“Farm-to-table” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, and over time, it has come to mean different things for different people.
At its heart though, farm-to-table (also known as farm-to-fork) means that the food on the plate comes directly from a certain local farm, cutting out the middleman who could come in the form of a store, food service or distributor.
It is founded on the premise that food is best when it is not only fresh but also grown organically and in ways that are sustainable and value the personal connection with the producer.
This philosophy has spawned the farm-to-table movement which encourages people to swap the processed, modified foods that have become synonymous with modern life for local, natural and unaltered produce – this explains the current obsession with farmers markets and produces co-ops.
The benefits that come with making this switch generally revolve around better health and nutrition, as well as environmentalism.
But it is not all about individual consumers.
It also represents a relationship between a farm and a restaurant, and many restaurants are now striking relationships with farmers to buy directly from them. The restaurants benefit by having a constant supply of quality and fresh food whose provenance they are well aware of. The farmers, on the other hand, are assured that their product has a ready market.
In turn, we end up preserving more sustainable land that doesn’t have to be sold off for development.
Sadly, farm-to-table has seen a rise in unscrupulous types looking to cash in on the movement, and this has dealt it a negative rap.
And it is thus that we sort out to clear the air because it is a matter of being enlightened and making the right decision with regard to the food you eat.
As the farm-to-table movement became mainstream, with it came widespread fraud.
Thousands of restaurants began boasting of sourcing their products from local farmers, altering their menu descriptions to deceive the growing number of customers, with claims of non-existent relationships with the producers – all the while making it look like they’re making a positive impact in the community.
In truth, all they have been doing is taking advantage of a consumer market yearning for healthier food alternatives and capitalizing on it.
This is not what the movement advocates for. It is not a marketing gimmick, farm-to-fork, but a truly incredible thing.
True farm-to-table signifies a basic human need to consume delicious food that is healthy for the body at the same time. It is something we haven’t been getting in the past, and we want it now. Badly.
As the masses grow more and more conscious of their health and wellness, the preference for healthier foods has been on the rise. Enter farm-to-fork, a way to bring ethically-raised, locally grown food onto our plates.
The farm-to-table movement is not all about final dishes, as most of us have been led to believe. Fresh, natural produce straight from the farm may be more flavorful, but it is more than just shoving tasty food in front of people.
It is a back-to-the-basics approach that takes us back to the early days of hunting and gathering; an approach that seeks to deliver food in as natural a state as possible, as it once was.
This is in light of a world that has become frenetic and technology-driven where processed and unhealthy junk loaded with artificial additives to make it more delectable has become the order of the day. And a world where it’s easy to forget that food straight from the farm was not a luxury, but an essential.
Over the last three decades, farming has been radically altered in developed countries like the US. Commercial farming operations have replaced small farms, with animals and the natural world at large becoming mere commodities. Animals today are being grown (as opposed to reared) and killed faster on a large scale at a rate never seen before.
It is an economical food system, but its negative impact runs deep.
The gradual return of small-scale farmers should thus not be peddled to be an agri-business killing vehicle. It is beneficial to us consumers who suddenly have access to a more varied, nutrient-dense and seasonal diet; a diet that looks and tastes amazing. But more importantly, it is a way through which we can embrace and support the local producers who are just hardworking, salt of the earth folks.
And in so doing, we are helping support the local economy.
Sustainable farming is all about adhering to practices that do not compromise the ability of subsequent generations to meet their food requirements. It includes a range of issues like environmental protection, ethical treatment of employees in the food system chain, profitability as well as community development.
A food and agricultural system is said to be sustainable if varied agriculture exists near strong and thriving markets. It is sustainable when farming methods rely less on artificial fertilization and pest control. It is sustainable when non-renewable inputs that go into the various steps of the food system are cut down. And it is sustainable when consumer participation in food system decision-making is boosted.
This is what farm-to-table farming methods are all about. And it is everything commercial farming is not.