Thursday, December 18, 2014

Organic vs. Local

by Wesley Hatch, Produce Clerk

Greetings friends. My name is Wesley Hatch, produce clerk extraordinaire. I can be found early mornings stocking the greens case or stacking up those lovely local apples. I’d like to share a local agriculture story with you.

Before my partner Megan and I moved to Concord, while still living in Northern Vermont, we decided to shift from a vegetarian diet to one with a small amount of meat. We also hoped to add more local produce and dairy to our diet. Being food-conscious people who are aware of the negative affects artificial growth hormones can have – both in the animals being treated and in people who ingest the food – we believed organic meat was the best choice. We also knew that supporting local agriculture is beneficial to the community, helping farmers continue providing good quality food to their customer while also signaling to Washington that Americans around the country support local agriculture and have a desire to know where their food comes from.

The closest farm offering organic, humanely raised beef was about fifteen miles away, which in rural Vermont meant about a half-hour ride. With winter coming and gas prices rising, we knew we had to find another solution. Riding home from work one day, I noticed a sign for a farm close by our apartment, just outside town. There was no organic certification attached to the name, and nothing indicated how the cows on the farm were treated. At first, we were skeptical: If it wasn’t certified organic, how would we know if the food produced was healthy or the cows well treated? Would it be better to just buy organic meat from a local grocer?

A visit to the farm taught us a great deal about food production and raising animals that we would never have known without talking to Brian the farmer. Brian gladly showed us around his well-maintained farm. He took great pride in the work accomplished on the farm, proud of his healthy and humanely treated cows, and proud to share his wide-breadth of knowledge with interested customers.

We learned that although his farm was not certified organic, he used many of the same practices that organic farmers use. None of the cows were treated with artificial growth hormones and he did not use pesticides or industrial fertilizers on his cow-feed corn. Chickens roamed freely, foraging around the property. The eggs were healthier and better tasting than any of the store-bought organic eggs we had tried.

After our visit, we knew in the future it would be important for us to seek out and learn about our local food producers without preconceived notions. If we had simply discounted Brian’s farm because it was not organic without first visiting it, we would have missed out on some of the best meat either of us had ever had, and Brian would not have had two valuable customers supporting his farm.
In the ongoing effort to find the best food grown under the best possible conditions, it is important for all of us to keep our minds and ears open. Next time you see local produce or meat without an organic certification, a visit to the farm is a great way to verify to yourself whether or not the food is right for you and your family. Here at the Co-op, we strive to offer a range of organic and local options so that you know that whatever you pick, it’s a better-than-average choice. Happy eating, friends!   

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Glass Bottle Dairy! Contoocook Creamery

by Shane Smith, Perimeter Manager

We’re thrilled to now offer a new local dairy option in our stores, including milk in returnable glass bottles. Contoocook Creamery is part of a century-old family dairy farm in Hopkinton, known as the Bohanan Farm.

Jamie and Heather Robertson own the farm, which is named “Bohanan” because it came down through Heather’s side of the family. The farm is currently in its fifth generation of land stewardship. In 2009, through partnerships with the town of Hopkinton, Five Rivers Conservation Trust, private donors, the State of New Hampshire, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the farm was able to make needed changes to its business model to better position it for the future. The coalition worked closely with the family, raising funds and educating the residents of Hopkinton about what a conservation easement consists of and the importance of open space to the town.

Bohanan Farm has 450 tillable acres, on which they grow about 150 acres of corn and 300 of grass. They have 240 milking cows, 200 young stock, and three streams running through the property. Their three full-time employees have been with them for years, and the Robertsons have five other people providing part-time help. The liquid dairy from Bohanan Farm is bottled in Maine, and when it is returned and delivered to stores it bares the name “Contoocook Creamery.”

The farmers strive to provide milk of the highest quality, utilizing the most efficient and environmentally sound practices available. The milk is antibiotic free, and the farm does not use growth hormones (rBST/BGH),

Look for Contoocook Creamery dairy products at the Co-op. Their milk and half-and-half will be available in returnable glass jars. Down the road, we hope to add Contoocook Creamery eggs, cheese, and butter to our dairy shelves as well.

Learn more about Contoocook Creamery at

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sunchokes at the Co-op

by Jaimie Jusczyk Digital Marketing Specialist

Sunchokes are available at the Concord Food Co-op!

Sunchokes at the Concord Food Co-op
Sunchokes are a type of sunflower with a bright yellow flower and can grow to 9 ft tall. They are native to New England and can even become invasive if not tended to.

You may know them as Jerusalem Artichokes or Sunroot, but whatever you call these knobby little carbohydrates, introduce them into your diet slowly to avoid any unwanted side effects as the human digestive system can not break down the inulin and it will be metabolized by bacteria in the colon.

Not sure how best to enjoy them? Watch the video below as Shawn, the Co-op's Produce Manager and James from Generation Farm share how they like to enjoy these sweet nutty flavored tubers.

Like James suggested, steaming sunchokes is the best way to enjoy them cooked. If you boil them they will not hold their shape and will turn to mush. Preparing them amongst other root vegetables is a great way to enjoy their flavor without over doing your inulin intake.

Why do we want to eat sunchokes? Sunchokes contain more than three times the amount of iron than a serving of broccoli. The sunchoke is also a great choice for diabetics due to the high levels of inulin that may help regulate blood sugar levels. Sunchokes are also used to help boost the  immune system and remove toxins from the body.

Local and organic, the Co-op is receiving sunchokes from Generation Farm in Concord, NH. They may not be the most popular vegetable so why not try something new and out of the box this week! Share in the comments how you prepared and enjoyed them! Stop by the Concord store and try some.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Middle Branch Farm: Looking Forward to the Summer Harvest

by Shawn Menard, Co-op Produce Manager

Located in New Boston, Middle Branch Farm has been in the Noonan family since 2000. Since its founding in the mid-1700s, this land has raised nearly every kind of fresh food possible in the Northeast: dairy, eggs, poultry, apples, cider, vegetables, and maple syrup. Today, the certified organic farm primarily grows vegetables to supply its CSA shares and a few wholesale accounts, including the Co-op.

The land is sustainably managed to ensure the fields will continue to yield high-quality produce for many generations to come without having a negative impact on the ecosystem.

Like a Co-op, owner Roger Noonan and his family believe in the “triple bottom line” approach to running a business (let’s not forget that farms are businesses, too!). This means their focus is divided equally among maximizing profit, preserving the environment, and ensuring social wellness – or “people, planet, profit” for short.

Noonan’s advocacy for sustainable agriculture and environmental preservation is apparent by the dozens of leadership hats he wears: President of the New England Farmers Union, President of the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts, and a member of the Government Affairs Committee for NH Farm Bureau, to name a few. Middle Branch Farm also grows a significant amount of food for the New Hampshire Food Bank. This collaboration allows the farm to remain connected to the community and give back to those that make up our population.

In an effort to create deeper relationships with our farmers and increase the local produce on our shelves, this year the Co-op has been working even more closely with Middle Branch Farm to provide our customers with farm-fresh produce. The season is off to a bit of a late start due to the cold winter, but Noonan is optimistic.

“Just as long as we get some sun and showers, our vegetable seedlings should wake up and pop out of the soil,” he says.

You can expect to see plenty of zucchini, summer squash, peppers, and cucumbers during the summer. Heading into the late summer and fall, we are excited to see broccoli, cauliflower, melons, and fingerling potatoes. Winter squash and pie pumpkins will round out the season.

You can learn more about the family operated, certified-organic farm by checking out Middle Branch Farm is still offering CSA shares for this season, and of course you can also stop by the Co-op this summer to pick out some of the farm’s delicious vegetables in our produce department.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Maple Month in NH

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist at the Concord Food Co-op

Did you know that March in New Hampshire is Maple Month and last weekend was Maple Weekend? The weather was looking a little iffy last Saturday, so I suggested to my husband that we go find some warmth inside a sugar shack. I looked up the Maple Weekend 3 map as supplied by the NH Maple Producers Association, Inc. and pinned a trail for the afternoon.

Our first stop was at a farm that supplies the Concord Food Co-op with organic vegetables all year round, Kearsarge Gore Farm in Warner. The drive there took us past Vegetable Ranch in Warner, the home to the Co-op’s very own hoop house and annual Farm Festival event, too. You can’t miss the yellow and purple sign out front of the hoop house.

The drive to Kearsarge Gore Ranch is not one for those who don’t like a little ice and mud. When you think of a farm being off the grid, Kearsarge Gore Farm really is off the grid, using solar panels for electricity.  As the roads got narrower and icier, the snow started to fall but we made it there in one piece parking off to the side as the lot was full. This must be the place to go to get your maple syrup. But as we were getting out of the truck, a few people were already heading back to the parking lot; I hope there is syrup left for me!
Kearsarge Gore Farm Sugar Shack

We were greeted by a friendly black dog wearing an orange bandana who led the way down the icy path to the sugar shack. From the outside, wood was stacked to the rafters and smoke lazily drifted down scenting the air. There was the sound of some kind of hostile machine coming from within, curious we walked into the dark opening to see a huge and shiny contraption with a friendly operator ready to explain how the sap running through the lines from the surrounding trees will end up on my pancakes tomorrow morning.

Our obliging guide was Bob, one half of the duo that own and operates Kearsarge Gore Farm with the help of a few more crew members. I am not sure I can explain the whole process without you actually seeing the evaporator machine in person, so I will leave that up to Bob to tell you if you are lucky enough to visit during boiling. But I will tell you that the generous sample of maple sugar I tried was heavenly on my tongue as it melted away and the syrup was the perfect sweetness to drizzle on crispy bacon or over vanilla bean ice cream, mmmm, just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
Kearsarge Gore Farm Sugar Shack Boiler

After Bob showed us the basic functions of the different parts of the evaporator, he had to hurry away to fill the boiler with wood to keep the process going. This year the weather during March has not been very co-operative for making syrup. The days and nights have been too cool and many of the sugar maker’s mentioned they have only produced 1/3 of what they had accomplished last year. I made sure to stock up and grabbed myself a bottle of the sweet syrup.
Kearsarge Gore Farm Sugar Shack

After we left Kearsarge Gore Farm we stopped at a couple more sugar shacks to sample different grades of maple syrup. Did you know that you may prefer the taste of a different grade of syrup? The grades happen naturally as the trees get ready for their spring budding and this changes the color and taste of the syrup. We also had the pleasure of tasting maple popcorn, maple cotton candy, various nuts glazed in maple syrup, and even some maple coffee! Maple Month is a great way to meet our local farmers and sample their products; many produce more than just our favorite breakfast syrup. Depending on the weather some farms even have spring lambs to watch playing or wagon rides through the mud (it really is mud season here!) There is one more weekend to enjoy the open houses on the Maple Month trail; you can check the map out, click here!