Figs? In New Hampshire?

Warm-weather fruit gaining popularity in Granite State

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — There's nothing like the sweet taste of a freshly grown fig plucked from a tree growing right in your backyard, said Kerry Sullivan, self-appointed fig maestro at Osborne's Agway.
“They have such a great taste and it only lasts a day or two, which is why you can't buy something from California and have it shipped here. All the ripening takes place in the last few hours on the tree and once it's picked, the process stops,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan's grown hundreds of fig trees in the last seven or eight years at his Gilford Avenue home and many of those trees, grown in five- to seven-gallon containers, are now available for sale at Osborne's Agway, where Sullivan works in the greenhouse.
He and his wife, Barbara, have their Gilford Avenue home in Laconia on the market and realize that their new home will not likely have the large barn-like storage area that he's been able to use to overwinter the trees, which require being dug up every fall and replanting every spring in order to survive the cold winters in New Hampshire.
Faced with the impending loss of his winter storage space, Sullivan decided to sell off the major part of his fig trees and says that his employer was more than happy to provide a place for him to display and sell them.
Sullivan has experimented with hundreds if varieties of figs in recent years in order to see which ones adapt to the climate and produce the best fruit. One of his favorites is a seven-year-old Ronde de Bordeaux, a French variety with which is sweet with a touch of fruitiness. Another of his favorites is JH Adriatic, which is an early producer which has adapted well to the Northeast.
He has talked with the University of New Hampshire's Cooperative Extension Service about donating some of his plants to them for possible research in having a new agricultural product for small farmers.
Sullivan said growing figs in New Hampshire is not all that unique. The Rossi family, which opened their own restaurant decades ago, has been growing figs at their Route 132 home for 40 years.
He's noticed that growing figs seems to be catching on in New Hampshire and that he's glad to be part of that.
He was born in Florida and raised in Georgia and said he and his wife, a Laconia native whose maiden name was Turcotte, met in Northern California where they were doing agricultural internships. They married and moved to Pennsylvania, not that far from Valley Forge, where they started one of the first Community Supported Agriculture operations in that state, which they ran for 15 years before selling it and moving to New Hampshire.

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Kerry Sullivan stands next to a JH Adriatic fig tree at Osborne's Agway in Belmont, which has been selling the trees in recent months. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

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A JH Adriatic fig tree has ripe figs which are ready to be enjoyed. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Figs are growing on a Ronde de Bordeaux fig tree which is for sale at Osborne's Agway in Belmont. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

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A variety of fig trees are available at Osborne's Away in Belmont. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Roger Amsden
  • Category: Local News
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Sheriff cuts deputies as money runs short

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Belknap County Sheriff Mike Moyer says that cuts he has made in his department in order to comply with the $2.037 million budget approved by the Belknap County Delegation will still leave him $26,000 short by the end of the fiscal year.
“I've frozen four budget lines and we've cut two part-time deputies. We're filling in with regular workers on a dispatch position, which is not sustainable because they're not able to handle the civil process and payroll duties they're responsible for,” said Moyer.
He said he will ask Belknap County Commissioners to reduce a request for a $93,000 supplemental appropriation for his department to $26,000.
Moyer said that will enable him to hire back the part-time deputies he let go.
“I hope no one thinks we can run the department like this again next year. We're already experiencing some morale problems and are having to handle more prisoner transports than ever. One day last week we had seven or eight transports to counties all over the state. I've had to fill in on those so we can get them done,” said Moyer.
He said that the civil process has also suffered and that 60 writs were not delivered within the required time, although some of those may be because the person being served with a writ was not available.
“We're professionals and we're working our way through this. But that doesn't mean it's easy,” said Moyer.

  • Written by Roger Amsden
  • Category: Local News
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Franklin School Board to hear consolidation pitch

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
FRANKLIN — City Manager Elizabeth Dragon will pitch a city-school consolidation of financial services to the Franklin School Board on Aug. 21.
Dragon, who with former Mayor Ken Merrifield was an architect of the current proposal, will be departing on Sept. 17 to become city manager in Keene. Merrifield left to become New Hampshire’s labor commissioner. Judy Milner, the city's finance director, will act as interim city manager after Dragon leaves.
Dragon said she did not know Merrifield would be leaving when she applied for the new job in Keene, and regrets leaving Franklin with such a big changeover all at once.
“It’s a much larger city,” she said of Keene, “so this will be a big career move for me. It’s difficult because, over nine years, I’ve built some good relationships in Franklin, and done some exciting projects. It’s hard to leave, but it’s time.”
Her pending departure almost sidelined the consolidation proposal that is the culmination of years of discussion about how to bridge the gap between the city side of the budget and the school side.
“They had asked to take me off the agenda, but they put me back on,” Dragon said of the School Board.
The proposed consolidation is envisioned as a way to eliminate duplication of services. Dragon said the change would lead to “city-wide thinking and problem solving” and could save as much as $53,797 in expenses.
When first proposed, school officials viewed the idea of consolidation as an attempt by the City Council to usurp the School Board’s authority, while councilors thought the School Board only wanted to retain its ability to spend money. Since then, both recognized the perceived loss of control, fear of change, and worries that it would not work were what was standing in the way of a solution. The plan would leave both bodies with the authority to conduct their business and would only affect the administrative services.
Franklin operates under a tax cap that has put a strain on its ability to meet all the needs, and Dragon sees consolidation as a way to free up some necessary funds.

  • Written by Adam Drapcho
  • Category: Local News
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