Farmer, Meet Restaurateur: A Seacoast Org Gets Matchmaking

Jay Erickson

Farmer Charles Reid of Osprey Cove Organic Farm in Madbury, N.H. says getting local food onto restaurant menus is not always easy.   That’s where Portsmouth non-profit Seacoast Local comes in. Kind of like a matchmaker, it tries to connect locally owned restaurants with regional farmers. This summer the organization is hosting a fundraising series of “Field and Spoon” dinners at farms near the Seacoast.

Charles Reid’s farm is one of them. He says local farmers are competing with “the big farm at Logan Airport,” meaning produce flown in year-round from Mexico and California. And while New Hampshire’s neighbors in Vermont have been sourcing food locally for decades, Granite Staters are only now just coming around, thanks to hot-button issues like pink slime. As of an April 2010 report from the University of New Hampshire, only 12 percent of food sold in New Hampshire comes directly from farmers. That’s pretty high compared to the national average of .05 percent, but nowhere near what the UNH report says it could be.

Some restaurants have committed whole-hog (no pun intended), like Young’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Durham, which — along with other Portsmouth restaurants — clears out farmer Charles Reid’s stock at every farmers market. Others, like the T-Bones restaurant franchise in Laconia, only source a few products such as maple syrup and beer. Why? Jay Bolduc at T-Bones put it this way: “One of the roadblocks is the logistics of getting things on a regular delivery schedule in the quantity that restaurants our size go through.”

Seacoast Local is hoping to help ease concerns like Bolduc’s, making partnerships between restaurants, farms, and local businesses throughout the region.



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