The continent-wide destruction of ash trees caused by an invasive insect has taken an economic toll in New Hampshire: The Peterboro Basket Co. is shutting after making its specialty baskets for 168 years, partly because it can’t get enough of the right sort of wood.
The company’s baskets are mostly made of interwoven ash strips, principally from Appalachian white ash, the same wood traditionally used for ax handles and baseball bats.
“For some years the emerald ash borer beetle has reduced the availability of the wood used to make the baskets,” the company said in an online statement. “The decision has been made to close the factory and stop production of these quality, handmade baskets.”
Production will wind up this summer or fall. The company makes baskets for a variety of uses, from hosting a picnic to holding laundry to carrying crps harvested from the garden.
The company statement said other factors played into the decision to shut including supply chain issues, “extreme labor shortages for manufacturing the baskets” and the fact that the owners “are ready to retire.”
The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect native to east Asia that was brought to this country accidentally at the start of this century. It has been found in most states east of the Mississippi River and in New Hampshire has been found in most areas south of the White Mountains.
The beetle bores under the bark of ash trees, carrying a fungus that spreads through the tree’s circulatory system. It is expected to kill virtually all standing trees of most ash species, including white ash, although three species of wasp are being tested in New Hampshire and elsewhere that may enable ash trees to return in future decades.
Major League Baseball is testing alterative woods, anticipating a loss of the ash that has historically been used for its bats.
Peterboro Basket Company dates back to 1841 when a man named Amzi Childs came to that Monadnock Region town to work on manufacturing of lead pipe. In 1854 he began weaving baskets, work that eventually resulted in a series of companies which eventually became Peterboro Basket. It has been located on Grove Street in Peterborough* for a century.
*the town is spelled with an “ugh” at the end even if the company isn’t