KEENE, N.H. -- Cheshire County has been selected to receive a five-figure grant as part of a farmers' market promotion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The county learned on Friday it will be awarded $62,422 to launch a "Buy Local" campaign in the area, provide farmers with professional development and assessment of marketing skills, and increase participation in community-supported agriculture.
Amanda Costello, the district manager of the Cheshire County Conservation District, said it is a two-year program and the county is excited to utilize the opportunity.
She said the "Buy Local" campaign will be used to reach the masses and create some excitement about buying and consuming locally grown foodstuffs. The second portion of the program will consist of working with low-income individuals to try to get them subsidized one-year farmshares to give them a chance to see the virtue in purchasing local products, Costello said.
"It will let them know how easy that can be," she said, adding that the county is working with Antioch University New England in this effort.
The third way the grant money is planned to be used will include hosting workshops geared toward teaching farmers how to better market their businesses and products. The workshops will feature how to set up everything from farmstands to websites and will take place at the Hannah Grimes Center, a not-for-profit organization in Keene.
"Farmers have businesses and they need help with their websites ... and marketing and sales plans," she said.
Garcia said no workshops funded by the USDA grant are on the center's schedule for the rest of the year, but they will be once spring rolls around. She said a workshop is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 2, to offer lessons on how to set up a page on Pinterest, a content-sharing website.
Costello said the whole point of the two-year program is to get more people to spend more money with local farmers.
She said a 2007 census reported a list of 419 farms in Cheshire County, with 199 individuals citing farming as their primary source of income and another 123 making less than $1,000 a year doing it. Costello also mentioned a 2010 study that indicated New Hampshire produces just 6 percent of the food its residents consume.
She went on to say New Hampshire's food industry contributes a mere 5.7 percent of the state's $58 billion economy.
"That means there a lot of room for growth," Costello said.
New Hampshire's situation is very different from that of its western neighbor, as an estimated 38 percent of the food consumed in Vermont is produced in that state.
"This has to do with a lot of factors," Costello said, adding that they include Vermont's great soil. She also said the Green Mountain State is much more progressive with its agriculture and said it is a strong proponent of the whole "Buy Local" movement.
Lorraine S. Merrill, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, said there is an increasing amount of support for local consumerism in the state.
She mentioned about 5,000 people attended the 4th Annual New Hampshire Fish & Lobster Festival (or "Fishtival") in Portsmouth over the weekend. The event celebrates the local fishing industry, which she compared to the dairy industry's culture of family-owned businesses rich with decades, or centuries, of heritage.
"The timing is just great for this grant. ... Cheshire County has some wonderful things going on right now," she said. "(The interest in buying local) isn't a fad. Local food is addictive because it tastes so much better and it has more character to it and there are stories behind it."