TILTON - The Granite State's agricultural sector, which added 255 farms between 2007 and 2012, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture, and now boasts more than 70 summertime farmers' markets, got another piece of good news when Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill that creates the first New Hampshire farm-to-table program.
While attending the Tilton Farmers' Market on Friday at the Tanger Outlet Mall, Hassan proclaimed the week of August 3-9 as the 15th annual New Hampshire Farmers' Market Week as well as proclaiming the month of August as New Hampshire Eat Local Month.
Hassan then signed Senate Bill 141.
Known as "An act establishing the Granite State farm to plate program," SB141 states that it is the policy of the state to "encourage and support local food producers, farming, and fisheries, including businesses engaged in agriculture, the raising and care of livestock, dairy, fishing, foraging, and aquaculture, agritourism, horticulture, orchard management, maple syrup production and the associated local and regional businesses that process, purchase, distribute, and sell such food throughout the state."
State agencies, the new law says, "shall strive for interagency cooperation as well as cooperation with public and private entities to foster local, state and regional food systems that adhere to the Granite State farm to plate principles."
Those principles recognize that "Agriculture in New Hampshire represents a vital part of both the state's rural and urban economies and the larger food systems that connect it with the state's local and regional economies and the public;" that consumer demand, both public and private, "for locally grown and produced food is growing and deserves support from the state and state agencies; "and that support of local food economies is "vital to public health of our residents and to the viability and livability of our communities."
Additionally, the farm-to-plate program increases access to healthy foods which help to decrease hunger as well as diseases from eating unhealthy foods; and "removes obstacles and excessive financial burdens to farms and associated businesses, including farmers' markets, cooperatives, food hubs, fisheries, and processing centers."
NH Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill, who joined the governor at the Tilton Farmers Market, told the audience who turned out for the SB141 signing ceremony and the twin proclamations by Hassan, that with some 100 farmers' markets in New Hampshire - 70 in the summer and 30 in the winter - there was "no excuse" for not getting farm-raised food.