Highlights from the Network: An Interview with Helen Brody

Erin Allgood

Helen Brody is an author, president of NH Farms Network, and friend of the NH Food Alliance. Her latest book, NH Women Farmers: Pioneers of the Local Food Movement, was released earlier this month and shares stories of women farmers and farm supporters throughout the Granite State. The book also features beautiful photographs from Leslie Tuttle.

Erin Allgood, project coordinator for the NH Food Alliance, recently caught up with Helen to ask her what inspired her to write the book and learn more about the NH Farms Network.

From Farm to Kitchen

Helen has been a NH resident for over 15 years. One day, when she was talking to a friend about the differences between VT and NH farms, Helen realized that NH farmers were missing out from learning from one another. She decided to write a book to highlight the stories and recipes of NH farmers. In 2004, New Hampshire: From Farm to Kitchen was published. 

NH Farms Network

There are over 4,300 farms in NH, however, From Farm to Kitchen could only reasonably feature 30 farms. Looking for a way to share more farm stories, Helen built the website that became the NH Farms Network (NHFN) initially as a hobby.

Since its inception in 2008, NHFN has grown into a full-fledged 501C3 non-profit organization. The site serves as a database of NH farms, an educational resource, and a place to share the stories that underscore the unique characteristics of NH farmers. NHFN has a board of directors as well as professional and student writers who contribute to the site.

NH Women Farmers

NH Women Farmers: Pioneers in the Local Food Movement came as a natural follow-up to From Farm to Kitchen and the NHFN website. As Helen was gathering information for her first book, she would visit farmers markets and she started to notice a pattern. Women were doing the selling, writing the recipes, and providing that crucial connection between farm and customer. This pattern persisted as she continued to gather stories for the NHFN website. "Women play an unsung role on the farm", Helen says. The book spotlights a a couple different farmers in each heading, 17 in total. The topics range from women who are the face of the farm, to women coming up with creative new marketing ideas for local food, to preserving the working landscape of farms.

Even beyond the farm, Helen knew that there were many other women working in support roles, helping to keep NH farms going off the field. In a section titled, "Off the Farm Support", Helen calls attention to women like Sara Zoe Patterson of Seacoast Eat Local or Gail McWilliam-Jellie of the NH Department of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, to name a few, whose work directly benefits NH farmers in myriad ways.

The book is also beautifully illustrated with stunning photos taken by Leslie Tuttle. During our conversation, it was clear that Helen had a tremendous amount of respect for Leslie and her work. The book is a beautiful celebration of the Granite State women making a difference in the agricultural sector and is a testament to the dedication of both Helen and Leslie to honor the women who grow, or support the production of, food in NH.

Next Steps

NHFN recently received a grant from the Byrne Foundation of Hanover, NH, for $20,000. The grant will be used to broaden outreach throughout the state by working with other organizations that support the mission of the organization.

Now that she has a solid crew of writers and a full-time editor, Helen is looking to go "full-force" into conservation efforts with NHFN. She is working with Ian McSweeney of the Russell Farm and Forest Conservation Foundation to ensure that farmland is available and affordable for future generations.

Get a Copy of NH Women Farmers

A portion of the proceeds from the book go to furthering the mission of NH Farms Network. Click to learn more and order your own copy.