Who's Your Farmer in New England?

New Roots Farmer Renée CantaraA revelation (a little late in coming): we can eat local foods when we are on vacation just as we do when we are in Kentucky. We spent three weeks at spectacular Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts this summer, as we do most summers. And this year, we found farms and markets and local wineries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to round out the local corn and local seafoods we have eaten for years. The most thrilling? Seacoast Growers Association, about three dozen coastal growers who sell their produce, baked goods, wines, jewelry, and more at five markets each week. Each Tuesday of my vacation, I drove about 20 minutes to the market at Hampton, New Hampshire, where half a dozen farmers sold produce grown on their own farms, some of it organic. The other vendors varied a little each week, and included a baker, an Indian food carryout stand, a jeweler, a maple syrup and candy producer, and a vintner.


New Roots Farm won my heart -- and wallet -- with its USDA Certified Organic heirloom tomatoes (and Sun Golds and other delicious hybrids), grown in high hoop greenhouses (PDF, 252KB). I bought perfect carrots, both Romaine and Bibb-style head lettuces, French cornichon-type cucumbers, and garlic from New Roots. The truck backed up to the New Roots stand bore a bumper sticker asking, "Who's Your Farmer?" For three weeks, my main farmer was New Roots' own Renée Cantara, something I figured out by looking at the New Roots website after the fact. I am happy to report that Renée never had a minute to kibbitz during my time at the Hampton market. She and an assistant worked nonstop, weighing produce, taking money.

Wake Robin Farm boasted the most beautiful displays of fruits and vegetables. I bought two giant bunches of sweet fresh shallots each week, and tried out the shell (cranberry or borlotti) beans recommended by the farmer, whose name I don't know.

I bought blueberries and cabbages from Barker's Farm stand (Stratham, NH) and -- Most Popular Veggie back at the cottage -- fresh corn from Heron Pond Farm, located in Hampton.

We are used to great veggies and fruits at the Lexington Farmers Market about 30 weeks of the year, but finding the Hampton market -- which has been there for at least 20 years -- makes vacation even happier. The last wonderful thing was the utterly delicious Riesling ($11) from Jewell Towne Vineyards, right on the border between Amesbury, Massachusetts and South Hampton, New Hampshire.

I made a quick visit with friends to Jewell Towne's winery. We learned that it is the oldest winery in New Hampshire. Owner Peter Oldak took his 10 year vine-cultivating and wine-making hobby commercial in 1994. In addition to the "off-dry" (lightly sweet, food-friendly) Riesling, I also liked the dry, light white "Aurore," sold for an astounding $7/bottle.

The friendly Jewell Towne vendor at the Hampton market told me that their greatest challenge is that people can't imagine that wine from New Hampshire can be good. Sound familiar? We'll get over it shortly, I think. I predict people will soon seek out local wines as they are now hunt for local tomatoes and corn. The rewards will be sweet, both for the growers and for those of us who like good food and drink.