After proclaiming Sept. 2 as New Hampshire Apple Day, Gov. Maggie Hassan plucked the ceremonial first apple of the 2015 harvest season from a fruit-laden tree in one of Mack’s Apples’ scenic orchards on Pillsbury Road.
Mack’s Apples is also known as Moose Hill Orchards.
“From 1732 to now, generation after generation of the Mack family stewarded this wonderful farm, which is so important, like all our farms, to not only agriculture and our economy, but to our environment and to our culture – to who we really are as a people,” Hassan said.
New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill said it’s “incredibly important” to the State for the tradition of generational transfer of farms, as well as the State’s longstanding tradition of agritourism, to continue.
“Early farmers in New Hampshire took in summer guests from the city as early as the 1800s,” she said, noting the importance of having a place for families to connect with nature and their source of food. “The more opportunity our children have to visit, to live and to work on farms, the better. They learn so much from connecting with the land.”
Hassan said people come from throughout New England to visit New Hampshire farms during the apple harvest season.
“It’s a really important piece of who we are, and we farm in New Hampshire in ways that are unique and important to our outdoor economy, as well as to our agricultural economy,” she said.
New Hampshire Apple Day coincided with the seventh annual New England Apple Day, which was established to remind people of the beginning of harvest season at local apple orchards.
With nearly 150 apple growers in the State generating sales of nearly $11 million annually for the New Hampshire economy, and participating in a variety of conservation efforts and renewable energy projects that advance agricultural research and education, protect the environment and maintain the Granite State’s working landscape, Hassan said in her proclamation that New Hampshire apple and tree fruit growers contribute to the local, state and national economies, enhance the quality of life for citizens and add to the beauty of the Granite State.
As good stewards of the land, New Hampshire growers were the original environmentalists, according to Jim Bair, President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Apple Association.
“Every apple here is the result of eight to 10 visits by a bee. If farmers are not good stewards of the land, the bees wouldn’t be here,” he said.
As growers have become more efficient, farms have had to adjust to a decrease in demand by attracting agritourism, according to Bair.
“It doesn’t take as many growers to produce all the apples New England needs. One way of trying to help themselves is farmers are not just providing the apples wholesale, but they are offering the experience of seeing where food is grown,” he said.
Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce President Will Stewart said they are working with local officials toward the creation of a Tourism Committee in Londonderry, which would focus on the Town’s assets, as well as bolstering agritourism.
“The initial benefit of agritourism is to the farmers and farmstands, but it ripples out from there,” he said. “If you’re stopping to buy apples, some of those products are being taxed. And driving to and from the interstate, people may stop for gas or at a convenience store, even if it’s only for a bottle of water. All that money stays in the local economy.”
Recently, the Town Council directed the Master Plan Implementation Committee to focus on speaking with local farmers about ways they can promote agritourism in Londonderry.
Like Hassan’s New Hampshire Apple Day proclamation, Bair encourages people to head to their local farm to pick apples this fall.
“There are 700 varieties of apples, and they’re evolving constantly. Some varieties go back 200 years,” he said. “Only apples have this broad appeal. There’s an apple for every palate.”
Andy Mack Jr. of Mack’s Apples thanked Hassan and the other officials for their support of local growers and farms.
“With wise leadership and continued support, we can continue doing something near and dear to our hearts,” he said. “This is very special.”