Our Food has a Story: East Coast Aquaponics

Two college grads, pursue their dream to start up their own aquaponics farm

Danny DeBiasi and Stephen Ziadeh met in college at the University of New England in Biddeford Maine, their freshman year. Since graduating in 2014 with degrees in Aquaculture (sustainable seafood farming) they have dreamed of starting their own Aquaponics farm. In April of 2021, that dream finally became a reality, when they planted their first plant under East Coast Aquaponics LLC.

East Coast Aquaponics, located in Milton Mills NH, now grows romaine lettuce, green and red butter lettuce, green and red salanova lettuce, bok choy, swiss chard, basil, cilantro and kale.

You can find Danny and Stephen selling their aquaponics produce at the Sanford ME, Rochester NH, and Dover NH farmers markets. They also sell to Ira Miller’s General Store in Milton NH and the surrounding neighborhood. 

Our food has a story and we at Seacoast Eat Local decided to ask about the story of Danny and Stephen and about their experience as new farmers.

How does the aquaponics growing system work?

East Coast Aquaponics uses a unique aquaponics system to grow their produce. “Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics. We raise koi fish and extract the waste to be mineralized. The mineralized waste is then introduced to our hydroponic system where the plants take up the nutrients from the fish waste. In turn, the water is then filtered by the plants and can return back to the fish nice and clean. It is really its own little ecosystem! This allows us to stay away from fertilizers and pesticides.”

Why do you think it’s important for consumers to eat local?

“Eating locally is good for the environment and our local community! Currently California and Arizona account for over 90% of head lettuce produced in the U.S. This means that the produce has to travel over 2,000 miles in refrigerated trucks to get to our plates! To keep lettuce that fresh requires the use of pesticides and chemicals to keep it from going bad before it enters our local grocery chains. When you buy from corporate food chairs, your money helps a CEO buy their 3rd vacation home! By supporting local farms, you are helping your neighbors buy clothes, book bags, notebooks for their kids and pay their mortgage or rent! Eating local is great for the community!”

 How much time do you put toward your business per week?

“Stephen and I (Danny) both still work full time at our other jobs while growing our farm. Stephen works in the private sector of ornamental Aquaculture. Danny is currently working at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston managing their Zebrafish Research systems. We are putting in 40 hours each at our “regular jobs” and 40 hours a week building our farm! Although farming doesn’t feel so much like a job because we are so passionate about it!”

What is the best and most challenging part of your job?

The best part about farming so far has been seeing our returning customers with nothing but positive feedback. They are able to notice the difference between our lettuce and the stuff they buy from the large grocery store chains! The freshness, taste, and crisp you can get from a local farm really isn’t comparable! The toughest part has been balancing our friendship/ business partner relationship. (We are doing pretty good!) We must prioritize our relationship as friends as well as making sure we are both holding up our own ends of the business! Friends first and business also first! Luckily we are more like brothers nowadays.

To find more about East Coast Aquaponics follow them: @eastcoastaquaponic



Thank you board members!

Time for a very special acknowledgment of some amazing people. Three board members’ terms are coming to an end this month. We wanted to take the time to thank each of them for their commitment to Seacoast Eat Local over the years and wish them well as they each take on new projects in their personal and professional lives.

Sara-Zoë Patterson is the founder of Seacoast Eat Local. Over the past 15 years, she has spent countless hours making what we do possible. From the very early days in 2006 when all we had was a challenge to eat more locally-grown food to this past year when she helped put the finishing touches on our 3-year strategic plan, Sara-Zoë is a true leader and we will miss her dedication. Her passionate and playful spirit is a cornerstone of our organizational culture. A lot of us have so much to be thankful for because without Sara-Zoë, the work we do would not exist. If we made a list of all the contributions she made over the years it would quite literally span the Piscataqua River Bridge!

Robin Schweikart has served as a board member since 2014. Over the years, Robin has brought her background in nonprofit administration to help improve many aspects of our organization. Having been on both the Fundraising and Finance committees for a number of years has been a tremendous asset during Robin’s tenure. She most recently served as our treasurer.  If you’ve been a customer of our Winter Farmers’ Markets at Wentworth Greenhouses, you may not realize that Robin and her husband volunteer for the early morning set up crew to help vendors bring their products inside. It takes dedicated individuals like Robin to provide both hands-on and professional volunteerism to make Seacoast Eat Local operate.

Theresa Walker has been a board member since 2016 and served as Board Chair for two years.  As a farmer and agricultural commission leader, Theresa has enabled Seacoast Eat Local to more effectively see itself as part of a bigger whole. The background she’s brought to the table in community and economic development has been such an important piece to our recent organizational growth. Her involvement in both Board Recruitment and Personnel committees has also been of great value in continuing to build the dream team at our small and nimble nonprofit. When the unexpected happens, Theresa, along with her husband and son, have always provided a helping hand.

Join us in thanking Sara-Zoë, Robin, and Theresa!

Volunteer with the Mobile Market

Our Seacoast Area Mobile Market (SAMM) is in need of volunteers to help successfully operate the program this summer. If you aren’t familiar with SAMM, learn more here. We need volunteers for both one-time events and weekly recurring Mobile Market stops. Sign up for our volunteer mailing list to receive updates and requests for volunteer opportunities throughout the year.

Here’s a look at what some of our volunteers for the Mobile Market do:
–  Lift, stack, and move products as needed (up to 50 lbs)
–  Pick up products at farms
–  Prep product for sale (bagging, weighing)
–  Set up and break down mobile market stops (tents, tables, signs, etc)
–  End of the day cleaning of SAMM vehicle and equipment
–  Help creatively setting up displays that are visually pleasing to customers
–  Operate point-of-sale and process customer transactions
–  Assist with daily reports and inventory
We ask the following of all volunteers:
–  Interact professionally and positively with producers, customers, and staff
–  Be sensitive with all populations
–  Be willing to learn and contribute in a meaningful way
–  Adhere to all COVID protocols
–  Follow all health and safety guidelines as presented by staff
–  Communicate clearly to staff about experiences, problems, and important information

Click here to signup for our volunteer email list. If you are interested in volunteering for the Mobile Market this summer contact our Mobile Market Coordinator, Celeste Gingras, at [email protected] It never hurts to ask what we have available!

Storing Fresh Produce During A Pandemic

Post by UNH Student and Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Chris G.

In recent weeks, we have been expected to practice social distancing and are at home for an extended period of time. As a result of this, it has been common in past weeks for people to buy in bulk. If you prefer this method in favor of avoiding person to person contact, it is important to keep track of shelf life related to each item you are using. This post will aim to cover the fruits and vegetables that last the longest.

Onions: All types of onions will last you approximately one month in refrigeration. A good method for prolonging their shelf life is to store at room temperature in a paper or mesh produce bag. Spoiled onions tend to soften, and turn brown in color. 

Potatoes: These root vegetables will last 2-5 weeks at room temperature, and up to four months in refrigeration. Once prepared into foods such as french fries or mashed potatoes, they can be frozen and will last an astounding eight months. Cool, dry storage for potatoes and any other root vegetables is best; if you have space in your basement this works optimally. 

Carrots: Whole carrots will last about a month if kept in a produce bag in refrigeration. On the contrary, baby carrots will last a maximum of four weeks due to the moisture in their packaging. Blanched carrots can be frozen and will last even longer. 

Squash: The most common types of squash will last 1-3 months at room temperature. Ensure they are in-tact; any break in the skin will result in faster spoilage. 

Garlic: Un-chopped can last up to a year, giving it the longest shelf life on this list. As with the root vegetables on this list, a cool dry place is optimal. Can be kept in a brown paper or mesh bag like onions. Once peeled or processed in any way, ensure garlic is kept in a refrigerated container to prevent spoilage. 

Cabbage: Cabbages can have a shelf life anywhere up to two months if handled properly. These vegetables last longest when kept dry; and will last longer if you refrain from washing until use. If you are only using half of the cabbage, the remainder can be dried using a paper towel before refrigeration. Additionally, storing them in a cooled crisper drawer of refrigerators is optimal. 

Apples: These popular snacks can last up to 2 months in refrigeration. A good practice, as always, is to buy local when they are in-season. Bulk apples pre-packaged in bags often come with one or two moldy apples and bruise much easier in transit. Additionally, it is often challenging to notice bruising in bagged apples when purchased at the supermarket. Many apple orchards have sophisticated storage rooms that enable apples to last into April in May.

Citrus Fruits (although not locally available): Limes, oranges, lemons etc. These last approximately 14 days if held at room temperature, but can last a month or two in refrigeration. Ensure that your citrus fruits are stored in draws and not in containers. This is applicable to fruits which are not peeled. You can check for spoilage of citrus fruits simply by the touch, a softer discolored rhine can often mean the fruit has some amount of spoilage.

Remember that even in times of isolation, local food products are still a click away. Many smaller farmers markets still take place in the seacoast area, with the aim to reduce the rapid spread of novel coronavirus. For updates on where you can buy local food products during this time, visit seacoastharvest.org/safe

Does New Hampshire Have Food Deserts?

Post written by UNH student and Seacoast Eat Local intern Meriah M.

Your local convenience store is probably familiar to you for the many times you’ve stopped for a cup of coffee, a pack of gum, or your favorite candy bar. You probably don’t find yourself shopping for groceries among the air fresheners and snack mixes. For one reason, these items cost more than they do at the local grocery store, and for another, in most instances, you can’t find the fruits, vegetables, meats, or dairy products that you need to prepare a balanced meal.  

However, across the United States, there are many people for which these stores are some of the only options to regularly buy food. These areas are known as food deserts, which the USDA defines as areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable food. Living in a food desert makes a person more likely to experience food insecurity, even when receiving food assistance because there are few places to use SNAP benefits (food stamps) where nutritious food is available. 

New Hampshire’s food landscape is defined by the state’s rural communities and limited public transportation options, which creates a challenge for many low-income families looking to shop for healthy groceries. Using the USDA’s Economic Research Service Food Access Research Atlas, census tracts (a geographic region used for understanding the demographics of a portion of a county) that have low-income and low-access qualities can be identified (see picture). 

Decoding the Food Access Map (pictured): Tracts highlighted in green, including parts of almost every county in New Hampshire, contain areas that are characterized by low-income and low-access, meaning that a significant number of residents are more than one mile from the nearest supermarket in urban settings or more than ten miles from the nearest supermarket in rural settings. Additionally, tracks highlighted in yellow show areas where lack of vehicle access poses a challenge to residents, with the regions having either more than 100 housing units do not have a vehicle and are more than ½ mile from the nearest supermarket, or a significant number or share of residents are more than 20 miles from the nearest supermarket.

There are many areas in New Hampshire where people have limited access to nutritious food,  some areas are served exclusively by convenience stores, which do not stock fruit and vegetables to the extent that grocery stores do. A 2010 report from UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy found a correlation in the state where areas that have lower food access also have higher rates of health conditions like diabetes and obesity, which are linked to diet. These adverse effects of lack of food access have prompted innovative ways to make healthy food available in underserved areas. 

In Hawaii, a local organization has pioneered online shopping experiences that empower SNAP recipients to buy locally produced fruit, vegetable, meat, and dairy products online. A similar program supported by the USDA operates in New York, however, instead of local retailers, the food will be supplied by Amazon, ShopRite, and Walmart. 

Right here in New Hampshire, Seacoast Eat Local is bringing food access to residents with the Seacoast Area Mobile Market (SAMM). The SAMM serves seacoast communities that have high concentrations of low-income or at-risk residents, are designated as being at higher risk for food insecurity, or have a reportedly high number of residents with lack of access to consistent means of transportation — targeting some of the green and yellow areas of the food access map. As with the stationary farmers’ markets, shoppers can use their SNAP benefits to purchase food at the SAMM and participate in the Granite State Market Match program, receiving a dollar for dollar match to double their purchasing power of fruits and vegetables. 

In areas where food options are limited to convenience stores, the Seacoast Area Mobile Market serves as an important access point for nutritious foods that everyone should have as part of their diet, regardless of their geographic location or income level. 

Follow the Seacoast Area Mobile Market on Instagram @SAMMVAN!

Safe Food Purchasing and Storage

Due to unprecedented events, Seacoast Eat Local has cancelled our winter farmers’ markets in March and April. This can be disheartening to those who enjoy the fresh food, food samples, and social camaraderie. In the absence of larger markets in the near future, Seacoast Eat Local has encouraged vendors to collaborate on small popup markets of roughly 3-5 to adhere to social distancing rules and avoid the transmission of COVID-19. Many farms and food providers are also developing new and creative solutions such as online ordering and delivery.

For information on how to still access local food vendor options, please visit www.seacoastharvest.org/safe

It is of importance not only to know where local food can be located but how to preserve these foods as long as possible to minimize travel and thus mitigate the risk of coming in contact with others during this crucial time. Many have raided grocery stores, leaving shelves of essential items empty. 

Reusable produce storage bags prolong freshness of vegetables through retaining moisture as opposed to storing them in sealed containers of plastic bags that are not breathable. Mushrooms are the exception to this; they are best stored in a closed paper bag, and not washed. Be sure to keep produce storage bags moist to retain freshness. These can be purchased online through companies such as Vejibag.

Many root vegetables are actually better stored dry, and not in the fridge. Potatoes, onions and garlic, for example, can be kept in a dry place for a month whereas refrigeration speeds up their biodegradation. Citrus fruits are also best stored at room temperature, as opposed to the fridge. For a storage space that convenient and reliable you can navigate to this web-site and know what you should do. 

In many instances, green/leafy vegetables are stored in refrigeration damp due to having been previously washed. If you do not finish consuming an entire head of lettuce, for example, consider drying the remaining lettuce with a napkin or paper towel. This will prevent it from becoming soggy and rotten too quickly. 

Finally, if your produce is pre-cut/prepackaged, or you have processed it and are saving for later, ensure produce is refrigerated. 

If you are curious about the handling and storage of produce, please visit the FDA’s website at https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/selecting-and-serving-produce-safely. Though the closing of larger markets limits our access to fresh, local food products, there are ways around this barrier through vendor collaboration and proper storage. For prevention of transmitting COVID-19, the most accurate information can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website, www.cdc.gov.


The Man Behind Nutrition Incentive Programs

Post by Seacoast Eat Local Intern and UNH Student Meriah M.

Who is Gus Schumacher?

Fresh fruits and vegetables should be found in all of America’s kitchens regardless of the income of the household, however, access to affordable produce is out of financial reach for many low-income families. Gus Schumacher had served as an advocate for these families since 1980 in his capacity as an agricultural policy leader and Co-Founder of Wholesome Wave, an organization dedicated to supporting the healthy food purchasing ability of underserved families. 

Schumacher championed the importance of healthy food access, conceiving a program that would motivate low-income consumers to buy more fruits and vegetables by increasing their purchasing power and in turn, their ability to purchase healthy food. The power and reach of Schumacher’s innovative new approach to promoting fruit and vegetable consumption among underserved populations expanded to a broad network of what are now known as Nutrition Incentive Programs supported by federal grants, including Seacoast Eat Local’s very own Market Match. When Gus Schumacher died in 2017, the nutrition incentive grant program was renamed to the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), honoring Schumacher’s dedication to universal access to affordable fruits and vegetables. Rootine has a wide variety of vitamins that will help you to maintain your body well care.

We have Schumacher’s innovative agricultural spirit and passion for food access to thank for the implementation of many nutrition incentive programs. After gaining diverse experience in various food and agricultural sectors, Schumacher went on to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, where he oversaw the Farm Service Agency, the Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Risk Management Agency. Schumacher made invaluable contributions to the Department of Agriculture, impacting the lives of food assistance recipients, farmers, and his colleagues alike. 

In Schumacher’s role as founder and Vice President of Wholesome Wave, he increased the ability of low-income people to access healthy, local foods that spurred the creation of similar programs across the country. Wholesome Wave was built on the Double Value Coupon Program, the same dollar for dollar fruit and vegetable match program that Granite State Market Match provides today. 

Gus Schumacher’s death on September 24th of 2017 was met with great sadness, and his loss was felt deeply by all those in his life, including those involved in his food access advocacy work. It is with great appreciation for Schumacher that nutrition incentive programs move forward, serving his mission to provide healthy, delicious, farm-grown food to all. 

How to Incorporate Local Vegetables Into Your Winter Eating

Post by UNH student and Seacoast Eat Local intern, Chris G.

At the February 8th market in Exeter High School, the focus of my food demo was root vegetables and incorporating them into a fully balanced meal. Root vegetables are an imperative source of Vitamins A, B and C, fiber, iron and antioxidants. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that in the diet, half of grains be whole grain, and vegetables be from a variety of subcategories including dark green, red/orange, beans/legumes, and starches (potatoes.) Keep in mind that 50% of the population reach the recommended dietary fiber intake daily, 38g for men and 25g for women. Not only can a vegetable medley cover the recommended subcategories necessary for healthy eating patterns, but these vegetables are easy to store for long period during the cold months, whether it be dry storage or in the refrigerator.


The goal of a root vegetable hash/medley is to incorporate a variety of different root vegetables into one serving to cover the widest range of nutrition possible. Open year-round, Brandmoore Farm offers this variety of ingredients as well as other items such as dairy and meat. Here is an outline of the process I used for a recent farmers’ market market:


For a root vegetable medley, I use organic carrots, russet potatoes and golden beets. Slice them the way you like, and toss in olive oil. Olive oil is one of the few dietary staples I like to pair with veggies, as it offers a large amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats-great for the heart! Additionally, this can be paired with any source of protein (eggs, chicken, steak), for any meal of the day, which makes it a versatile option on any menu!


Market Match Across the United States

Post by Intern and UNH Student Meriah M.

Here in New Hampshire shoppers using SNAP (formerly food stamps) are able to double their buying power at farmers markets through the Granite State Market Match program, where food assistance benefits are matched with vouchers to purchase fruits and veggies from local farms. 

Across the country there are programs similar to Granite State Market Match, commonly known as nutrition incentive programs, that help low-income shoppers buy more fresh produce. 

California is home to another Market Match program that parallels the Granite State Market Match in its goals to provide additional income for SNAP shoppers to use at local farmers markets. The California Market Match program is funded by the same grant that supports Granite State Market Match, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant, with the Ecology Center implementing and overseeing the program. In both New Hampshire and California, the FINI Grant (now called the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program) supports efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients. 

Since the program was originally founded in 2009, Market Match in California has evolved to best support low-income consumers and local farms. At its inception, California’s Market Match looked similar to the current structure of the Granite State Market Match, with community-based partnerships of market operators and local organizations that created the California Market Match Consortium (CMMC) facilitating the program. What started as a program offered at 44 markets has expanded to 290 sites across the state. 

Though it is helpful for states to model various programs on the success of other states, programs will differ based on the culture, location, and government of each state. One obvious difference between California and New Hampshire is the climate, lending to significantly different agricultural products and timelines that effect when and where fresh produce is available. Outside of physical differences that affect farmers’ market shoppers, there are differences in the way Market Match is allocated. As in New Hampshire, California shoppers are able to get $1 to $1 SNAP dollars matched for produce vouchers, but only up to $10 depending on the market’s Market Match budget. In New Hampshire, shoppers are not limited by Granite State Market Match as to how much they can spend and customers will commonly match $20 or $30 at a time. 

In California, WIC benefits (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) can also be used for the Market Match Program, allowing new mothers and children up to the age of five another opportunity to engage with Market Match and in turn, local farms. In New Hampshire, Market Match is currently limited to SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). 

Access to affordable, healthy, local food is important everywhere in America, and it is exciting to see New Hampshire and California pioneering unique Market Match programs that benefit low-income consumers and local farmers. Evaluating the various ways states implement nutrition incentive programs will lead to better informed national policy and solutions to address food insecurity. 

Food Insecurity Legislation in NH

Blog post written by Intern Meriah M.

Innovative Solutions to Food Insecurity in the NH General Court — HB 1638

How can New Hampshire best serve its citizens who struggle to access affordable, nutritious food? Representative Joelle Martin of Milford introduced House Bill 1638 this session seeking to provide an answer. 

The New Hampshire Nutrition Incentives Network has worked to increase affordable access to locally grown food since 2013 through the Granite State Market Match Program, which allows shoppers using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps) to double their buying power at farmers markets. When shoppers spend their SNAP dollars at participating markets, they receive a corresponding amoung of Market Match dollars that can be spent on fruits or vegetables. For the cost of $10, a shopper can leave the market with $20 worth of food, creating an incentive to shop and eat local, healthy foods while stretching a grocery budget. 


While Granite State Market Match has made significant differences in the lives of the residents that it serves, it is currently only reaching 2% of New Hampshire’s SNAP recipients because it has been operating as a pilot program supported by the federal grants. There is tremendous opportunity for Granite State Market Match and other nutrition incentive programs to grow with state funding. 

Here is where Representative Martin’s bill matters: House Bill 1638 would continue to support and expand equitable access to healthy food by providing $150,000 in state funding to nutrition incentive programs, including Market Match. This financial support would allow for nutrition incentive programs to reach more SNAP recipients, providing healthier, locally sourced meals for more New Hampshire residents. 

The local, community-based nature of nutrition incentive programs provides added benefits. The Market Match program helps farmers to access a previously untapped revenue stream: SNAP dollars. For some market vendors, 20% of their revenue comes from SNAP shoppers. 

HB 1638 received a hearing in January before the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee in which many individuals and organizations testified to the success and importance of nutrition incentive programs in New Hampshire. 

As legislators review this bill, the voices of New Hampshire residents strongly influence their perspective. You can support the affordable access to healthy, local foods and the efforts of Seacoast Eat Local by contacting the committee by phone (271-3589) or by email ([email protected]).