Seacoast Area Mobile Market
Wallace, my tomato loving, Black Lab/Rottweiler mix, accompanied me to visit SAMM (Seacoast Area Mobile Market) at its Tuesday stop in Newmarket. He trotted excitedly over to the retrofitted blue shuttle bus, sniffing his way through the new baskets and bins of colorful eggplants, green beans, tomatoes, apples, cucumbers, (dusted in real-deal dirt!), peppers, beats, bunches of basil, onions, watermelons, cantaloupes and plastic containers of popcorn kernels.
Also showcased were bottles of honey and maple syrup, jam, parsley, dill, radishes, carrots, loafs of bread, heads of cabbage, jars of pickles and, kept fresh inside the bus’ freezers, meat and cage-free eggs. A team of four women moved about, setting up and pricing the locally-sourced produce, greeting visitors and giggling at Wallace’s chosen refuge from the end-of-August sun: the cool pavement under their check-out table.
SAMM launched this year on August 2 and ran until September 29. The program is the first of its kind in New Hampshire, serving the Seacoast region with fresh, local produce that spills out of the shuttle bus doors into a melting pot of the region’s finest offerings. The food-bearing vehicle aims to visit areas that “may lack farmers’ markets of their own, have high concentrations of low-income or at-risk residents, are designated as being at higher risk for food insecurity, or have a reportedly high number of residents with lack of access to consistent means of transportation,” as stated on Seacoast Eat Local’s website. The Healthy Food Fund from Harvard Pilgrim is the primary funder/grantor of the program and the vehicle itself was funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. SAMM is run and directed by Seacoast Eat Local.
By bringing produce to these designated stops chosen for their food need and wide accessibility, (the stop we visited was at the Lamprey Health Center, located in the middle of residential Newmarket and next to the town’s high school), Seacoast Eat Local is also supporting the growth of small agricultural businesses. Through bringing a little bit of everything the Seacoast soil has to offer closer to its residents, SAMM comes full circle, nourishing the community and feeding local farms with patronage.
In its first year on the road, SAMM created stops in Farmington, Milton, Rochester, Dover and Newmarket. And just as the nonprofit organization does at its farmers’ markets, SAMM accepts EBT/SNAP benefits. Celeste, former Board Member for Seacoast Eat Local and co-owner of 45 Market St. Bakery and Café in Somersworth, has also taken on the role of SAMM Coordinator. She speaks enthusiastically about the new program’s expansion in the future: “I think the word is out and many businesses will want to take advantage of providing this as a benefit to their employees through health incentive programs or a one-stop shopping opportunity for those unable to make it to a farmers’ market because of work schedules.”
On this particular day in August, customers flooded over. Wallace followed everyone around, begging with his soft eyes and irresistibly floppy ears for a taste of whatever they had piled in the crux of their forearm and elbow. I explored the bountiful options myself, half regretting having brought him as he considered, then attempted, to lick the red and brown potatoes. I chose two apples, a cucumber, an onion, two of the almostlapped potatoes and a loaf of bread. Having felt our trip a success, Wallace and I packed our things into the car and headed home, excited about the many possibilities dinner now offered.
To track SAMM’s stops next season, follow the van’s Instagram, @SAMMVAN, or visit the van’s webpage “Shop With SAMM” at seacoasteatlocal.org/shop-samm/