January, February, and March, the months where all hopes of eating local food go to die… Or so you’d think, right? Locally grown food is my comfort food: it’s what keeps me feeling healthy, happy, and engaged in my state and community. So when deep winter settles in, I miss the days of summer and fall when fresh local food is available all over New Hampshire, from farm stands to farmers’ markets to local grocery stores. When I regularly have to clear ice and snow off of my walkway and truck, it’s hard to imagine anything growing or our farms producing anything. However, I’ve discovered over time that even in the deepest darkest days of winter, I can still find lots of local food in New Hampshire and put together a locally sourced meal. It’s a matter of knowing where to look!
The first stop for me in prepping my winter-blues-beating meal is my local CSA. If you aren’t familiar with CSAs, the term stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which is a relationship between farmers and consumers where consumers share financial risk with the farmers in exchange for a “share” of the total produce of the farm. Although CSAs have spread across the country, the idea has deep New Hampshire roots; the CSA that I belong to in Wilton is the longest continually operating CSA in the country and one of the first two CSA’s in America, both founded in 1986. If you are familiar with CSAs, you probably associate them with summer and fall, as many of them are seasonal. However, a number of CSAs in New Hampshire either run all year-round or have winter shares available. The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture has a great list of the CSA’s in New Hampshire that includes information on whether they offer winter shares.
The veggies that are available on farms this time of year are the crops that store well. That means sweet carrots and beets and flavorful onions and leeks. You have to be a little adventurous to make the most of more unique root vegetables; I admit to have being a little intimidated by Rutabagas. I wasn’t sure what to do with them. This week, I ended up slicing them up and baking them in the oven with olive oil and salt, and they turned out sweet and delicious! When in doubt, Google is your friend, as there are lots of great easy recipes available for every kind of vegetable. Not sure what a Celeriac is or what to do with it? This root veggie in the celery family is great in soups! One of the fun challenges of eating local is learning to eat seasonally. That often means abandoning preconceived meal ideas, seeing what’s available, and building from there.
Meat and dairy products are a lot less seasonally constrained. But while there are a few winter farmers’ markets in New Hampshire, they are a lot fewer and farther between. Finding great local meat, milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese means knowing which farms or stores sell those local products all year round. My CSA, the Temple Wilton Community Farm, sells meat, cheese and yogurt to the public all year round. However, their location in Wilton is far from my home in Manchester and my job in Nashua. Normanton Farms in Litchfield is right between my work and home and their farm store has great grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and pasture-raised chicken, plus vegetables and bread and dairy products from their farm and other local farms. Just over the border from where I live in Manchester, Benedikt Dairy in Goffstown produces heavenly organic milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, and even ice cream from their happy herd of dairy cows. They also offer grass-fed meat as well. It’s hard to not love a place that offers a year-round ice cream CSA where you can pre-order a pint (or more!) that you can pick up weekly!
The farms I mentioned are only a couple of the farms that I know of and visit in my area, but there are lots of great places throughout New Hampshire where you can buy local food in the winter. What are the farms in your area? Do they offer winter CSA shares, or sell meat and dairy through the winter? It’s worth finding out. Call, visit, explore. The N.H. Department of Agriculture’s list of farm stands is a great place to start. Yes, eating local in New Hampshire in the winter definitely takes some effort. When you are digging into that grass-fed steak, tucking into those oven roasted root vegetables, and putting that creamy butter on crusty fresh bread you will know that you are also supporting local people, local businesses, sustainable and humane practices, and a thriving New Hampshire food economy. Believe me: it feels great, and tastes even better.