Wilton may get food coop
WILTON – The Souhegan Valley Food Coop and the Wilton Main Street Association are teaming up to apply for a technical assistant grant to help them form a plan to revitalize downtown Wilton.
On Monday, Aug. 31, Sandy Lafleur and Michael Conley of the Food Coop and Alison Meltzer representing the WMSA, met with the board of Selectmen seeking a letter of support for the grant.
The coop, which is still being organized, has been registered with the State of New Hampshire and has a board of directors, Lafleur said. While they would love to be on Wilton Main Street, "the actual location has not yet been determined. The other possibility is Milford."
She said Milford farmer Tim O’Connell of Butternut Farm is their farmer advisor and a survey of between 15 and 20 local farmers has indicated strong support. Local farmers produce meat and eggs as well as fruits and vegetables.
O’Connell and Wilton farmer Tom Mitchell were founders of the Milford Farmers’ Market.
The coop would provide fresh produce to low income people through vouchers from the food pantry. It is supported by the Department of Agriculture, the state Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.
They also have the support of the Wilton Community Center, are working with Nashua Regional Planning Commission and are planning to meet with the local merchants.
Meltzer said if the grant is received, "it will help us locate and support" new tenants for Main Street. "We applied for the grant for Main Street in general, but we are looking at the bigger picture," all of Wilton.
Conley added, "We would use part of the grant to do a feasibility study. We don’t have Wilton connections, which is why we came to you."
A food coop is member-owned, Lafleur said.
"People pay a one-time membership and become owners. People are vested in the community. But anyone can buy there, you don’t have to be a member."
The goal is to have a store that sells fresh local products year-round to everyone. Members vote on the big decisions.
Coops also provide education about agriculture, she said, how to grow food, can and preserve it.
Asked about the local CSAs, community assisted agriculture, such as Four Corners Farm, Lafleur said they planned to work with them, not against them, and had talked with Four Corners. "It builds on itself. People eat more fresh food."
Small farmers frequently raise produce for its taste and nutrition, not shelf life, and offer a wider variety than supermarkets and typically use fewer pesticides. Buying local keeps money in the neighborhood.
The selectmen voted to provide the letter of support, which Chairman Rick Swanson will compose.
"When the time comes," he said, "come back and talk to us about what you need, tell us how the town can help."
Selectman Bill Condra advised them to meet with the Planning Board. "They are creating a brochure on how to start a business in Wilton."