With 'Food Hubs' On The Rise, Fewer Farmers Markets Opening In N.H.

May 22, 2015

Credit Colin Grey/flickr

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, marking the unofficial start of summer.

With the warm weather, farmers markets are opening for the season across the Granite State, but there aren't as many here as there used to be.

(Click here for the Department of Agriculture's directory of farmers markets for 2015, with times and dates)

Jane Lang is president of the New Hampshire Farmers Market Association. She joined Morning Edition to explain why.

Despite plenty of interest in local produce, the number of markets in New Hampshire has actually dropped. What do you attribute that to?

That’s because we’re seeing more and more of the farmers need to be at their farms working, so they’re not getting to as many markets as they would like to. What we are seeing, though, is more interest in what’s called a “food hub.” That is a place that is a building that maybe a community has either renovated or leased, and allows farmers to bring their products there and leave them there so people can buy locally from them.

So there’s a stronger interest as far as the consumer is concerned, but you’re seeing a drop in farmer participation?

It costs them to hire somebody to go out to all the farmers markets we do have. Right now, we have about 40 farmers markets in New Hampshire that are up and running right now, which is very exciting. I’ve organized the Salem Farmers Market, and we’re going into our fifth year. And actually, if you go onto our website, you can go onto the place that says, “Find your market,” and you can see all the different farmers markets that are currently open and are going strong.

What can we expect to find at a farmers market at this time of year?

You’ll always find your dairy products, your eggs, cheeses. We have raw milk here in New Hampshire. We also have lots of different vegetables. Actually, right now, we’re seeing some farmers who have started growing in their heated greenhouses strawberries earlier. At some markets, you’re even seeing strawberries and tomatoes right now. It’s a little early to have your cucumbers and all your other summer products that we look forward to. You also find a lot of the farms will even bring in even their own seedings that they’ve started and they sell those at farmers markets, as well.

You run the farmers market in Salem, which I understand has seen so much growth that you needed a new location this summer. How difficult can it be for farmers markets to find a location that fits their needs?

Yes, that was really a struggle for us trying to find the area that would accommodate that growth. There are lots of farmers markets that go onto town greens. We don’t have that in Salem, so we were lucky enough to find Salem Marketplace, a plaza right on 28 that has graciously taken us in and we’ll be there all summer.

Beyond the issue of space, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing farmers markets in New Hampshire right now?

Just sustaining them; keeping them going and keeping them strong. Is everybody going to make it? Is everybody going to be successful farmers markets? We would love to see that, but like I said, there’s a lot of farmers out there that find it difficult to be able to make every market every day of the week.