That’s not a vineyard

 

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The fields at Stone Mountain Farm in Belmont appear to the casual observer to be planted with grapevines. What people are seeing are actually dwarf apples trees which are supported by trellises. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Those are dwarf apple trees in Belmont field

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — From a distance, the plantings at Stone Mountain Farm on Route 106 resemble a vineyard because they are supported by trellises. Many people driving by the field actually think there looking at grapevines surrounding a farm wagon full of pumpkins.
But what people are seeing is actually an apple orchard filled with 6,000 dwarf trees, a sight which owner Joe Rolfe says will become more common in the future as the more traditional orchards give way to the fast-growing dwarf trees which start producing a year after being planted and actually yield more bushels per acre than standard-size apple trees.
"It's the future of apple growing. They've been doing this in upstate New York for years. And you see a lot of orchards in this state that are replacing their older trees with dwarf trees," said Rolfe.
He said the dwarf trees provide a quicker return on investment for apple farmers, who realize the benefits of growing apples more quickly on dwarves compared to standard apple trees, which take six to eight years to begin producing.
He has seven varieties of Macintosh apples, several varieties of Cortlands, along with Honey Crisp, McCouns, Empire, Ginger Gold, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Fuji and Granny Smith. "We have early-season apples, mid-season and late-season varieties, and expect to be harvesting them right through the end of October."
Rolfe said the 72-acre farm has been in transition ever since he purchased it from his parents, Nelson and Theresa Rolfe in 2009.
"My parents bought the farm in 1963, the year I was born, and I grew up here. It used to be a dairy farm with a small herd of 20 or so milking cows before they bought it. They kept the fields in production and have been selling hay for years," he said. His parents were the grand marshals for this year's Old Home Day parade in Belmont.
Rolfe is a mason and runs his own business, Stone Mountain Masonry, which he says still occupies most of his time, and said he and his wife, Cindy, who is a nurse, weren't quite sure what to do with the fields when they bought the property.
He thought it was obvious that a hay crop wouldn't produce enough income to maintain the property, so he worked with the Belknap County Conservation District and the Belknap County Cooperative Extension Service to develop a plan for the property. The idea for growing apples came from Bill Lord of the Extension Service, who at first suggested that the most remote field become the location of the orchard.

"I told him that was my best hay field and he said, all right, use the field closer to the highway," said Rolfe. "I didn't know anything about apples but one of the first things I did was start to plant cover crops like pumpkins and clover to create diverse organic matter that would make a good medium to grow things in. And the soil had to be limed heavily to get the right pH balance."
He said he got a lot of advice from Hardy family of Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis about starting an orchard and also spoke with local apple growers like Steve Surowiec of Surowiec Farm in Sanbornton who told him "Don't give up your day job."
The first apple trees were planted in 2013 and Rolfe has been adding several thousand trees each year since then. He said an irrigation pond which he dug last year has proved very beneficial in the dry summer this year. A drip-irrigation system allows him to irrigate different sections of the orchard with the water pumped from the pond.
He says that in the first year the apple trees are located next to metal poles which help provide support, but after they produce fruit in the second year, a stronger trellis support system is needed, which involves 109-foot-high wooden posts and a wire support system which is anchored into the ground.
Rolfe and his wife are are looking forward to starting a pick-your-own operation next year once they have been able to label all of the rows with the varieties which are available and whether they are ready to be picked.
Currently they sell apples and pumpkins from the front yard of their parents' home and use an honor system which enables people to pick out their own apples and pumpkins when it is most convenient for them.

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Stone Mountain Farm on Route 106 in Belmont is producing a wide variety of apples from its dwarf trees and sells them by the honor system from a wagon at the farm. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Stone Mountain Farm irrigates its apple orchard with water from a man-made pond and a drip irrigation system in its fields. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Stone Mountain Farm owner Joe Rolfe says that the trellis system at the farm is needed to support the heavy yields from the dwarf trees, which begin producing the year after being planted. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Weirs Action Committee wins Motorcycle Week parking concession

Laconia Motorcycle Week Association protests Parks and Rec’s decision

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Faced with two competing requests to operate the parking concession at Endicott Rock Park during Motorcycle Week next year, the city Parks and Recreation Department this week unanimously chose the Weirs Action Committee over the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association in a decision that will require the approval of the City Council.

The Weirs Action Committee has operated the concession for the past 21 years, parking some 1,200 motorcycles each day and raising between $25,000 and $30,000 annually to fund its projects, both permanent and seasonal, to beautify The Weirs. This year, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, beset with financial challenges, also bid for the concession.
The requests were first presented in July, when the commission tabled the matter after urging both parties to seek a mutually agreeable arrangement. When the commission returned to the issue this week, Mitch Hamel, who chairs the commission, was told there had been no conversations about sharing the concession. Instead, nearly 20 members of the Weirs Action Committee were on hand to press their claim.
Speaking for the committee, Joe Driscoll III reminded the commissioners that the parking concession has been its principal source of funds and every dollar has been invested in The Weirs or contributed to city departments.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said many of the projects on the agenda of the Weirs Action Committee were being undertaken by the city with funds from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District recently established at The Weirs. He said the revenue the Weirs Action Committee receives from the parking concession, along with the income enjoyed by property and business owners at The Weirs, reflects the association's investment in marketing the rally. Without a secure source of funding, he said the revenue from the parking concession would contribute to the association's $200,000 marketing budget.
Driscoll said that the Weirs Action Committee has "a long list of future projects" that would not be funded by tax increment financing. At the same time, Judy Krahulec, a past president of the Weirs Action Committee, said that without the revenue from the parking concession, the cost of annual projects, like floral displays, would fall to the city.
Reading from a prepared statement, City Councilor Brenda Baer reminded the commission that after the rally foundered in the 1960s, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association revived it, and since then attendance has grown from 38,000 to 350,000.

"The business owners at The Weirs have done nothing but benefit from this event," she said. "They have withdrawn their support from the association and called it the worst-run event and should go under."
Baer reminded the commission that a year ago, when the council granted the parking concession to the Weirs Action Committee, Mayor Ed Engler "noted that the parking lot is city property and the city is not gaining any revenue and feels some of that money should be going back to Motorcycle Week."
One elderly lady recalled being told years ago that The Weirs had to take care of itself, because it could not expect anything from the city. Another called The Weirs "the city's cash cow," adding that the neighborhood receives scant support from the city. And another warned "If we don't get that parking lot, we're done" and urged the commission to "keep the Weirs Action Committee going."
Krahulec chided the association for failing to persuade the New Hampshire Legislature to introduce a commemorative license plate that she estimated would raise $670,000 to fund the association.

"They should have pounded the legislature," she said, adding "They should get off their keisters."
After the vote, Commissioner Tony Pedrzani again urged the two organizations to reach a compromise. "A bite of the apple is better than no apple at all."

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Laconia man charged with heroin possession, deadly weapon

LACONIA — A local man who was free on personal recognizance bail after being indicted in July for sales of heroin was arrested again Monday and charged with possession of heroin.

Frederick Sanborn, 32, of 11 Kentfield Court is also charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a deadly weapon and violating the terms of his bail.

Sanborn was already scheduled to appear in the Belknap County Superior Court on Thursday for a bail revocation hearing. According to paperwork filed with the court, as a condition of his first arrest, he was ordered to report regularly to Belknap County Restorative Justice but had allegedly failed to do so.

As to his arrest Tuesday, police affidavits said an officer was called to 342 Union Ave. #3 for a report of a disturbance. When the officer arrived, he said he heard two women and a man arguing.

He said the arguments seem to be getting physical and he and a second officer made contact with people, one of whom was Sanborn.

Once inside, he said Sanborn was in the kitchen, and to the officer it appeared Sanborn was trying to hide from him. He said he told Sanborn to leave the kitchen and go into the living room.

Sanborn was carrying a black and lime green backpack, which the officer said was open and in which he saw a 12- to 24-inch sword or machete. The officer said he took the backpack for his own safety and learned from his supervisor that Sanborn is a convicted felon.

Once at the police station, the officer noticed Sanborn was making furtive movements toward his groin area. The officer conducted a booking search and found a black pouch on the inner side of his leg. The bag was seized and police found needles and a small plastic bag containing a brown substance. Sanborn allegedly volunteered that the substance was heroin and that he has an opiate problem.

When the officer said he would be applying for a warrant to search the backpack, Sanborn told him to go ahead because he would only find needles, a scale and a machete.

Nevertheless, police applied for a warrant and allegedly found the machete, the scale, and a spoon bent in a manner that is consistent with drug use.

In court Tuesday afternoon, Sanborn argued through his attorney that the machete was never used in a threatening manner and that there was nothing in the affidavits that indicates it was.

Sanborn was ordered held on $10,000 cash or corporate surety.

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