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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Local fish, fresh: Nashua’s first community seafood pickup draws 48 customers

NASHUA – James Poitras stopped by Railroad Square on Tuesday afternoon as a first step for celebrating “shark week,” the jokey holiday built around cable-TV programming, although he admitted he was unsure of the follow-up details.

“I was thinking of making fish-stuffed peppers,” he said, gazing thoughtfully at the half-pound of cape or dogfish shark he had just picked up from the city’s first community seafood operation. ...

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NASHUA – James Poitras stopped by Railroad Square on Tuesday afternoon as a first step for celebrating “shark week,” the jokey holiday built around cable-TV programming, although he admitted he was unsure of the follow-up details.

“I was thinking of making fish-stuffed peppers,” he said, gazing thoughtfully at the half-pound of cape or dogfish shark he had just picked up from the city’s first community seafood operation.

“But I don’t know what to do with shark.”

Do pretty much anything, advised Sarah VanHorn, cofounder of New Hampshire Community Seafood.

“It’s a white flaky fish,” she said, noting that it could be fried, grilled or put into a sandwich.

Whatever is done by the 48 people who paid in advance for eight weeks of fish, many spurred by a recent story in The Sunday Telegraph, and who picked up their order at the Brookfield Farm stand at Railroad Square, they will have a satisfaction extending beyond just taste.

“I’m trying not to buy fish at the grocery store,” said Joan Kunkel, of Amherst. She and husband, Jack, were the first people to get their fish after the farm stand set up at 3 p.m. “You don’t know where it’s from, when it was caught.”

The shark picked up Tuesday, for example, was caught by boats sailing from Rye Harbor. All of its dayboat fishermen (those who bring their catch into harbor every evening) sail from New Hampshire ports.

“I’m trying to support local business,” Diane Dubberly, also from Amherst, said when she picked up her fish. “I’m excited.”

That pleasure of supporting locals – in this case, the 14 or so active dayboat fishermen who are part of the Community Seafood program during the current eight-week catch session – was a big reason this seafood program began.

The program structure parallels Community Supported Agriculture, in which customers pay up front for a portion of a farm’s harvest during the season. The idea behind CSAs, which have gone from niche to mainstream in the last decade, is not only to get fresh produce at a reasonable price, but also to support local farms, connecting with a way of life that urban living overlooks.

This CFA is the same. Further, selling directly to consumers or restaurants rather than selling fish via the large auctions at Portland, Maine, or Gloucester, Mass., the traditional outlets for New England fisheries, should put more money in boat owners’ pockets.

And there’s an environmental aspect. Because the program targets under-fished species such as white hake and redfish, rather than the standard cod, it creates less stress on the Gulf of Maine fisheries.

In fact, the entire program was created out of changes in the way the United States oversees ocean fishing.

The community, which has expanded from its first year on the Seacoast to 13 communities as far west as Peterborough, also sells shares to those seeking the possibility of profit. You might even run for a seat on the board of directors.

The cost over the course of the eight-week season, which started Aug. 12, is $12.50 per pound.

It also has a small but growing “restaurant-supported fishery” program. MT’s Local and Surf in Nashua have expressed interest.

For those who really like the program, VanHorn noted, there’s an opening for a volunteer to help deliver fish on the weekly pickup day.

For more information about this, or to join the CFA, visit www.nh
communityseafood.com
.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter @granitegeek.