Reposted with permission from The Keene Sentinel
By Kyle Jarvis Sentinel Staff
A group of local volunteers is working to get more locally grown food on restaurant menus, and several Keene-based restaurants have already signed on.
The Monadnock Menus initiative began earlier this year through the Monadnock Farm and Community Connection program, which aims to strengthen the connection between the public and local farmers, said Jennifer F. Risley, program coordinator for the Hannah Grimes Center in Keene and participant in the Monadnock Menus effort.
“It’s a group of volunteers looking to bring more awareness to local food and farms,” she said. “We provide services for farmers, such as giving them new markets and promoting farmers markets.”
Risley said Monadnock Menus was inspired by a similar program in Vermont called the Vermont Fresh Network.
“There’s a registration fee for restaurants who sign on of $20 annually,” Risley said. “We go to restaurant owners and ask them if they’re interested in participating. We give them a packet with all the information and we try to encourage them to identify what’s already on their menus that’s local.”
In return, the participants are listed on the Monadnock Menus website, and in Monadnock Table Magazine, Risley said.
Restaurants are also encouraged to set their own goals for carrying locally grown food on their menus, Risley said.
Several local restaurants have joined the effort, including Little Zoe’s Pizza, which opened in The Center at Keene about seven months ago.
“Being a small business in the community, we want to support other small businesses,” said Melanie J. Forster, who co-owns and operates Little Zoe’s with her husband, Ed.
The take-and-bake pizza shop already uses locally produced products, including King Arthur flour and Cabot butter, both from Vermont, chorizo sausage from the North Country Smoke House in Claremont, and produce from the Tenney Farm in Antrim, Forster said.
Luca Paris, co-owner and executive chef of Luca’s Mediterranean Cafe in Keene’s Central Square, also uses locally grown foods, he said.
“It’s something we do anyway, it’s part of what we do,” he said. “The Green Wagon Farm (of Keene) and I have done a lot together, as well as Boggy Meadow (of Walpole) and Abenaki (Springs Farm, of Walpole).”
Brewbakers Cafe on Main Street in Keene has also been offering locally grown foods on its menu, said Jeffrey J. Murphy, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Eliza.
“It’s amazing in this area how much local foods have been integrated with local cafes and restaurants,” he said. “It (Monadnock Menus) was a natural fit for us, and really a no-brainer.”
All of the coffee at Brewbakers comes from Terra Nova of Gilsum, Murphy said, while much of the bread comes from Bakery 42 in Antrim and Orchard Hill Farm in Alstead.
When it comes to produce, Brewbakers gets locally grown fruits and vegetables from Milkweed Farm in Westmoreland, Green Wagon in Keene, Abenaki Springs in Walpole and the Spring Sun Farm in Westmoreland, Murphy said.
They also get most of their beef from local producers like Manning Hill Farm in Winchester.
“For us, we have personal relationships with most of the farmers we deal with,” Murphy said. “They’re people, and it’s great working with people. Plus it’s fresh, it’s right there.
“It’s important that we do what we can to support them, to make local farming more viable,” he said.
Paris pointed to other benefits of fostering relationships with local farmers.
“Ultimately it’s better for the environment because you’re eliminating some of that transportation cost,” he said. “We’re just doing what people used to do years ago.”
For more information, visit http://monadnockmenus.wordpress.com.
Kyle Jarvis can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1433, or email@example.com.