By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — You say potato, they say it’s almost official.
The white potato is nearing the finish line to become the state’s official vegetable. That makes students at Derry Village Elementary School very happy.
Students in Amy Landry’s fourth-grade class were thrilled to learn that legislation to make the potato New Hampshire’s official state vegetable was heading for the governor’s desk.
Last week, the Senate passed House Bill 535 on a voice vote, putting the potato one step closer to being tops in the state. The bill was sponsored by a group of Derry lawmakers on behalf of Derry Village students.
The House already passed the bill in February. It’s now up toGov. Maggie Hassan to sign it into law.
Rep. John O’Connor, R-Derry, told lawmakers research by Derry Village fourth-graders showed Derry is where the first white potato was grown in North America.
“It has been confirmed that Rev. James MacGregor brought a sack of seed potatoes and planted them in 1719 in an area called Nutfield, now known as Derry,” O’Connor said.
Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, was also a big part in moving the bill along.
“I am extremely pleased with the passing of HB 535 and for the opportunity to support the efforts of my fourth-grade Derry Village School students, who are learning how government works and have the unique opportunity to participate in the legislative process here in the great state of New Hampshire,” Rausch said.
Landry said about 85 students in the fourth and fifth grades had worked on the project over two years.
They got the idea at the Statehouse two years ago when they took a tour and a guide told them about another class trying to pass a bill establishing a state color.
The students wanted to make their own effort at establishing a state symbol and settled on the white potato, which they decided was part of the history of America, New Hampshire and Derry.
O’Connor then visited Derry Village classes to explain the state law process to students.
Classrooms are now buzzing with potato talk.
“I think it’s exciting,” 10-year-old Tiffany Snipes said. “I think it’s great that Derry Village School fourth-graders figured out that we didn’t have a state vegetable.”
Brenna Kimball, 9, agreed.
“And the potato is the only vegetable I like,” she said.
Landry said taking the students to Concord helped them learn how bills are turned into laws.
“They learned the process, how long it takes and how tedious it sometimes it is to make a law,” Landry said.
Brenna said being at the Statehouse helped her understand how laws are created.
“It was a really cool process,” she said.
Landry pointed out the checklist hanging on the classroom door, where various legislative benchmarks of potato success were marked off. Only one more to go and that’s the official signature from the governor.
Representatives for the governor said she is ready to sign the bill into law. That might include inviting Derry Village students back to witness the event.
“Gov. Hassan believes that the civic engagement displayed by Derry’s students in their efforts to pass this legislation reflects the best traditions of New Hampshire,” communications director Marc Goldberg said. “She looks forward to having the students join her as she signs the bill into law.”
Staff writer John Toole contributed to this report.