This is one of those distractions….

 

I started this post Sunday, February 22nd, but never did finish it.


 

Right now, I don’t feel so great. My brain feels like it’s covered with fuzz. Moment to moment I continue to distract myself with something new. This is one of those distractions. So is the TV. Rechecking my emails. Brewing tea.

I have been hungry all day. I have been eating, and I have still been hungry all day. Hearty foods too, eggs and bacon, lots of avocado, tuna fish, a little rice, three salads, probably half a cup of some coconut derivative or another. There have been more foods, I think there may have been some chicken in there. So I have been eating all day, and all I feel is hungry. True hunger. The kind that squeezes your stomach.

The nutritionist I am working with said this today “keep up the great healing, it’s the only way to look at it.” Honestly, it really is the only way to look at it. If I think of this as a diet, I will fail. I have never been good at restricting my eating when I really want something (although cravings aren’t usually my thing.) But I have always been a good patient, the kind who follows the doctors orders as exactly as possible.

The first day I was knocked out by exhaustion – my boyfriend hadn’t been feeling well either, so there’s a good chance I was fighting something – and I decided to nap. That felt great until I woke up in such a rush to get food that I almost ran out of the house. I needed food that I could eat immediately, no delay. I ended up with sashimi from the Durham Market Place. Not ideal, but certainly acceptable in the throws of starvation. Or at least what my brain has started to perceive as starvation.

It’s hard, when you know there is something inside you tricking the part of your brain that runs your feelings, physical and emotional. The intelligent part of your brain wants you to shake yourself. IT IS NOT REAL. You want to scream at yourself. You are eating. You are not starving. You ate 10 minutes ago. You ate 20 minutes before that. There is no way you are starving. I promise you are not going to starve. 


Update February 23rd, 2015

I never did finish that blog post, but I also never gave in to temptation. I did eat all the remaining avocado and coconut butter/cream in the house. So today is dedicated to getting more work done, Trying, at least. And restocking my sad looking fridge.

Yesterday I had gained a couple pounds – a good thing. My guts are likely inflamed and irritated, and they aren’t absorbing the nutrients they should be. This morning I was right back where I started with my weight, I may have in fact lost a pound. Wild, considering I’ve been eating almost entirely fats and proteins for the last three days.

I was going to go to a new place that opened in town over the last few weeks for lunch, as they serve a rice bowl on their menu that I can actually eat. It even comes with kimchi. But, it’s closed on Mondays. This is probably the definition of a “first world problem.”

The quest to regain control over my health continues.

[I set the picture of nasturtiums because I love that photo, and I haven’t been focused enough to even photograph what I’ve been doing. I plan to photograph any recipes that act as lifesavers sooner than later.]

 

Time for a Change

You’re looking at the last loaf of bread I will have eaten for… a while.

It has been a very long time since I updated Local Courage. I have begun what I think can be accurately referred to as a “writing career.” I have been named editor of Edible Seacoast, something I couldn’t have imagined. I started Milk Thistle Media, and am finally building websites for farms, which was the original intent.

All these great things have happened, alongside some much harder events. But, I have successfully found my most comfortable place in the food world. I will always be a baker, a cook, and a server; it’s a part of who I am. But, I’m really a writer first, and one should contribute what they feel their community will most benefit from.

Unfortunately, food hasn’t been easy for me, for a really long time. I got into sushi as a kid not just because my parents were the cool kind who took their kids out to sushi, but also because I refused to eat a lot of the food at home; pork chops, gravy, and anything where savory mingled with sweet just a little too much. Hamburgers were alright from some places, but not other’s. I reviled turkey. I was a really hard kid to feed.

So my parents taught me how to cook. They were busy anyway, exhausted most of the time, I am sure. I wasn’t easy in a lot of ways. They taught me how to cook a simple pasta sauce, then chili, then stew, and curry. So once or twice a week I would cook for the family. On Sunday’s we would have Salmon. Life felt good. Sort of.

Actually, the reality was that life never felt all that great. My stomach, my attention, my exhaustion, my moods; none of those things were really that good. I was a happy kid, and not a particularly sick kid. But, I was a generally uncomfortable one.

This lasted into college, when I really had to cook for myself. This was also when I started to get sick more. My stomach gave me constant trouble and I researched and I read, and it sounded like my gut flora was imbalanced (a whole bunch of yeast was messing up all my good bacteria.) So I tried extremes. I attempted elimination diets just to ditch them 8 hours later and $100 poorer from my recently forgone food purchases. (It did not help that I lived around the corner from a health food store.)

Let’s skip ahead. I left college. I came back here, where my family was. I met a guy. We moved in together. I started working at Blue Moon Evolution where I began to learn that people generally felt sick, for a variety of reasons, many of which were food related. And it wasn’t a simple answer. I watched friends go gluten free, raw, and paleo, and I cringed and faltered, and stuffed my face with hummus, bread, and all the raw milk I could get my hands on.

I am not always a very happy person. I am late because I had to visit the bathroom too many times. I get anxious, and I get distracted. And combined with other symptoms and tests for years, I have finally been given a plan. No one quite knows what’s going on, but we’re going to try anyway.

I will start an elimination diet. It’s kind of a specific one, but I can tell you I can have meat, fermented veg, regular veg, coconut and avocado out the wazoo, and plenty of egg yolks. I also am encouraged to have a lot of Sea Salt. I should probably drink about 5x the amount of water I currently drink, and getting into a yoga routine again wouldn’t hurt, but those were left unsaid.

I can’t have sugar. That’s a rough one. I can’t have really any carbs but rice. When I think about this quickly I don’t get too worried. I don’t like sweets all that much… Then I think about popcorn, loaves of crusty bread that make lovely reuben sandwiches, tortilla chips…. it kind of hurts to think about, so I will stop.

Then there will be blood tests, and I’ll learn about what my body likes and doesn’t like. And it will be hard, and there will be a part of my brain kicking and screaming the whole time.

Here’s the thing, though……

really want to feel better. I’m not sure I actually know what good feels like. I can’t remember a time in my life when I felt good. Don’t get me wrong, I love food like almost nothing else; I love cooking it, I love tasting it, I love smelling it. I want to last at least the two weeks I’m supposed to on this diet. It’s not a completely impossible diet. And, if it means I feel better, believe me when I say I am in.

But I am BAD at diets or diet plans. Sometimes they’ve lasted a couple days, but that’s lucky.

Today marks the first day that I have stuck to the rules of what I am supposed to eat. I had a taco salad with no beans, no cheese, and no sour cream. Extra guac. I’ve eating and drank coconut in a variety of forms over the last four hours. And now I am going to cut open an avocado and eat it with a whole bunch of kraut.

I don’t care if anyone reads this, but I need to write it. Because, honestly, I won’t stick with this otherwise. I won’t know if I might actually feel better, because I won’t have given it a chance. I want to stick with it, and … I need to.

I want to know what it’s like to feel good.

brushing off the cobwebs

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It has been a while, old friend.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have been hiding from Local Courage. It is hard to put into words, but I know that I haven’t felt particularly courageous. A metaphorical tornado ripped through my life last fall, forcing me to relocate, find new work, and re-think how I was approaching my life.

I got a new home. It is very small, but the landlords are good people, and although Thom and I trip over one another’s things a little more than we would like, it serves its purpose. I have had to learn to be more organized and Thom has had to learn to be a little more tolerant, but slowly we have settled in.

I got a new job. It was not what I was expecting, and asked too much of me. So I got a different new job (or set of new jobs, rather), and now I work for a handful of the sweetest people I could ask for. I feel valued and safe, and although I am making strides as an independent entrepreneur, I feel like I have a series of families surrounding me.

That connection, those “families,” are really important to me at the moment. I have never lived close to family – I have aunts and uncles as far as Alaska, and no closer than Pennsylvania. My parents, as much as they love the Seacoast, have hit their own hardships and have plans to move closer to my dad’s family by the end of the summer. This has not been easy for me. I appreciate all the people who give me reasons to stay on the Seacoast.

I am still developing new perspective. I am writing more, and more and more. I am talking to as many people as I can. I am trying to see the world through the eyes of a helper and a doer, rather than a star or attraction.

 

My brain has been spinning like a top since November, and although it hasn’t slowed, it has developed a new sort of rhythm that I can use.

I do not want to abandon this blog, it has been a place of hope and reflection for me. It has granted me opportunities that I otherwise could not have asked for. But I do have to pose a question to readers:

Why do you follow Local Courage? What do you like about it? What do you want to see from Local Courage?

Ultimately, Local Courage is not about ME, it is about US. It was always meant to reflect a community from the eyes of one individual. So I need your help. I need to know where that community feels Local Courage fits.

 

a new year

It is well past the new year, and I haven’t written a single post. I have been writing, to a degree, but the blog has left me unsure. I have no strong feelings, one way or another, about exactly what my next step should be.

I have been reading a lot of blogs – David Lebovitz being my personal favorite at this time. They have made me realize I am not entirely sure what I am trying to say right now. At one point, I had a very clear picture of the message I intended to share with people. But I have pulled back, rethought, and feel I need to repurpose.

There are a few thoughts keeping me up at night:

  • Do people even care? I was talking to my boyfriend after he came home from grocery shopping. He told me a long story about how there were apples that were more expensive than all the other apples. The reason given by their sign was a big “made in the USA” label. But on closer inspection, all of the apples in the USA bin had little stickers with the word “CANADA” in bold print. In fact, most of the apples surrounding the falsely labeled apples were from New Hampshire, and were being sold for a much more reasonable price.

“I never would have cared until you started talking about all this stuff.” My                            boyfriend said. That touched me. But it also made me wonder if just maybe I                    have become somewhat of a nag. I’ve pulled back on the blog and in life.

  • Where am I headed? I love writing, and interviewing, but I am starting to realize, I have no ultimate goal. I think perhaps I should. I do know that my main fuel comes from a real belief that “We All Do Better When We All Do Better.” Thom and I found a print of this slogan when we were in Minnesota a few summers ago. We unintentionally planned our vacation the same week as an all night art happening. Whole blocks were shut down just for artists and performers to showcase their crazy stunts. There was a printing press that printed off original letterpress to give away every hour. We went back every hour, all night, for six hours straight. I think we still have most of them.

So I think about all these things, and ultimately what it comes down to is, while I like doing the recipe posts, I believe this blog should be meant to showcase more of the community. We should be supportive of our neighbors, for who else would be there for us when things get hard.

This has really hit home recently since our move. Thom and I are now living in Durham, in a sort of garret apartment, semi attached to the owner occupied house. I was really nervous at first, living so close to the people we rent from. I wanted to like them, and I hoped very much that they would like us.

They remind me of the neighbors I idealize. I am always happy to bring them little gifts, or things that I think they might like. They share with us their extra fresh produce from their CSA, and flowers that might bloom while they’re on vacation.

This is what Local Courage is about. It is about food, because that is what keeps us going. Food brings people together and fills people up with strength and good feelings. But more than food Local Courage is about people. Neighbors who are there for each other, and don’t think twice before generously giving a smile, a bit of their time, or a part of their lives.

So however this new year progresses, that will be the direction of Local Courage. People. Why we should care.

the last of the summer markets

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It’s fall. Fall in New England really means something. Apple cider, golden trees, crisp air, and lots of pumpkins. I like fall, despite being cold most of the time. I guess you have to give a little to get a little.

This last weekend I attended a garlic party. If you haven’t been to one, it’s worth it. A big group of friends and acquaintances of a farm – in this case The Blue Moon Evolution’s restaurant garden – get together and plant the next seasons garlic. For those who don’t know, the garlic you eat is the same garlic you plant. Apparently it’s very hard to plant garlic the wrong way.

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We gathered and planted, and then reconvened inside to eat – our payment for an afternoons work. It felt like community at it’s best. It made me think of reading about Barn Raisings over a hundred years ago. People really helped their neighbors, because ultimately they were helping themselves.

Today was the last Exeter Farmers Market, which I think I’ve previously named as my favorite local market. I feel like I know the vendors at the Exeter Market, and they’re all good friends now. I love other Seacoast Markets as well, but Exeter just happens to hold a special place for me.

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I didn’t get to go today, but back during the furlough I went and took pictures. Most of the farmers had opted to discount or donate free food to workers on furlough. I was so mad at the time about what the government was putting us through. I didn’t care whose fault it was – left or right. I was just furious. It didn’t seem fair. It didn’t seem like anyone in Washington really cared.

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So it made me really happy that the farmers, on their own fruition, decided to help those affected by the furlough. I started writing this blog because I realized small communities are going to save themselves. We are only able to hold ourselves accountable in these selfish times.

I’ve been helped by my farmer friends before. They know, to some extent, that hardship that touches upon my life. I’ve lost one job this year, and had an excruciating wait between two other jobs. The wait is showing itself to be well worth it – I really feel like my current job might be a dream for me – but it made an impact. The farmers took notice, and they were generous.

It’s been over six months since I started this blog and I thought it only appropriate to reflect on why I started it, and why I think it’s important to continue with it. The truth is, it takes courage to cook for yourself, to try new things, to make real food. But it also takes courage to meet new people, to let them into your lives, to be forthcoming about who you are. You can’t do that in a grocery store.

We need to start sustaining ourselves on a much smaller basis. It’s environmentally the right thing to do, it’s economically the right thing to do, and it’s emotionally the right thing to do. So as much as I am able I will keep writing about thoughts, farms, food, and reflections. There is a lot to say.

But most importantly, local farms shouldn’t be a novelty food source. They don’t treat their customers as anything less than real valuable people. We should be so generous.

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here’s looking at you, kid

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I have been taking an improptu hiatus from Local Courage this last month or so. The months of September and October were difficult in the Carlson/Call household. I do not want to delve into the gritty details, but I spent a fair amount of time bouncing from job to job and experiencing many changes. I did not handle these changes with grace. And so, I pulled back from the many projects in my life.

The blog was not something I initially wanted to pull myself away from. In fact, I really wanted to throw myself headlong into writing during my days off. I knew it would bring my a sense of satisfaction.

The truth is, however, Local Courage has started to evolve on my brain, and on paper, to something much greater than I anticipated. It wants to go in so many directions, I find myself constantly reigning it back in.

Read More »

potato leek soup

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“Delicious, fragrant, easy to make – that’s the abiding charm of the leek and potato soup family.” - Julia Child, The Way to Cook

Everyone needs the charm of potato leek soup this time of year. Need I expand further?

Potato Leek Soup (serves 6)

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You really only need potatoes, leeks, salt and water – everything else is just fancy. You can omit the extras and still enjoy a feast.

  • A generous glug of olive oil or the butter equivalent
  • 4-6 leeks, depending on size, slice and cleaned
  • A sprig of chopped lemon thyme, or regular thyme
  • Your favorite salt
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 1/4 lbs potatoes, preferably a baking variety, no need to bother with fingerlings. Peeled and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground white pepper
  • Creme Fraiche

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In a deep sauce pan sauté the leeks in the oil. When they start to get translucent and emit beautiful smells add the bay leaves, thyme and a generous sprinkle of salt. Let simmer for about a minute.

Add the water and the potatoes and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the potatoes have softened. Depending on the size of your potato chop, it may take 15 to 30 minutes for the potatoes to get soft.

Once the potatoes are easily sliced through with the dull edge of a fork, turn off the heat. Add in the white pepper and using either an immersion blender or a regular blender puree the soup. You may have to process in batches using a traditional blender. I don’t advise using a food processor because the soup tends to over thicken.

Serve immediately with a dollop of creme fraiche or chill for vichyssoises later. However you choose to enjoy, take this as an opportunity to relax.

 

it takes a market

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“They didn’t mention the farmer’s market!”

I swear it was my mom who cried this, not me. To give credit where credit is due, she was participating in CSAs and dragging me to markets long before I had any interest. But over the last year my passion for local food has become so fervent that anyone close to us might find it odd that she could get more indignant than myself over a farmer’s market.

Her outcry stemmed from the most recent travel review of Portsmouth, NH, done by the New York Times’ Ethan Gilsdorf. Mr. Gilsdorf fit a weekend worth of Portsmouth visits into a full page article titled “36 Hours – Portsmouth, N.H.” It was flattering, and accurate. He used the usual buzzwords to describe Portsmouth – historical, nautical, beer. He visited historic sites like Strawberry Banke and local landmarks such as The Press Room. He just didn’t mention the Portsmouth Farmer’s Market.

My mother’s point was valid. Presumably a tourist would be visiting the city of Portsmouth during the summertime, when the produce on the Seacoast is most vibrant. Was it too much to ask that he walk just past the main Portsmouth strip to the city offices, where the farmer’s market was set up?

My boyfriend Thom, ever the voice of reason when it comes to my local escapades, said that yes it was too much to ask. Mr. Gilsdorf was writing a piece about Portsmouth, not the greater Seacoast Area. I argued that Portsmouth is the Seacoast, just as much as Dover or Exeter, or Newmarket is for that matter. That Portsmouth is less of a city and more of a neighborhood. Just a part of a whole. Thom disagreed, saying people have done reviews of “The Seacoast.” That in fact Dover, Exeter, and Newmarket as just as much unique and individual as Portsmouth is. They support each other, but they are not the same place by any means.

At the very core the Seacoast towns do meld together, like any New England area. They were divided up from bigger ecosystems and cultures and greatly supported one another throughout time. This is why the Farmer’s Market might seem like such a significant oversight to someone like my mom. It will always be hard to mention one Seacoast town to a local without evoking the idea of another. The Farmer’s Markets represent this feeling.

For example, The New York Times’ article cited the Black Trumpet as a place to visit. Like all of my favorite restaurants in the Seacoast, the Black Trumpet literally draws from it’s local roots. These sorts of restaurants proudly source from local farms not as a marketing ploy, but because it’s the natural thing to do. The Seacoast has such a strong farming community it’s no surprise more locally sourced restaurants open every year, and flourish.

When talking to Thom, he made a very valid comment. It would be hard to include a farmer’s market in “36 Hours – Portsmouth, N.H.” because a farmer’s market is like it’s own city. The Portsmouth Farmer’s Market exemplifies more of my idea of the “part of a whole” than the city itself. Farmers come and congregate, each from a different place, to create a greater community. Markets develop personalities similar to that of a city. The Portsmouth FM is more of a reflection of the Seacoast Area than any one seacoast town.

In fact, during the summer, every day there’s a market driving distance from where I live with it’s own culture and value. Each one could be written about, vendor by vendor, like the 36 Hours column. There are many markets as vibrant as Portsmouth’s. You can shop for your whole week at a good market.

So, I am not offended that the Farmer’s Market wasn’t mentioned in the New York Times piece. But, the market culture should be mentioned by someone. You can learn more about the heart of an area by visiting it’s farmer’s market than by visiting a handful of stores or restaurants. Highlight your trip with the sightseeing and restaurant going, and understand the history through museums like Strawberry Banke. But you may never really understand where you are until you’ve visited the farmer’s market.

Newmarket Farmers Market

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“Are you a Newmarket girl?”

I get this question a lot from the locals. My answer is complicated – mostly because what they’re asking is complicated. They are sort of asking if I live here now. They are also sort of asking if I lived here as a child. They are sort of asking if I want to live here for the rest of my life.

They want to know if I am a part of the structure of Newmarket, a piece of it’s history and legacy. I am sorry to say that I am not. Not yet, at least. My grandparents didn’t live here. My name is nothing special. I don’t have any cousins, second or otherwise, in town. I moved here with my family when I was thirteen. My Newmarket legacy hasn’t even begun.

Newmarket is all about tradition and it’s personal history.

I do have the benefit of knowing the important family names in town. I did go to the middle school and high school. I’ve walked the same halls as the old women who want to know whether I’m really a “Newmarket girl” or if I just live here.

I have really tried to align myself with this town, because I love it here. It’s beautiful. The people are friendly and nosy and sweet. I want to be a “Newmarket girl” because being synonymous with this town is a wonderful thing. There are a lot of people who feel the same way, and I think you will find that they all agree on one thing.

Newmarket is a very special place.

It was about three weeks ago that my boyfriend, another Newmie-phile, pointed out that I’d never gone to the Newmarket farmers market.

“If you’re trying to promote local, you should really just go to the market in your town.

He had a valid point. About two weeks after that I was talking to Steve from Mildred’s Drumlin farm about doing a piece on his farm. We weren’t halfway in to our brief conversation when he said.

“You should come to the Newmarket Farmer’s Market. It’s not doing as well as it should. I think you should write about it.”

So I made a point to go because both men were right. Newmarket is my home, and thus the market is my market. It takes place every Saturday in the summer. I’m ashamed to say that I was a little taken in by the hustle and bustle of the Portsmouth Market. Prior to this summer I haven’t had a Saturday off in three years, but this year I’ve had no excuse. I just kind of forgot about the market happening right in my town. I wondered if that’s why it’s not doing as well as it should. Maybe everyone just forgot.

When I arrived to the market on Saturday I was immediately impressed – there was so much free parking. I’m used to scouring parking lots or getting to markets an hour early just to find a spot for my car. If Newmarket were a busy market, they would still have plenty of parking. You can park by the side of the building or across the street at the high school. It was awesome.

The market, admittedly, was small. But it wasn’t that small. I think I counted eight vendors and the market manager Rob Carpenter said that they usually had four more. There were only two true produce vendors, but they had the essentials – greens, potatoes, eggs, beans and garlic. Rob mentioned that they had lost two of their long-standing produce vendors this year to various life and business circumstances, and were actively seeking more. It seemed like a really welcoming place to have a stand, especially for newer farmers who want to try a market without sinking a lot of money into a booth in Portsmouth or Exeter.

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The two produce vendors, Mildred’s Drumlin Farm and The Root Seller were right in the front of the horseshoe shaped market. Steve from Mildred’s Drumlin, of Lee, NH was ever the gracious farmer, mellow and friendly. He had plenty of greens, potatoes, radishes, and other yummy locally grown bits. I was really impressed that he had duck eggs for sale, which are my favorite eggs to cook with. He explained that at the end off the week they sell the leftover eggs from their CSA, and duck is nearly always there. This alone has made Newmarket Farmer’s Market a staple for me now.

The Root Seller was also impressive to me. This family that farms is out of Nottingham, NH. They are exactly what they say – sellers of roots, beans, and maple syrup. I was especially excited to see the dried beans, which I’ve been keeping an eye out for at every market I have gone to this season. I also really liked that they had Grade B maple syrup. I find that Grade A to Grade B is like Skim to Whole milk for me. There is a lack of complexity in flavor in the Grade A, and you tend to get more out of Grade B. Maybe that’s why all the chefs that I know choose Grade B when they buy maple syrup.

The rest of the stands were either artisanal crafts or prepared food, but Thom and I took the time to visit every one. We were their around 11, when a steady influx of customers began milling about. However, I found that all the vendors were nice in a noticeably genuine way. The prices were incredibly fair, a few vendors admitting that at this particular market they sell using their wholesale prices.

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There were more vendors than I can write about in one post, considering the distinct personalities of each. Cracked An Egg Farm, a staple among Seacoast Markets, was the place to get a variety of different meat. There were a group of women who make jellies out of fruits and wines (I fell in love with their Earl Grey jelly,) Hickory Nut Farm sold finely crafted goat cheese, linens, honey, a potter who made beautiful functional wares, a few vendors sold soaps, a baker, a crepe maker, and  a couple that built birdhouses and beautiful jewelry boxes. What impressed me most was the balance of goods. It was clear that Rob Carpenter put a lot of thought into who was at the market.

I left feeling uplifted. This market really fit in the town of Newmarket. It was small, but personable. The vendors were outgoing, and it didn’t feel overly weighed down by one particular type of good. While there were fewer produce vendors than there could have been, I could tell that they were strong and seasoned.

But, you could tell in the conversations with the vendors that the market had been suffering. There weren’t as many people as in the previous years. This year in particular has been really rough on Saturdays – either raining or scorching hot. The Stone Church has also opened a Saturday Market, not a farmer’s market, that has thrown a lot of confusion into the mix.

I encourage you to support this market. It’s well established and close to most of the major Seacoast towns. Folks from out of town should take advantage of everything Newmarket has to offer. It has been expanding so much in the last several years. Strong new businesses have started growing downtown and in The Mill’s. There’s good food to eat, and the Newmarket Farmer’s Market is worth a visit.

Newmarket residents should learn to appreciate all of what the market at Carpenter’s Greenhouse is. After all – she’s a Newmarket Girl.

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The Newmarket Farmer’s Market takes place every Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm at Carpenter’s Ole English Greenhouse, 220 South Main St, Newmarket, NH. They are actively looking for more diversity and produce vendors, so spread the word and contact Rob Carpenter at newmarketfarmersmarket@gmail.com for more information.