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Search for balance amid growth

DRED commissioner gets Londonderry tour

Union Leader Correspondent

August 01. 2013 8:28PM
Dan Hicks of Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry chats with DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose and state Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, during Rose’s visit to Londonderry Thursday morning. Rose toured several area businesses before meeting with local civic and business leaders over lunch. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

LONDONDERRY — During a tour of Londonderry, state Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner Jeffrey Rose emphasized the importance of balancing industry, agriculture and tourism as the town continues to grow.

Accompanied by state Sen. Sharon Carson and staff from the Londonderry Commerce and Visitor Center, Rose visited various locations around town Thursday morning before attending a luncheon for area business and civic leaders at the New Hampshire Aviation Museum.

Tour highlights included stops at Moonlight Meadery, Sunnycrest Farms and the Granite Ridge Power Plant and a drive through the future site of the Woodmont Commons development.

Turning off Gilcreast Road and passing deserted buildings at the former Woodmont Orchards site, Rose pondered what the future might look like in that part of town.

“Will this be developed in parallel with Exit 4A?” Rose asked, referring to the controversial new highway exit off Interstate 93 that so far has evaded funding efforts.

“That’s the $100,000 question,” resident Pollyann Winslow said. “And we just don’t know right now.”

Stopping for a brief visit with Moonlight Meadery founder Michael Fairbrother, Rose learned about the company’s history — from its humble beginnings in Fairbrother’s garage to the state’s largest brewery, one that sold a thousand cases of the sweet, bottled libation in May.

Continuing on past several recently expanded businesses near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, including Wirebelt and FedEx, then moving down Route 28 past the Freezer Warehouse before turning onto Stonehenge Road, past historic homes and quaint neighborhoods, Rose noted the town’s diverse offerings.

Kathy Wagner, owner of the Londonderry Commerce and Visitor Center, said that it’s always been a local goal to encourage business growth alongside major highways while allowing neighborhoods to retain their rural feel.

“It’s a nice balance,” Rose agreed. “People feel comfortable in that small-town setting.”

Driving past miles of apple orchards and arriving at the Sunnycrest Farms retail store, Rose chatted with Dan Hicks, a third-generation apple farmer whose family have lived in town for decades.

Hicks noted the important role self-picking plays in his business, saying people often drive from as far away as Boston on the weekends to come and pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches and apples at Londonderry farms.

“We’ve got a good crop this year,” he told Rose.

Chatting with Carson, Rose said he hopes to work with businesses like Fairbrother’s and Hicks’ in the future by further promoting Granite State farm or brewery tours.

With fall just around the corner, the possibilities are endless, he said, noting that tourists might go on a tour of the meadery before heading to one of the town’s working farms for some apple picking and leaf-peeping.

Fairbrother said that some recent bus tours from as far away as Canada have stopped at his facility recently.

The state’s Travel and Tourism website,, features suggested itineraries for wine and cheese, chocolate, maple sugar and brewery tours, and Moonlight Meadery is featured on the map.

Making a final stop at Granite Ridge Energy, Rose got an up-close glimpse at how homes and businesses get much of their power.

The North Wentworth Avenue plant, which employs fewer than 30 people and sells directly to the wholesale market, is the state’s second-largest power provider, according to plant manager Bill Vogel.

Built just over a decade ago, the 753-megawatt plant uses both gas and steam turbines.

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