Unlike many health trends that come and go, the concept of farm-to-table has validation to be sustained. Sustainability is the ability to sustain or maintain oneself now without jeopardizing the future’s need to do so later on.
When it comes to sustainable farming and agriculture, techniques produce crops and food while protecting the environment and all it encompasses. Gardening and farming have been practiced for ages. However, farm-to-table is a growing health movement in restaurants and featured on media accounts.
And the popular concept of farm-to-table truly may hold the fork to sustainable communities. It can also lead to many benefits at personal and economical levels.
What Is Farm-to-Table?
Farm-to-table is a concise term that refers to the stages of food production. The farm-to-table sequence includes harvesting, storing, processing, packaging, selling, and consuming.
Likewise, farm-to-table may be in reference to the movement concerned with supporting locally produced crops and food. Farm-to-table promotes serving local food in various settings such as farm-to-table restaurants. Also known as farm-to-table dining, the restaurants often feature a seasonal menu.
Establishments using farm-to-table aim to purchase directly through food producers. This might be from a farmer’s market, community garden, or a nearby farm. Some restaurants and schools may even have their very own food sourcing.
How did farm-to-table emerge?
The farm-to-table movement has a deep history in the United States soil. Its launching began in 1914 as an effort to transport produce directly from rural areas to cities via the postal system.
"The program entailed picking up farm-fresh products—butter, eggs, poultry, vegetables, to name a few—and taking them as directly and quickly as possible to urban destinations." It was also an effort to reduce food waste and allocate funds from grocery stores to local food producers.
Fast forward to the early 1970s, Chef Alice Waters frontiered farm-to-table in the restaurant industry by founding Chez Panisse. But Waters' work is beyond the quaint restaurant, as she campaigned for the organic garden planted by Michelle Obama. She also helped restructure school nutrition to highlight and promote fresher, less processed ingredients.
Really, the farm-to-table movement has flourished and inspired learning programs, including the Stone Barns Center for Food Agricultures. "Located in Pocantico Hills, NY, Stone Barns is a laboratory for learning and catalyzing a culture of informed, healthy eating."
The center offers teaching and learning opportunities for all walks of life and experience levels. Diners can also experience the local fare at the respective Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the Hudson Valley.
Why Support and Eat Local?
Eating local goes beyond running to the nearest commercial or chain restaurant. But when it comes to sustainable food systems and supporting local, why should communities and people buy-in?
Here are 5 reasons to favor the farm-to-table movement and establishments:
1. Sustainable foods are full of flavor and nutrients.
Farm-to-table encourages whole foods rather than unfamiliar ingredients on most food packages. Local farmers uphold the best practices with environmental quality in mind, which is likely to include organic food.
Put simply, growing organic describes growing in harmony with nature. This means doing away with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or other such products that may upset the ecosystem.
2. Supporting local can create personal and community bonds.
Supporting local can cultivate new relationships between vendors, farmers, restaurant owners, and customers. This can also boost the local economy.
A strong support system between community members can lead to the adoption of healthful habits on independent, group, and economic levels.
3. Farm-to-table foods are traceable.
Offering farm-to-table foods give consumers peace of mind of knowing where the food originates from. If restaurants are unable to source all food locally, they still have the ability to label certain local ingredients or dishes.
Taking it a step further, some restaurants share unique stories regarding where the food came from. Offering these elements adds a touch of intimacy and excitement in restaurants.
4. Food waste may be reduced.
Since local farms are generally confined to smaller areas and radiuses, food traveling is reduced with locally sourced crops. The environment benefits from reduced fuel exposure related to shortened transports of goods.
Food "waste" is not wasted. Instead, leftover food may be donated to food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens. Scrapped food waste can be diverted to animal feed or into nutrient-rich composting soil.
5. Locally sourced food may be safer to eat.
With smaller batches of crops and animals to handle, food safety is further harnessed. Less traveling and handling reduces the risks of food contamination and foodborne illness.