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Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: At Tap House Grille, it's literally farm-to-table

By CHRISTOPHER THOMPSON
August 18. 2018 8:12PM

Tap House Grille and Hip Peas Farm owner Dan Lagueux digs in the soil on his hands and knees to find potatoes ready to be picked and prepared. (CHRISTOPHER THOMPSON)



If you've ever ventured into New England's Tap House Grille in Hooksett, you probably realized very quickly that you found something unique. Founded in 2013 by husband and wife team Dan Lagueux and Valerie Vanasse, the restaurant has grown to become one of the most well known and successful restaurants in Greater Manchester.

Not only is everything on the menu made from scratch daily, you'll notice an immediate vibe that is hard to find in most restaurants.

You'll also pick up on the passion for service and excellence carried by every employee you encounter. New England's Tap House Grille (www.taphousenh.com) grew relatively quickly and now includes a large function room that can also expand the seating in the restaurant to accommodate the large following they've built over the years.

Dan and Valerie have taken their mission to provide a true farm-to-table restaurant experience to the next level by starting a farm, which they named Hip Peas Farm (hippeasfarm.com). In the summer of 2017, Dan and Valerie came across a special piece of property at 191 West River Road in Hooksett. Tucked between Route 3A and the banks of the Merrimack River sits a 5.5-acre lot with beautiful open fields and a farmhouse built in the mid-1800s. It's this location that helped turn their dream of having a farm to produce fruits and vegetables for their restaurant a reality.

Since they purchased the farm, the work they have done is breathtaking. I had the opportunity to tour the farm with Dan a few weeks ago and was blown away by the progress they have made in such a short period of time. The farmhouse has undergone substantial renovations and is now available to be rented through Airbnb. It won't be long before the sprawling property will be available for high-end events like weddings and corporate functions.

A year after they purchased the property, the farm is fully functional and includes an irrigation system for the rolling fields lush with countless types of fruits and vegetables. As we toured the property, Dan pointed out the potatoes, the various types of peppers, the lettuce, the tomatoes and the long list of other crops. They even have peach trees that were days away from being ready to pick.

What I found most impressive is how the farm is managed and run on a daily basis. They didn't hire people specifically for the farm. Instead, they gave that responsibility to the employees of New England's Tap House Grille. Employees who work at the restaurant also coordinate their schedules, so they spend part of their week working on the farm.

When I was there, several employees from the restaurant were on their hands and knees, working in the fields, preparing the soil and getting sections of the fields ready for the next round of crops to be planted. It was impressive to see, and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to see firsthand what farm to table truly means.

During our walk around the fields, Dan pointed out an area next to the farmhouse that he plans to turn into a large patio area for weddings. He mentioned the weeds that were growing there and that he needed to take care of them. I replied and said, "Well, a little weed killer will take care of that." Dan looked at me like I wasn't the sharpest tool on the farm and then explained that Hip Peas is a truly organic farm and no chemicals are allowed. They hold true to their mission in every way.

The Hip Peas Farm is barely a year old and is really just getting started. The work they are doing provides a valuable lesson, reminding us about the importance of farming and how it impacts our community.

Christopher Thompson (chris.thompson@talientaction.com) is the vice president of business development at Talient Action Group in Manchester and writes Closing the Deal weekly.


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