WEEKEND - Veggies Galore one of 10 Barnstead farms on today's tour

BARNSTEAD — Tom and Joanne Locke of Veggies Galore and More have been running their farm stand for eight years and feature fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, baked goods, handmade quilts, pickles, jams and jellies as well as a pick-your-own strawberry operation with 1,500 plants.

They are among the 10 farms which are taking part in the Third Annual Barnstead Open Farm Day today, an event sponsored by the Barnstead Farmers and Gardeners Network which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features a wide variety of growers and producers.
''We're retired and my husband has always loved farming,'' says Joanne, a Long Island, New York native whose car sports a license plate which reads ''Fahma Jo'', a nickname Tom gave her because she was raised in a city and had to learn farming after they were married.
Tom, on the other hand, grew up at the Locke farm in Barnstead, now home to the state's largest pick your own blueberry farm with over 11,000 high bush blueberry plants. He has always been a farmer at heart, even though he spent many years building homes in the family-owned Locke Lake Colony.
The couple have three vegetable gardens and sell their products from a stand Tom built seven years ago, after the tent they had been selling from was blown down several times.
Joanne says the pick-your-own strawberry operation was a success from the start as their first year came when the popular pick-your-own operation at Smith Farmstand in Gilford, which still has a raspberry operation, closed.
''We were inundated with people. We had more people who wanted to pick than we had strawberries for,'' she recalls, noting that experience has taught her that ''kids are no problem, but the parents are.''
After this year's crop was picked out Tom put in 500 more plants so they will be well prepared with lots of berries next June.
Joanne says the network of local farmers was formed three years ago to promote local farms and encourage consumers to buy local produce rather than produce grown thousands of miles away.
She said that many people have told her that they never realized how good cabbage or lettuce tasted until they bought it from a farm stand and experienced the difference freshness can make.
''A lot of what we do here is educational. We've had customers who didn't realize that potatoes grow in the ground, not above it. Supermarkets have desensitized customers to seasonal products and we want people to know the benefits of fresh, right off the farm products.''
She says that local farms work together to promote and support each other and that the open farm event has proven very popular.
Other farms taking part in today's event include The Local Butcher, Good Stuff Farm, Five Acre Farm, Sticks and Stones Farm, Frenette Farm, Granite State Alpaca Farm, Mountain View Farm, Duane Family Farm and Tiz a Miniature Horse Farm. Maps showing locations of all participating farms are available at the farms.
Various animals will be available for viewing at the farms, including Alpacas and Miniature Horses. Farms will also be conducting tours and demonstrations, and will have products and produce for sale.
For more information, contact Robin Donovan 269-5591 or Don Walker 435-0277.


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Tom and Joanne Locke of Veggies Galore and More on North Barnstead Road are among the 10 farms taking part in Barnstead's Third Annual Open Farm Day today. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Veggies Galore and More features fresh vegetables, handmade quilts and homemade pickles, jams and jellies. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)