A guide to living local in Southern New Hampshire

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CSFs Provide

Dock-to-Dish Peace of Mind

By Marc Bouchard / Fiddlehead Contributing Writer
Photos by Michael Sterling

You’re a conscientious consumer. You grow your own veggies, buy grass-fed beef from the farm down the road and purchase milk from an organic dairy in the next county.

You patronize an orchard that doesn’t spray, and when you go out, you prefer a restaurant that promotes farm-to-table practices.

So, what’s missing?

Face it. You have absolutely no idea where your seafood is coming from, how old it is, how it has been handled (or mishandled) or even if it has been labeled properly.

So, what’s the answer? How can you guarantee the freshest and safest seafood for your family? The answer is a membership with a CSF, or community supported fishery, such as New Hampshire Community Seafood (NHCS).

“We are the dock-to-dish connection for southern New Hampshire,” said Andrea Tomlinson, managing director of NHCS, headquartered in Portsmouth. “Ninety percent of the seafood sold in America is imported, approximately a month old and usually frozen. Everything we offer is netted by New Hampshire fishermen and women in the Gulf of Maine, and is delivered to your hands within one to two days of being caught. There is absolutely no way to get fresher fish – short of catching it yourself.”

But NHCS does more than just sell fish. It provides trust.

“Customers tell me that one thing that they miss is buying fresh fish directly from the boats, or having a reliable fishmonger in their community,” Tomlinson said. “We enable them to reestablish this personal relationship. You not only know what you’re getting, but exactly who caught it, when and where it was caught and how it was handled.”

Tomlinson works closely with the New Hampshire boats. Every Monday an email newsletter goes out detailing exactly what seafood is available. Members can stay with their pre-arranged order, or opt for some of the add-ons, which are available on a seasonal basis.

Tuesday through Saturday, a truck rolls from the Seacoast to pick-up locations throughout New Hampshire’s southern tier – chances are you live within minutes of one. They deliver to more than 20 locations from Nashua to Woodstock, and a schedule is posted online at nhcommunityseafood.com.

As with any seasonal product, the list of species varies from month to month, depending on what the Gulf of Maine has to offer. This guarantees not only the freshest product, but also absolutely no chance for culinary boredom.

As Tomlinson anticipates, “In May we’ll be catching redfish and pollock. Then, in June, the flounder season opens, so we’ll have dabs and yellowtail flounder.”

The list includes all of the traditional types, like haddock and cod, plus a range of underutilized species like hake, dogfish and redfish. Seasonally, NHCS also ships native oysters, scallops and even lobsters.

Some of these species have been historically ignored for a variety of reasons. Some were too puny (redfish), too grey (pollock), too deep (cusk), too scary-looking (dogfish shark) or just too ugly (monkfish). But they all share two important characteristics: healthy, sustainable populations and delicious flavor.

Tomlinson is on a mission. “The New Hampshire fishing industry has taken a big hit over the years,” she explained. “Thirty years ago, there were 100 boats; today there are only nine. And they have to work with federal quotas, which are three percent of what they used to be.

“Our CSFs enable us to not only support the local food movement and keep New Hampshire fish in state, but it also benefits the local economy while sustaining a vital part of our state culture.”
NHCS offers a range of memberships, including eight-week, 15-week and annual options. You can order as little as a half-pound or boost your order to suit your needs. The current session just started and new members can join anytime during the season; the fee is pro-rated.

What’s the bottom line? NHCS prices are competitive, as much as 30 percent cheaper than those charged by top retailers for a comparable product.

And there’s no extra charge for peace of mind.

Visit NHCS online at nhcommunityseafood.com for more information. For any questions, call Tomlinson at 603-767-7209; she’ll gladly walk you through the details. You can also follow NHCS on Twitter and Facebook, and their Pinterest feed includes some handy recipes.