, Derry, New Hampshire

December 20, 2012

Local lawmaker wants potato named state vegetable

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — Call it mashed, scalloped, baked or french fried.

The potato soon also may be called the state vegetable of New Hampshire if one Derry representative has his way.

Rep. John O’Connor is on a mission to make the starchy spud the state’s top vegetable and has crafted official legislation to make it happen.

With local history supporting the notion that the first potato got its start here in Derry, O’Connor thinks it’s time to celebrate and make it official.

He is enlisting the help of fourth-graders at Derry Village Elementary School. He visited the school last week to give an update of how the potato bill will be voted on and when it might become state law.

The state already has many official things including a state dog (Chinook), state amphibian (spotted newt), state beverage (apple cider), and state fruit (pumpkin).

Idaho already give the potato official status as that state’s top vegetable.

Having the potato join New Hampshire’s list would be good for the state, O’Connor said.

“All the representatives in Derry, along with Sen. Jim Rausch, are supporting the bill,” he said. “Even I didn’t know we did not have a state vegetable.”

O’Connor said town historian Richard Holmes is helping with the potato mission.

According to Holmes’ book “Nutfield Rambles,” the potato was famous in these parts.

There have been other attempts to make it more official. Those earlier efforts included a committee, The National Potato Shrine Committee, working in the 1960s to erect an official “ode to the potato” shrine in town.

That plywood shrine took hold in 1962 and was erected on Main Street. A ceremony was attended by state dignitaries and members of the Maine and New Hampshire Potato Growers Association, Holmes noted in his book.

After the ceremony, a luncheon was enjoyed by all, catered by the now defunct Granite State Potato Chip Company of Salem.

“The potato shrine of Derry remained standing for the next 30 years,” Holmes said. “Eventually, it fell over and was never righted and has since been lost.”

A state historical marker standing in East Derry does give credit to the town for the first potato grown in America.

O’Connor told students the potato bill would have to be approved by both the state House and Senate before heading to the governor’s desk for a final signature.

Then, it would be official.

“I’m really excited to do this,” O’Connor said. “And once it’s done, we’ll have french fries.”

Lindsey Devoe, 9, said she loves to eat potatoes and the designation would be good.

“I think it’s very cool,” she said.

Kiley Coupal, 9, also supports making the potato New Hampshire’s state vegetable.

“My favorite way to eat them is mashed,” she said.

Derry Village students were scheduled to visit O’Connor at the Statehouse this week to learn more about laws and how they are made.

Students in Derry traditionally visit Concord as part of their studies on state government.