Restaurant Rewards: Highlighting a Kentucky Proud program encouraging Locavores

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p 7, June 7, 2007 Ace, sidebar to Barbara Kingsolver coverstory 
Restaurant Rewards
Highlighting a Kentucky Program funding “Locavores”
By Sue Weant
The Kentucky Restaurants Rewards Program began in July of 2002 with a $50,000 grant from the
Kentucky Department of Agriculture to Partners for Family Farms. It’s a program designed to
create more markets for Kentucky Farmers by encouraging restaurants throughout Kentucky to
purchase, serve and advertise foods grown throughout Kentucky. It really is simple. A restaurant purchases
product produced by a Kentucky Farmer, then advertises it.

A restaurateur then sends the actual receipts of the monies spent, a copy of the way this was advertised (table tents, newspaper ad tearsheets, or a menu, to name a few) and the restaurant owner is eligible to receive twenty percent—up to $1,000.00 a month—of his total farm-purchased items (the monies must be spent on advertising).

In 2002, there were only four participating restaurants. Currently there are about 75, including all of Kentucky’s State Parks. A directory of local producers was printed which included retail establishments that wanted to purchase locally, and farmers with product to sell.

Commissioner Billy Ray Smith funded the program again in 2003 with a $45,000 grant, and the program continued under Commissioner Richie Farmer who funded the program with a grant from the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Development in the amount of $150,000 in 2005. The program has grown to include 48 restaurants and 100 local producers.The money spent since 2005 to purchase local products from farmers had reached $900,000 and the receipts are still coming in.

The substantial increase in participants and the wide variety of producers that are used have been a very good indicator of the impact that the Restaurant Rewards Program has had on the local food market.

More requests are received for a listing of local producers in order to plan menus and purchase local foods. This program has allowed Kentucky restaurants to realize the outstanding quality and taste that local meats and produce bring to their tables. And through the advertising of their local fare, the producers stand to reap double benefits.

The Restaurant Rewards Program is reinforcing that bridge linking consumers to local producers, something that we’ve struggled with for some time. To see a program like this continue to flourish year after year brings so much needed attention to Kentucky agriculture and helps keeps Partners for Family Farms on top of its mission to sustain farm life and farmland.

Sue Weant is Executive Director, Partners for Family Farms.
***
(Ace provides advertising tear sheets and receipts on request to any restaurateur
participating in Kentucky’s Restaurant Rewards Program — restaurants who spend ad dollars
promoting their Kentucky farm purchased products. Ace has supported Grow Local, Shop Local since 1989. Info, email ads at aceweekly.com.)

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