LONDONDERRY — The community’s rich orchards and farms were in the spotlight as the start of apple season got a big boost.
Gov. Chris Sununu paid a visit to Sunnycrest Farm on High Range Road to help honor the onset of the Granite State’s apple season and do the ceremonial “first pick” at the farm.
The governor was welcomed by Sunnycrest owner Dan Hicks and other family members and staff. After stopping in the farm’s market, he then traipsed up through the grassy paths between the trees to view the crop and get a taste.
Sunnycrest Farm has operated since 1943 and is nestled in a scenic spot with many farms and orchards dotting the landscape nearby.
Coming to Sunnycrest, Sununu said, shows how much the community honors its agriculture while also supporting economic growth.
“This town is booming and you have to keep the balance,” Sununu said. “You have a booming downtown here in Londonderry but have the small farms next door. A lot of places don’t have that.”
Hicks said the farm grows a lot of varieties of apples including the popular McIntosh, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp, and many more. There are also berries to pick, peaches, plums and even kiwi.
“I wish my Dad was here, he’d love this,” Hicks said.
Sununu said Londonderry shows an “incredible” balance between farms, open space and the strong growth seen in other parts of the community.
“It’s creating a way of life for folks, to have that balance is a tremendous model to doing it right,” he said, adding he thanked the Hicks family for all their generations of hard work to keep farms intact and viable amid modern development and progress.
Sununu added the Londonderry/Derry/Salem regions have strong leadership in place at the local level to create that relationship and balance between the past and what’s to come.
And farms are a big part of the success, not only growing and producing on the land, but also offering more specialized events and activities that help sustain the business.
“That economic piece really drives and incorporates with farms,” Sununu said. “A farm isn’t a two- or three-month-a-year thing, it’s year round, and all the better for the sustainable of agriculture around the state.”
Shawn Jasper, state Commissioner of Agriculture, said he was pleased to be in Londonderry for the start of apple season, noting that apples are a big success story when it comes to farming in New Hampshire.
“Apples are really important to the farming culture and history of New Hampshire,” Jasper said. “There are more than 150 orchards around the state, it’s important to tourism and a beautiful way to spend the day. It gets people connected to the farms.”
Jasper noted that apples provide about $10 million in sales every year, mostly through the “pick-your-own” offerings and sales directly from farms.
“And it keeps so much land open in the state of New Hampshire,” he said.
Bonne Cavanagh is Sunnycrest’s resident baker and has been whipping up homemade baked goods and treats for several years at Sunnycrest.
She was happy to welcome the governor to the farm and had baskets ready and filled with fruit squares and homemade cider doughnuts.
“To me, it’s showing how important it is just to see the farm,” she said.
Londonderry resident Al Lamson recalled his own upbringing on a family farm in Massachusetts where apple season was important for farm success while offering fun life lessons in the meantime.
“The ‘drops’ (apples), we would scoop them up and go to cider,” Lamson said, adding he was paid 10 cents a bushel to help with the chores as a young boy.
When he got older, he got a pay raise.
“Then it was 25 cents a bushel, big bucks,” Lamson said.
He added having Sununu visit Londonderry helped highlight the community’s agriculture and history.
“It’s a wonderful thing that agriculture is being promoted by the governor,” Lamson said. “This is what we need. We have the farms in town, we want to keep the past and present into the future, keep the farms going.”