Farm-to-table dining is popping up all over the country, with restaurants touting sustainable agriculture methods to provide food for local consumers. Shopping local is better for small businesses, neighborhoods and the local economy, and dining out is no exception.
What Is It?
The farm-to-table, or farm-to-fork, movement refers to the process of harvesting, preparing and consuming the freshest produce and other agricultural products from local farms and gardens. Restaurants who practice it only serve seasonal items they can get locally — you won't see a canned vegetable in these kitchens. It's rooted in environmentalism as well as community and dedication to food quality. It also cuts out the costly production of a common scenario: growing food on large farms elsewhere in the country or world, only to waste fuel and other resources to transport it to your neighborhood grocery store.
Restaurants serving local foods are currently thriving in urban areas, offering seasonal dishes and environmentally conscious creations. The farm-to-table trend is even moving beyond traditional culinary settings with farmers markets and festivals celebrating the local trend.
How Are Local Foods Changing the Culinary Industry?
New farm-to-table restaurants are rapidly opening their doors. Chefs are jumping on the bandwagon, proudly broadcasting the origins and freshness of their produce. While many restaurants have been employing local harvesting methods for years, it's now a viable marketing message to explain where your food came from, how recently it was harvested and the environmental impact of buying from local markets. In places where a year-round growing climate is available, restaurants and culinary establishments have local produce available during all seasons. In other parts of the country where winter limits local harvesting, restaurants are focusing on eating seasonally and importing food when necessary.
The trend is moving the focus from chain restaurants to those that are bringing the healthy, local cuisine consumers crave. Restaurants embracing this movement are creating approachable, trendy dining spaces for the locals in their communities, and these new spaces create jobs to become part of a symbiotic economy. Changing with the times is important for any business that hopes to stay lucrative, and right now, eating locally is the way to go.
How Is It Affecting Communities?
Farm-to-fork dining and farmers markets go hand-in-hand. The movement is creating more business between local farms and restaurants, and between farms and families who now want to cook local foods at home. While farmers markets have been around for a very long time, consumers are becoming more conscientious about where their food comes from. Many people are even choosing to grow their own food while still buying from local markets.
As an environmental, agricultural and cultural movement, farm-to-table is changing the culinary industry and local communities. People are becoming more aware of food production practices and voting with their dollars at restaurants. Choosing fresh, local options over food that was harvested several days in advance and shipped across the country makes more sense for a delicious, eco-conscious meal.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons