Imagine…. in Gilmanton, New Hampshire…..
Imagine a cooperative market and agricultural center near the historic district of Gilmanton where local farmers bring their fresh produce and prepared foods to sell to the public year round, where local artists and artisans sell their products to the public.
If you are a Gilmanton farmer or market gardener, imagine being able to sell your products in every season when you have product in a place where people know where to find you, where we share the cost of advertising, sales, security, maintaining an attractive and appropriate facility. Imagine a place to exchange ideas, learn from your neighbors and mentor younger farmers.
If you are Gilmanton artisan, imagine a local, go-to place to feature and sell your products.
If you would love to serve and eat fresh local food, imagine a local market open year-round where you can buy good, healthy, locally-produced products, and even get to know and learn from local farmers, chefs, and artisans.
If you are proud of our local community, and want to see it go from strength to strength, imagine a cooperative market and agricultural center that will help us preserve, protect, and promote the agricultural core of our community, add to the appropriate commercial life of Gilmanton, and add to our opportunities to meet with each other, learn from each other, and have fun together.
This is our vision: Who we are and what we have been striving to do since 2016:
Gilmanton’s Own, Inc. (GOI) is a non-profit organization established to establish and oversee a cooperative market and agricultural center serving the Belknap/Merrimack Counties region to promote, enhance and encourage the interests of farming, agricultural resources and rural aspects of community life. The specific goals of the market and center are:
- To sell agriculture and artisanal products produced in the Belknap/Merrimack Counties region;
- To provide consumers in the region with year-round access to locally-produced agricultural and artisanal products;
- To give farmers a venue to share knowledge, learn, and develop their skills informally and through seminars and workshops, and to assist young people to enter the field of agriculture by offering educational experiences;
- To assist farmers and artisans to make beneficial connections with local organizations, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations;
- To be an educational center where people can learn about farming and its history in this community;
- To host and participate in farm festivals and other community events that celebrate local agriculture, artisanal production, and offer farm to table meals;
- To provide farmers with a visible presence, voice, and outlet to keep farming viable and vibrant in our community.
A little history
In 2016 a group of Gilmanton, NH farmers, chefs, and others held the “Taste of Gilmanton,” a “farm to table” event serving dishes featuring local ingredients grown on Gilmanton farms. The event, attended by roughly 70 people, was a great success. That first event, presented in conjunction with on recently-launched ongoing community function, the Scriven Arts Colony, provoked a growing interest not just in holding similar community events, but in developing an enduring connections and structure to support and promote local agriculture and agriculture-related artisans.
A core group of eight people engaged in an intensive period of envisioning the future. Very quickly they settled on a dream of a central location where Gilmanton farmers could promote and sell their products year round, providing a needed market for local produce for the people of the region; and where they could create useful, productive connections among farmers, artisans, and consumers for the benefit of all.
By early 2017 we had formed the foundation of Gilmanton’s Own, Inc., defined the mission discussed below, organized themselves into a Board of Directors, applied for non-profit status, began to identify and explore possible sites, applied for grants, and reached out to the wider Gilmanton community. We established a social media presence to aid their outreach efforts. In late winter they held a first official Gilmanton’s Own, Inc. event featuring farm-to-table food for the purpose of public discussion with a wider group. It was a tremendous success, with 45 people attending, representing at least 12 local farms, with universal expressions of interest, and many people offering concrete help.
In the fall of 2017 we started a first pilot Gilmanton’s Own Market at the Four Corners Brick House in Gilmanton.
In February, 2018, the IRS gave us final approval as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. This recognizes that our mission is to support our community, agriculture, farmers, and artisans.
In April, 2018 we opened in the Old Fire House at Gilmanton Corners, and had a very successful market season through the end of December. Farmers, artisans, and artists from throughout the Belknap/Merrimack counties region sold their goods through the Market. New customers became acquainted with the Market every week, and scores of people became old friends very quickly.
In 2019 we established a new partnership at the Four Corners Brick House Antique Store, renting an improved facility for our purposes with great synergies between the two businesses.
In 2020 Gilmanton’s Own opened for its second successive season in the new Brick House space. The Board invested in shelving and other infrastructure to improve the shopping and selling experience. It expanded the products we had in the Market, including adding more prepared foods.
Facing the challenged of the Covid pandemic, the Board placed the protection of the health and safety of our volunteers, vendors, and the whole community at the core of our operations — the purpose of GOI, after all, is to serve the community. Within a couple of weeks Gilmanton’s Own created an online platform for customers to pre-order and pre-pay, then pick up their purchases curbside and contactless twice a week. Eventually, as it appeared that the pandemic was relatively under control in NH we opened the Market first one day a week, then twice for in-person shopping, but observing all recommended Covid protections: hand sanitizing stations, masks required, no more than 3 customers in the Market at a time, volunteers sanitized their hands when they handled money or objects customers handled. We all missed having more contact, but health and safety are crucial. In the end the Market was very successful.
The owners sold the Brick House in late 2020. The Antique Store and Market will be gone, and the building will become a private residence. Gilmanton’s Own plans to live on, searching for a new facility.
Gilmanton is clearly ready for this.
This is a healthy community with a population of about 3,800 that swells in the summer as its ambience, beauty, and pristine lakes attract summer residents. Unlike many rural communities, Gilmanton has experienced growth, not decline.
There are an estimated 45 farms just in Gilmanton alone, with indications that that number is potentially growing. But we serve the two-county area. These farms, together, produce a diverse range of products such as vegetables, fruit, garlic, flowers, maple syrup, honey, meat, poultry, dairy products, and wool plus prepared food products ranging from jams and mustards to soda and home-baked breads and other goods.
We have had a successful beginning, but we have much further to go, and bigger plans
The Market has been running in the black, but we are still dependent on volunteer labor. To be sustainable, we must grow the Market revenues enough to be able to hire people to staff the market.
We want to reach all of our community members, so we have made sure we can accept EBT payments.
We have hosted wonderful “Taste of Gilmanton” events, with farm-to-table food. Although these events are fund-raisers for the Market, their other main purpose is to help create community.
We are thrilled to cooperate with many community events and partners engaged in good work for our community.
We believe the Market has an important role to play in education and community development. We are beginning to facilitate farmer-to-farmer connections to benefit us all, especially young and new farmers. We work hard in the Market to advise and educate community members about creative, nutritious, and delicious ways to use locally-grown food. We have plans to work with young people in this area, to connect farmers, artisans, and school students.
We need your help to accomplish all of this. Here’s how:
- Shop at Gilmanton’s Own Market
- Make suggestions for improvements
- If you are a farmer, artisan or artist in the Belknap/Merrimack County region, consider selling your products in the Market
- Volunteer! Working in the Market is a great way to meet people and get to know our community. We would also love to involve people with skills in accounting, good business practices, grant-writing, and people who can help with legal advice.
- If you are a farmer, artisan, or artist who would like to serve as a mentor to people just starting out, contact us: we can help you make good partnerships.
- Please support us financially. Only with your philanthropic help will we be able to become sustainable. This is a nonprofit organization — a recognized 501(c)3 . That means that your contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. See our donation page for more information, or contact us directly.