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Fresh and Organic in Coastal New Hampshire

By S. Mathur

The popularity of fresh, local, and organic food has grown by leaps and bounds. For the past twelve years, Philbrick's Fresh Market has been part of that movement in New Hampshire. Owner Phil Philbrick was inspired by the stores he encountered while traveling in the supermarket business. He found that stores specializing in fresh organic foods in places like Minneapolis, Chicago, and San Francisco were nicer than conventional grocery stores, with each one having a distinctive personality.

Philbrick decided that a great little city like Portsmouth, his hometown, could use something similar. "So we started working on it 12 years ago and have been in business for 11." One of the biggest changes he has seen over the years is an increase in the number of local suppliers: "When we started it was difficult to find local produce farmers that could get us the volume we needed. There has been a great change in the last decade. We started out with just Charlie coming to the back door after the farmers market and now there are over a dozen local farmers to supply us products. Also we have a great collection of local food artisans that either make product in their own kitchens or utilize a shared commercial kitchen. Again that area has expanded nicely."

Portsmouth has been a great place for the business, says Philbrick: "Originally we wanted to do this store in Portsmouth because it is my hometown. Luckily there is a great diversity in this town and a tremendous interest in good food. Portsmouth has a very knowledgeable and astute population and that's perfect for us." Philbrick's now has two locations in coastal New Hampshire, in Portsmouth and North Hampton.

Besides everyday grocery items, customers can find organic foods including certified non-GMO foods, naturally raised meats, fresh local seafood and produce, artisan cheeses and imported and speciality foods. There are prepared foods made with organic ingredients, cut flowers, and local wines and beers. The hot soup and sandwich bar makes the perfect stop for a healthy lunch or dinner on a busy workday.

The store has become an important part of life in the community and hosts tasting events as well as well as trying to educate customers about food choices and recipes. "We have always done events primarily to help folks try new products and to help the producers get their businesses going. Currently we do events once a month maybe a weekend or several days and we often have live music, so it can be a lot of fun," says Philbrick.

Philbrick's Fresh Market is also very involved with the organic food movement, which has important ramifications in a whole range of areas - food safety, children's health, the environmental impacts of the use of chemicals in agriculture, genetic engineering, corporate accountability, and sustainability. The commitment to sustainability is manifested in the efforts to reduce waste and environmental pollution by using non-toxic, reusable containers. Gifts made from recycled materials help spread the message.

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