A question that comes up often in Seacoast Eat Local’s work is “Who is our audience?” The answer almost always is EVERYONE!
Our work is centered around connecting people to sources of locally grown food. The “sources” part of that equation is very simple to identify: farms, fisheries, and food producers. The other side of the equation is much more difficult to capture because it includes eaters, which one way or another includes all of us. But even with such a big audience, figuring out how to reach everyone is a difficult task and one that we think about 12 months out of the year. Read on for some specific ways we are trying to reach far and wide in our work!
During the past few months, we’ve continued some important work to reach a younger audience in Seacoast area schools.
The saying “start them young” most certainly applies to building a community of people who understand and buy into a thriving local food system. One of our most recognizable programs, the Seacoast Area Mobile Market (SAMM), has been hitting the road in search of schools and classrooms willing to pilot new programming aimed at children. Our Education Coordinator, Celeste, has spent considerable time planning valuable programs to offer kids in a variety of classrooms. At the end of this past school year, she offered lessons as part of the Somersworth Farm to School program. She also continued our crEATe program which has proven to be a successful model that kids, parents, and teachers are excited about. Read more about these school programs in this recent blog post.
Outside of the classroom, we’ve gotten back to some of our favorite educational programming that has been more challenging to offer during most of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Education can be done in a variety of ways for people of all ages. In June, we provided an educational workshop at Fat Peach Farm in Madbury. This event gave participants the opportunity to tour the farm and get hands-on experience using a cob oven to make pizza on a lovely summer night. Farmers Jennifer and Micum had some fresh garden produce including beets, shallots, herbs, and figs (that’s right, figs from NH) ready for pizza toppings along with their handmade dough.
Being able to open people’s eyes to the possibilities of local food and farming is what these events are all about. Our goal is to give people a positive experience and inspire them to become more engaged with local food and farming in their day-to-day lives. This event at Fat Peach Farm has me dreaming about the future and a very exciting development for us this fall. We’ll be moving our office and operations to a renovated farmhouse at Tuckaway Farm in Lee. This location will put us front and center in the farming community and will enable us to offer more events and workshops than ever before…but more on that soon!
Another way we continue to widen our audience and support those both seasoned and new to eating and sourcing local food is with our annual local food guide, Seacoast Harvest.
In May, a team of amazing volunteers delivered 13,000 copies of Seacoast Harvest to dozens of distribution sites across the region. This is the highest number of copies we have ever printed of the guide since the very first edition in 2007. This free resource is used by thousands of people each year to find sources of locally grown food near their home or workplace. It continues to be one of the focal points in our strategy to introduce people to local food in the Seacoast region.
As you are reading this, someone is likely flipping through Seacoast Harvest for the first time in amazement at the local farms they did not know were right in their backyard! Thanks to our volunteers, all distribution sites received their delivery by mid-May, just in time for farmers’ market season.
Speaking of Farmers’ Markets, our very first season of operating the Durham, Dover, Exeter, and Portsmouth markets is well underway.
Being able to add these markets to our existing slate of programs creates a number of opportunities for us to enrich the local food system. A farmers’ market is nothing without its audience (customers) and what better way to grow the audience than to add interactive components. While we are still working hard on a successful transition of these markets from the Seacoast Growers Association, there are many additional components we’re working on:
~ Regularly scheduled Cooking Matters lessons for families. More info coming soon!
~ Activities and opportunities for kids to engage in topics around local food
~ Scheduling a local musician to perform at every market
~ Bringing in community nonprofit organizations such as Seacoast Outright and Players Ring Theatre to share their resources
~ Research and surveys to ensure markets are meeting the needs of all members of the community
~ Incorporating ways to make the cultural experience diverse and ensure culturally significant foods can be purchased at the markets
In doing all of this, we strive to offer the best possible farmers’ markets to our community and to set an example for other markets of what their potential can be. Having an audience that includes everyone means we have to continuously listen, plan, execute, and adapt—so please let us know if there is something you’d like to see!
The beauty of a robust local food system is that there’s always something for EVERYONE!
I hope you find the time this summer to get out there and enjoy all that our local food producers have to offer, trying new foods and experiences along the way. Here’s a few ideas below to get you started. Oh, and be sure to bring a friend or family member with you. They might be surprised to find so many things they won’t want to ever live without again!
Summer Local Food Ideas
- Pick your own fruit or flowers
- Attend a farm event such as Sunflower Festival at Coppal House Farm
- Ask farmers’ market vendors for new recipe idea or check out our Instagram for a growing repository of seasonal recipes
- Support sustainable fishing by trying some local seafood you haven’t had before
- Host a cookout with an all-local menu (including beverages!)
- Peruse Seacoast Harvest for even more ideas and places to visit!
- Volunteer or donate to help make more of this exciting work happen