Cheshire County hopes to encourage ‘local heroes’April 2, 2012 No Comments
WESTMORELAND, N.H. – in this age of environmental consciousness, recycling is the way to go. it keeps the air breathable and the water drinkable.And in terms of local economics, it’s the recycling of dollars that keeps things alive
With this in mind, Cheshire County has been looking for food, farming or forestry businesses and organizations that are interested in starting or expanding to the southwestern corner of the state. According to District Manager Amanda Costello, the county is in the preliminary stages of determining if there is any interest in the proposed Cheshire County Commons Farm and Food Hub.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food hub as “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.”
Costello said the idea is to get agricultural companies to move into the spot in Westmoreland that once held a correctional facility. Once the facility was moved to Keene in 2010, it was no longer practical to use inmate labor at the county farm and its dairy herd was sold.
“There was strong support for maintaining vital agricultural use of these resources,” Lorraine S. Merrill, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, wrote in the Weekly Market Bulletin in February. “Proposals for leasing the farm were invited, and last spring county officials leased the farm and dairy facility to a young family.”
That young family is the Briggs, which operates Bo-Riggs Cattle Company in Sullivan. Having run their black Angus business for a while, Dale and Tiffany Briggs wanted to pursue dairy farming. they purchased bred heifers and are now milking 30 young Holsteins with a goal of filling all of the facility’s 62 stalls.
Merrill wrote that the site – where the Maplewood Nursing Home, assisted-living apartments, old jail facility and former county farm land are located – consists of several hundred acres of actively managed woodland, 52 acres of prime farmland soils, nature trails, and more than a mile of Connecticut River frontage.
A year-long study by the Monadnock Conservancy, Land For good and the Cheshire County Conservation District resulted in an attempt to develop the Cheshire County Commons Farm and Food Hub, which Merrill said aims “to support entrepreneurs and collectively strengthen and advance the agricultural sector of the region.”
The old Cheshire County Farm and complex is 13 miles west of downtown Keene, 12 miles from downtown Brattleboro, Vt., and 10 minutes from Interstate 91.
Merrill said the former jail will be redeveloped as a modern facility that offers a conference room, classroom, food processing and storage area, loading dock and office space to businesses and organizations.
Costello said that six forums have been held to ask community members what they would like to see done with the land. the overwhelming answer, she said, was to do something agricultural in a sort of public-private partnership.
She said the facility is 35,000-square-feet in size.
Merrill wrote that the vision is for the hub to bring together government, organizations and businesses, mutually supportive to promote innovation, profitability and long-term sustainability.
“We’ve just seen phenomenal growth in the demand for locally grown and produced foods,” Commissioner Merrill said in a telephone interview on Monday. “They’re looking to make use of the natural resources they have.”
She added that it has been interesting to see a combination of factors – such as an increasing awareness of the value it provides to communities – result in regions all over New Hampshire increasing their demand for local grub.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.
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