The River-Friendly Certification program was initially developed in the early 2000s by the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (currently the Watershed Institute). Soon thereafter the New Jersey Water Supply Authority joined with Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association to expand the geographic range of the programs. At the time, the partnership was designed to certify businesses, golf courses, schools, and residents. River-Friendly certification programs promoted clean water and a healthy environment through voluntary action by individuals, businesses, and institutions.
The Raritan Watershed Agricultural Committee secured funding in 2003 to develop a River Friendly Farm program and pilot test it in two small sub-watersheds in the Raritan River Basin. The pilot was very successful and two years later, North Jersey RC&D, working closely with New Jersey Water Supply Authority, Raritan Watershed Agricultural Committee members and New Jersey Institute of Technology received a New Jersey Conservation and Innovation Grant to implement a River Friendly Farmer recognition program in the Neshanic Watershed.
Since then the River Friendly farm program has been jointly administered by the New Jersey Water Supply Authority and North Jersey RC&D. Through their partnership, over thirty northern New Jersey farms have been certified River-Friendly.
Over the years the certification program had many funders and supports. including the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, New Jersey Department of Envrioentmanl Protection, William Penn Foundation Delaware River Watershed Initiative.
In 2009 the program received the Hunterdon County Planning Board Hermia Lechner Award