Meet Our Members | November 2022
Meet Sarah Hansen, farmer at Kearsarge Gore Farm and co-owner of Warner Public Market.
Where are you from?
Sarah: I grew up right outside of Portland, Oregon. It was pretty suburban, but we had a big beautiful cedar tree in our backyard and even though that shaded most everything my parents still grew tomatoes and peppers in pots on the patio. The area I grew up in was definitely not agricultural, but looking back at my ancestors I’ve learned that I have three sets of great grandparents that were farmers. My grandparents all retained some of that calling as well. My mom’s father had a big garden and for many years threw a Corn Party where the whole family would come and eat the fresh corn he grew. My dad’s parents keep a huge garden and grow a few backyard vegetables for themselves, but my grandma’s dahlias always stole the show. It’s interesting to understand this ebb and flow of growing food in my own ancestry and compare that to what kinds of careers we’ve been told to go into and what we should prioritize learning.
How did you become involved with farming & food system work?
Sarah: My involvement in farming happened as a long, slow burn. I volunteered on our student farm in college, riding my bike over there after classes and doing a lot of weeding and grass removal (the land was an old turf studies farm). A lot of other students there were ag majors, but for some reason I had it in my head that I wasn’t cut out for that work (too much science, I’m secretly very lazy, etc.). I worked summers at a barley research project in college doing sample processing and a bit of field work for student research projects, but it still seemed like most parts of that work were best left to somebody more apt.
The real pivot for me happened when I decided to WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)....in New Hampshire…in February. My sweet tooth was calling and I wanted to go make maple syrup. The one farm I emailed to volunteer was Kearsarge Gore Farm. They said they could use the help so I spent a month here and they invited me to come back and work for the summer. I said yes. That was in 2013. And here we are. Turns out farming was for me.
How did Warner Public Market come to be? What community needs did you identify that drew you to this path?
Sarah: It was 2017 or 2018 and there was a building that had been largely vacant for some years on Warner’s Main Street. My partner Sam and I started talking with friends about how it would be the perfect place to sell local produce and art. There were six original owners of the market and we organized the business as a cooperative, each of us knowing there was no way we could do any part of this heavy lift without all the others.
We were inspired by creating the kind of place we would want in our town. This was a place that was welcoming, authentic, and provided interesting and delicious products. Locally, we looked to the success of Kearsarge Food Hub & Sweet Beet Market in Bradford and knew we could add to the local community-building momentum. Buying local (whether it be art, produce, whatever) has so many trickle down effects and we wanted to add to the vibrancy of Main Street Warner with another opportunity for our community to be able to keep their money in the local economy.
I have to say that Warner Public Market is really a community effort. Even when we started, none of us wanted to work there full time - we all loved our other jobs and committing to an unknown paycheck seemed like a leap. The idea was just that this thing needed to exist and that we would all put our energy and time and investment into making that place real for other people to enjoy. This is still basically the case with the market as all the owners and employees work a day or two a week and hold down regular full-time jobs. Between our incredible employees and lovely customers, the shop is thriving and we’re able to send more money each year back to farmers and creators in our community.
What keeps you motivated and dedicated to this transformative food system work?
Sarah: There are a lot of answers to this question, but what’s coming to mind right now is that we can use the lens of food and coming together in the act of growing and eating as a way to just get through some of the ways we think we’re so disconnected as a society. I think food, the way we grow it, and the way we treat and think of our land is at the crossroads of so many changes we can make in our communities. Food can be a great equalizer as it’s always something you can talk about at the dinner table. It strikes me that what most people want is what’s good for their kids and often that starts at a good meal. It seems like if we centered putting that meal on the table, that we’d be on a good path.
What are some of your favorite things that Warner Public Market sells? Any holiday gift suggestions?
Sarah: Ooooo. Our cheese selection is pretty darn good. We order mostly from NH cheesemakers like Abbott Hill Creamery and Brookford Farm so we’re getting really cool, local flavors (cheese? holiday gift?). I’ve also been digging working with Shara Vineyards and NOK Vino with their organic and/or natural wines. It feels like NH is just on the cusp of a wine revolution and I’m excited to see what happens in the next couple years (wine? holiday gift?). There’s so much. Fuzzy hats and vibrant produce and thick-cut pork chops and so many salamis and original artwork…it’s…you just have to come see.
We revived our rotating Tiny Gallery series this year and have about a 5’x6’ wall space where we show work from a local artist for about six weeks. I like seeing this fine art in the same room as sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. I’m actually the next artist so you can come see my silly, fun, cheap art project called ‘100 Blue Geese’ that’ll be up sometime before Nov 19th. All sales from my show will be used to purchase local food for the Warner Food Pantry (double your impact? holiday gift?).
How long have you been a member of NOFA-NH? Why did you become a member?
Sarah: I started going to the NOFA-NH Winter Conference I think the first winter I was here in NH. I felt like, when I started thinking that farming might be a thing I could see myself doing for the long term, that I should get to know a thing or two. It’s been both amazing and not-amazing to have my whole knowledge of farming come from just one farm, so the Winter Conferences really expanded my horizon to what was possible in NH and New England. It’s such an invaluable resource to be able to connect with farmers and growers and eaters who care about the same things that you do. Maybe it’s actually more than ‘care’, because this group is actively doing something to spread the impact and knowledge about local and organic foods.
Why is organic farming important to you?
Sarah: Choosing to grow organic means you’re thinking of your farm or garden as part of a system or a cycle that involves healthy and living soils, clean water, wildlife diversity, animal welfare, crop diversity, and so on. It’s yield and profits for sure, but organic adds a layer of care beyond those numbers. Aside from just looking at organic, for me right now there is an importance in knowing (within reason) where your food came from. As much as possible, buying food with one or two degrees of separation (maybe you don’t know the chicken farmer, but the person you’re buying from does) helps maintain and support the kind of farms and gardens you’d want to live next to (or bring your kids to run around in). There’s a lot for me wrapped up in organic and my diet doesn’t always reflect my ethics, but as much as possible I believe that shifting our growing to organic is not only possible but necessary as a community of growers as we work to lessen our human impact on this planet.
What do you hope for the future of our New Hampshire food system?
Sarah: I would like to see NH set goals to grow more of our own food and invest in attracting young farmers to our state. I love this state, but it seems like we have a long way to go to catch up with some of our neighbors in terms of making a better future for our next generation. There is a lot of incredible work being done just to network food system stakeholders so we can work to advocate for ways within this system that are actually working from the bottom up and not the top down. I’d like for NH officials to work with farms and others in the food system and fund programs that would help farms reduce their use of fossil fuels and implement changes that would help stem the tide of climate change.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking about getting involved in food system work?
Sarah: Now. is. the. time.
I see three or four job listings each week for jobs in every skill set (fieldwork, delivery driver, access manager, volunteer coordinator, bookkeeping, etc) with good businesses who need creative and bright people who want to make a difference. If a job isn’t your thing, there are so many volunteer opportunities (including local politics like your zoning board or economic development board) that would benefit from your perspective. If you’re looking for something in your life where you can make a real and tangible impact, the food system is for you!
And it’s not all just about farming. There are so many niches in this world that if you’re passionate about food and land and ecosystems and people and history, science, technology, marketing, small engine repair (please call me), really there is a huge field of work in the food system for whatever you dig.
How does NOFA-NH membership benefit you?
Sarah: My NOFA membership is something I do because I know it is a little bit of money that helps advocate for things I love. NOFA puts on an amazing CRAFT series so I can, from the comfort of my home, learn how other farmers in the state are thriving and problem solving. I get a discount to the Winter Conference (this year it’s The Art of Food and Farming?! Sign me up!!) which is always invigorating in frosty February. I also know that my membership gives power to a voice at our statehouse to advocate for the things I think are important for our food system. And also NOFA does some powerful work creating equity and access to local organic foods through their Share the Bounty and Farm Share Program. It’s like, I could buy a couple coffees or get all that good stuff? Invest in NOFA-NH, y'all.
How can the community best support the work of the Warner Public Market & Kearsarge Gore Farm? Do you have any upcoming events and/or markets that you want to share with us?
Sarah: Kearsarge Gore Farm will be at the Downtown Concord Winter Farmers Market every Saturday from 9-noon in Eagle Square in Concord. The market has a great spread of vendors with things that will surprise you in the cold winter times. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook for anecdotes @kearsargegorefarm and www.teamkgf.com. We invite you all to visit us in the sap house in March for Maple Month (it really is right around the corner)!
Warner Public Market is open every day except Monday so come check out what’s good. We have an eclectic local variety of produce, dairy, groceries, meats, bulk goods, sweets, artwork, knitwear, and household goods. It's really an astonishment that we fit it all in one storefront. We have a membership option if you want to support our work and get 5% off all your purchases. You can find us at www.warnerpublicmarket.com or on FB and IG at @warnerpublicmarket and sign up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date.
You can support both KGF and WPM on December 3rd for the Warner Hometown Holidays. KGF will be at the Warner Area Farmers Market in the Town Hall and there will be events up and down Main Street.
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