North Country Marketplace
“My family had a dairy farm in Colebrook from 1970 to 1984,” says Beverly White (formerly known as Beverly Smith). During that time, Colebrook, a small town with a population just peaking over 2,000 and part of the region known as the North Country, had many small family farms, including dairy farms. But due to some government buyouts and lack of generational upkeep, many of these dairy farms were sold or fell off. The Smith farm fell into the later category. “It was a great way of life but not an easy one,” says Bev, sharing that she and her three siblings wanted something different for themselves.
In 2012, Bev’s search for purpose to share in her role as mother actualized into North Country Marketplace.
To say that North Country Marketplace is a melting pot of produce from the region’s farms would sound cliche—and also completely accurate. From her location at 112 Main Street, Bev has created an indoor farmstand where local farmers can sell their produce year-round without having to interrupt their daily harvests, fruitages, and cultivations.
Not only does Bev—the friendly marketplace keeper, human “messageboard” and advocate for all things local—bring farm culture into her shop; she sends it back out into the community by working with and supporting the Farm-to-School Beacon Community Project funded by UNH. Currently, Colebrook is one of three towns chosen to participate in the pilot project, along with Nashua and Somersworth, in an attempt to move innovative farm-to-school practices forward in the state. Bev also works with local restaurants to help connect them with area farms so they can source their ingredients locally. One of these restaurants is Colebrook’s very own Parsons Street.
“Bev deserves a lot of kudos for her work and influence in the community to not only provide a great space and product for locally grown foods, but also for serving as an unselfish advocate to connect businesses with product,” says Linda White, co-owner of Parsons Street. “Although my husband John and I understood that opening our restaurant in the middle of February limited our opportunity to utilize many of the local farmers right away, our chef contacted each one on the list that Bev helped us compile. He was able to meet a number in person to talk about their products and potential for our spring, summer and fall menus,” she says.
Linda says their chef, “who most recently haled from Breckenridge, Colorado, was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of local small farms and product in New Hampshire, ranging from vegetables, herbs, and maple syrup, to buffalo, elk, beefalo, and local cheeses.” She adds that it’s been wonderful seeing the multiplying effect of keeping Parsons Street’s dollars local, along with supporting their friends and neighbors, who have also become their customers.
Not wanting to leave anyone out, Bev stresses that she works with over a dozen other area farms and over 30 vendors, including local artisans who sell things like aprons and soaps in her marketplace. A list of farmers, growers and local producers, along with the Marketplace’s products can be viewed on her website, northcountrymarketplace.com.
Bev’s top seller, though, is eggs. “We say that was a draw, because eggs are a staple in most people’s homes” she says.
Area farms are also producing “tons of vegetables and meats,” says Bev, who hopes to inspire people to start growing their own produce.
One product that Bev would like to add to her marketplace hinges on her past. Today, local dairy is unavailable as a retail product in the North Country, despite there being a few dairy farms left in the region. Some of these dairy farms have contracts with large milk companies such as Agri-Mark and Organic Valley. In order for these dairy farms to sell their milk locally, they need a nearby bottling system.
Currently, Bev is working with David White from WREN (nephew of Linda and John White of Parsons Street) to try to start a dairy in the North Country region so milk can be bottled, bought and sold locally. “I hear so many customers coming in and wanting local dairy products that I truly believe it’s the next piece destined to come. It will be a great thing for the person(s) who jumps on it and for the community,” says Bev.
In addition to her plans to make dairy products available locally, Bev is looking forward to the shift in culture she’s starting to see happen as more folks move to the area for its camaraderie and community. She sees this as a true comeback for small farms and hopes to create a ripple effect with local food education, the health benefits eating locally can have, and its positive impact on the community.
“The way the world is today, with people realizing they want to come back to a simpler, quieter, more self-sustained lifestyle, that’s the direction things are moving towards. Vegetable and protein growers may not make a million bucks but they’re doing it because their heart and soul is in it and because they want it, not only for themselves, but for others. It’s a commitment they believe in.”