March 23, 2013

New England farmers invent creative ways to market food

Even organic farmers in the region find that they are competing in a global marketplace.

By JIM KINNEY The Springfield Republican

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Gideon Porth, owner of Atlas Farm, stands in front of the farm stand in South Deerfield, Mass. Direct marketing is crucial for him and other New England farmers, he says.

AP Photo/Springfield Republican/John Suchockis


The future of, and the possible undoing of, New England's farms is in the hands of those health-and-nature conscious customers, said Lorraine Stuart Merrill, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food.

"There is a great opportunity today to get people to eat fresh, local foods," she said. "It is not a fad. Once a person starts, they never go back."

But all those local customers also pose a threat. They like to buy houses, houses that take up land.

"This drives our high cost of land," she said during a roundtable forum with heads of the agriculture departments from all six New England States. "It is very expensive."

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross said direct marketing can also bring culture clashes. He reminded the crowd of farmers that Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt., was faced with death threats last year after word got out on social media that the college was going to put down an aged working ox and serve the beast in the dining hall.

"This is the mentality you are dealing with," he said to the snickers of a knowing audience. "People think their food magically appears at the grocery store."


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