Lorraine Stuart Merrill of Stratham was sworn in as Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets & Food on December 6, 2007 for her first five-year term, and subsequently reappointed by Governor Maggie Hassan to a second five-year term in 2013.
Merrill is co-owner with her husband John, son Nathan and daughter-in-law Judy of Stuart Farm, a 370-acre dairy enterprise with 260 milking cows and 200 head of young cattle located at the edge of the Great Bay Estuary. The herd consists of registered Holstein and Brown Swiss animals.
In addition to her involvement in the day-to-day operation of Stuart Farm, prior to becoming commissioner, Merrill also worked as an independent writer for agricultural and general interest publications, environmental technical writer for government agencies. She was also involved in many civic and professional activities at the local, state and national levels.
Following graduation from the University of New Hampshire in 1973, she returned to the family farm and also taught elementary school for several years. Over the years Stuart Farm has been recognized for its leadership in conservation and environmental management. In 2003 the Merrills were honored by the American Farmland Trust as Stewards of the Land, the organization's highest honor.
Among Lorraine Merrill's list of achievements are service as chair of the USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee for eight years, trustee of the University System of New Hampshire for eight years, founding member of the New Hampshire Coalition for Sustaining Agriculture, director of the New England Dairy and Food Council and member of the New Hampshire Farm Viability Task Force. She has been involved in many other agricultural boards and committees, and was awarded a Food and Society Policy Fellowship in 2007 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute. She was also elected to two terms as a local school board member.
Merrill had been a regular contributor from 1983 to 2007 to Hoard's Dairyman, the leading dairy farmer trade magazine, writing feature articles and a column entitled "The People Side" and holding the title of field editor. Her articles on agriculture, conservation, land use and many other subjects have appeared in newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, books and on the web. A book she co-authored with Peter Francese, Communities & Consequences: The unbalancing of New Hampshire's human ecology, and what we can do about It, was published in 2008.
Merrill has spoken frequently at conferences, seminars and training programs conducted by USDA, UNH, Cornell University, Texas A&M and EPA plus many consumer and environmental groups and the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning.
Merrill is the sixth person to hold the position of commissioner since the department's establishment in 1913.