Our Own Co-op Hoop House!
With Our Partnering Farm:
The Vegetable Ranch
It Started With a Handshake
We know our customers love their vegetables, and they are a discerning group. Specifically, they want fresh, local, and organic produce. Although New Hampshire takes the lead in the nation for percentage of farms using organic methods, the supply is still struggling to meet the demand. The Granite State provides challenging terrain and short seasons for farming, but nonetheless our local farmers continue their important work. Many have begun to erect hoop houses to make it possible to provide year-round fresh vegetables. In Winter 2010, our General Manager Paula Harris was walking around one of the first Winter Farmers Markets in the state, impressed by the selection of root vegetables, cabbages, and leafy greens available, but dismayed that market and CSA customer demand was so great that farmers almost never had any left over to sell to the Co-op and our customers. She walked up to one of our favorite local, organic growers, Larry Pletcher from the Vegetable Ranch in Warner, and proposed a deal.
Why can’t the Co-op pay to build our very own certified organic hoop house on Larry’s farm, with the agreement that 100% of the produce would come back to the store and our customers, year-round. There were no lawyers or contracts. With a shake of hands, Larry happily agreed.
The Hoop House Sprouts
In June, 2011, we broke ground, and by autumn, fresh, hardy greens and other fast-growing goods were making their way to the Co-op produce aisle. Each year, the Vegetable Ranch farmers aim to provide a nice variety of hardy vegetables in winter and heat-loving crops like tomatoes in the summer. Although the Hoop House hardly provides the quantity of produce needed to feed our hungry customers, it’s a fabulous start to establishing food security while investing in and supporting our local farmers.
Building Community, Teaching Our Youth
Our partnership with the Vegetable Ranch doesn’t stop at providing seasonal vegetables. Larry and Paula had a vision to extend the impact beyond the plate. The unique partnership has been able to finger out into new projects that help raise awareness, education, and appreciation for our local farmers. Our Outreach Coordinator Shane Smith has brought groups of school kids out to the farm to dig potatoes, plant seeds, weed, and see how much work goes into real food. The Vegetable Ranch also welcomed Co-op members for a special Pick-Your-Own Veggies Day. In September 2013, Larry hosted the Co-op’s first Member-Only Farm Festival, which drew an astonishing 500 people out to eat local food, groove to live music, and visit the farm. It was a joy to watch our Co-op kids playing together in the field and oohing over the farm animals.
The Co-op is dedicated to supporting our local farmers, and we consider this one of the most important aspects of doing business. When you can meet your farmers face to face, you can really connect with your food. When you support local, organic farms, the food you eat is more nourishing for both your body and your soul.