average of 1,400 miles to get from farm to plate. The pandemic has focused a spotlight on this questionable system.

Obviously, some farm items need to travel, such as pineapples, avocados, bananas, coconuts and coffee beans... and we all need our morning cup of coffee! However, most produce does not have to follow exotic travel routes to get to us. New Hampshire is fortunate to be surrounded by small farms that supply locally grown, farm-fresh products that don’t need an airplane, ship, train or a long-haul truck ride to get to your table.

Tomatoes provide a good example of all this unnecessary travel. Did you know that China is the number one producer of tomatoes, followed by India and the U.S.? Yes, those very same tomatoes, that actually originated in South America, have become citizens of the world and have graced every cuisine from Tanzania to Sicily! The truth is that tomatoes grown locally and picked at their peak cannot be matched by those barely ripe imports that spent countless hours bouncing around in a chilled cargo hold.

Greenhouse seedling startups extend the local growing season right here, in our neighborhood, so we don’t have to rely on world-traveling tomatoes or most of the other vegetables we love to feed our families. Green Wagon Farm in Keene is among the local growers that supply fresh produce and farm products at either their Court Street farm stand, or at the Monadnock Food Coop. In fact, the farm grows over 40 different crops; an incredibly wide variety of fruits and veggies, which include crops like garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, watermelons, onions and even cut flowers.

Green Wagon Farm is a family business run by Bill Jarrell and his daughter Kaisa. Established in 1994, they began their first season by selling produce from the original, simple green wagon that is still part of the farm stand today. The crops are grown employing best practices for conservation and preservation of the environment, including drip irrigation and various mulches to protect the soil. They even make compost from the leaves delivered by the City of Keene. They are planning to open for business in June, though the exact date has not been decided.

The farm is taking all of the necessary health precautions, as well, to keep customers and staff safe during the coming season. You can find a complete list of the COVID-19 safety measures they are instituting and further updates by visiting their website at thegreenwagonfarm.com, or on Facebook at facebook.com/greenwagonfarm and Instagram: @thegreenwagonfarm.

Green Wagon Farm is one of many small farms in the Granite State that depend on local support to thrive. Patronizing our local growers is a way to contribute to the health and economy of the community. To support the idea of local farming, there is a New Hampshire organization dedicated to small farm development. The NH Resource, Conservation and Development Council has a program called Beginner Farmers of New Hampshire to assist startup as well as existing small-scale farms, by helping them navigate the challenges of finding grant funding and lending resources, and by connecting farmers to the farming community where they can share ideas and learn from each other. This valuable resource provides information, technical expertise and agricultural education.

So, if you have ever considered starting your own farm and joining the ranks of our local farmers, you can get in touch with this organization at Beginner Farmers of New Hampshire (Southern) Southern NH RC&D, 10 Ferry St., Box 4, Suite 422, Concord, NH 03301, or by emailing bianca@beginnerfarmers.org.