New effort to reward restaurants as 'Certified Local'

The program was designed to promote eateries in the state that have made a commitment to using locally sourced food and farm products


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To highlight New Hampshire restaurants that support local agriculture, the nonprofit New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection has launched a certification program called "Certified Local."

Restaurants can apply for certification through the voluntary program, which was designed to promote eateries in the state that have made a commitment to using locally sourced food and farm products.

Certified restaurants will receive window stickers, a logo to use in promotional materials, education and inclusion on the NHFRC website and those of partnering organizations.The organization also hopes eventually to introduce a "Food Trail," similar to the New Hampshire Wine and Cheese Trail, which highlights vineyards and dairies around the state.

The program will consist of four tiers of certification -- certified, silver certified, gold certified and platinum certified, said Charlie Burke, president of the NHFRC.

In the beginning, he expects most restaurants will obtain the basic certification level, but offering higher levels gives them a tangible goal to work toward."I've said all along that we should reward the ones that are really doing it and not just giving it lip service," said Burke. "So we thought, let's reward the restaurants that are doing it in a positive way, with a point system which we think is also a road map for people to see how they can grow their score and remind them there are other things they could do...it's a carrot, not a stick."

The program offers various ways for eateries to earn points. On the menu side, restaurants can earn points for the frequency and amount that they offer of local produce, wine, beer, meat, cheese, fish, dairy, maple syrup, honey and other New Hampshire food products. Points also are available for promoting local farms and products; selling New Hampshire goods; decorating the dining room with Granite State products or flowers; composting produce waste; and being certified through the New Hampshire Sustainable Lodging and Restaurant Program.

Because it is unlikely any restaurant will land a perfect score, the scores will be awarded on a curve, meaning a restaurant that garners a 70 percent could well be in the 95th percentile of all restaurants.

"That curve, with time, will float upwards as restaurants become more sophisticated," said Burke.

Restaurants are also judged based on capacity, since a large family of restaurants that uses only 10 percent local ingredients could still dwarf the impact of a small restaurant that is sourced 90 percent locally, he said.

To apply, restaurants should send a completed application - which is available at nhfarmtorestaurant.com - along with a $35 application fee to the NHFRC. Once the application has been reviewed, a staff member will visit the restaurant for further evaluation and consultation with the owners and chefs.

The organization plans a directory of certified restaurants to be available before the end of the year. 

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