Publisher's Note: Back to the land
By Jeff Rapsis
When I was growing up (not that long ago) in Nashua, my parents raised chickens in our backyard. I have a photo on my desk of my older brother and me as little kids standing inside the coop while chickens roam freely outside. So not only did the chickens provide eggs, but the coop doubled as a low-budget form of daycare.
This was in a yard, mind you, that was part of a densely built-up inner-city neighborhood. And it wasn’t really that unusual for families to have animals — not just a dog or a cat, but chickens or a pig or other producing stock. Also, each spring my dad planted rows of corn in the backyard, and other vegetables, too.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was witnessing the last gasp of a way of life that was once quite common in New Hampshire but has now pretty much disappeared from this part of the state. Simply put, we were once much closer to the land.
I’m a good example of how things have evolved. Today, I have a house on a two-acre lot in Bedford, and all that my property produces is crabgrass and dog poop. Not much of a market for either of those.
And yes, farmers’ markets are sprouting up in virtually every town in our area, but the fact is that people in New Hampshire now get most of our groceries from big chain supermarkets, who procure them from an increasingly centralized food system, where volume keeps prices low — for now.
The problem with this is two-fold. First, fewer suppliers in the market means we’re increasingly vulnerable to problems such as contamination. (Remember the spinach scare?)
Secondly, the cost of transporting this food great distances (not just financial but environmental) is likely to rise substantially in the near future. And with so few suppliers and a limited ability to grow our own, we’re all vulnerable to higher food prices.
Meanwhile, in my lifetime, southern New Hampshire has seen some of its best farmland transformed into housing lots. Someday we’re going to shake our head at this and ask, “What were they thinking?”
For now, the best thing to do is to check out some of the great places listed in this week’s Hippo that offer seasonal food grown right here.
• Lawsuit update: You might have read about how our company was recently taken to court by a fledgling magazine firm that sued us for trademark infringement. At issue was Manchester Express Magazine, which we launched in August. The other company claimed it was too similar to their own “Manchester Magazine,” the first issue of which came out last month.
This week a judge in Hillsborough County Superior Court denied their request for an injunction to stop us from publishing. In his eight-page order, Judge James J. Barry also said they had little likelihood of prevailing on their claims, and that it was also unlikely they could even trademark a geographic term such as Manchester.
We’re pleased that the court upheld our right to publish and do business as we see fit. And we hope our competitors now understand that the proper place for their energies is in the marketplace, not in the courtroom.