Going Local in the Green Room
Dave Matthews Band dines on food from NH farms during tour stop
Nicole Vernon and her husband, Jeremiah, regularly send poultry raised on their Newfields farm to shops and restaurants across the region. But it’s not every day that the Vernon Family Farm birds find their way onto such a rarefied menu.
“It’s very exciting to get an email in your inbox that says Dave Matthews wants your chicken,” Nicole Vernon recalls.
Known for his sprawling live sets and chart-toppers like “Crash Into Me,” the singer-songwriter is also a major cheerleader for local farmers — including as a longtime supporter and headliner of the annual Farm Aid concerts.
Matthews’ crew turned to some of the Granite State’s family farms for sustenance during their latest swing through New Hampshire, a two-show stint at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford.
“We grew up listening to Dave, grew up going to a couple of shows,” Nicole Vernon says. “It’s a different thing when he’s supporting your family farm.”
For the Vernon family, art and agriculture are natural partners — they often host musicians and other acts for concerts at their farm. Whether it’s a celebrity, a musician or any other community member, Nicole Vernon says she’s grateful when people choose to spend their time, money and effort to connect with smaller producers.
“That’s the beauty of being able to shop locally and act locally — you get to talk with the business owner or farmer himself or herself,” she says. “That conversation can open up so many possibilities.”
Luke Mahoney, at Brookford Farm in Canterbury, said he’s been sending food over to Matthews and his cooking staff for about a decade. It started when their farm was still in the Dover area and Matthews was playing sets in Portsmouth.
“We’re a very diversified farm. It’s rare that a grocery store or restaurant will take from all of our product lines,” Mahoney said. “But Dave and his cooking staff would go right down the list and take many meals’ worth of food.” That included everything from organic produce to sauerkrauts and kimchis, pickles to grass-fed cheeses and yogurts to grass-fed meats.
Of course, Mahoney says these orders are good for business (“a substantial invoice”), but it’s more than that. There’s a lot of art that goes undervalued and underappreciated, and farming can be the same way.
“I honestly think there’s a lot of room for art and farms to celebrate each other,” Mahoney says.
And local farms could really use the extra boost these days. They saw a surge in interest during the height of the pandemic, but Mahoney says sales have since retreated. A competitive labor market’s adding more pressure, among other challenges.
“It’s important to always support local farms — even not in times of crisis — so that they are there in times of crisis,” he says.
So far, Mahoney and Vernon say they haven’t had a chance to meet the musician — perhaps their most famous customer to date — in person. But as longtime fans, they hope to have a chance to say thanks on his next swing through the state.
A Netflix star turned one local store’s social media account “upside down,” so to speak, when he stopped by for a recent visit. Joe Keery, who plays Steve Harrington on “Stranger Things” and hails from just across the border in Massachusetts, was kind enough to pose for a photo during his visit to South Hampton’s Nor’East Architectural Antiques. The post went semi-viral, reaching thousands of people — including one who aptly noted, with a wink, “I bet stranger things have happened.”