In fine dining, food trends come and food trends go. Most get their start on restaurant menus. Who can forget quiche, or carrot cake, two stalwart menu staples of the 1970s, the nouvelle cuisine fad of the 1980s along with blackened anything, spinach dip, or raspberry vinaigrette? Remember also, that sushi appeared during this decade and soon gained lasting traction in every town and village. Let us not forget the tapas bars that sprang up coast to coast during the 1990s, along with chicken caesar salad, cranberries in salads, pecans and…wait for it, ubiquitous goat cheese.
What all these menu items have in common is that they made their way off restaurant menus and into mainstream American homes, where many continue to be enjoyed by all age groups and demographics. Another common thread is that most of these foods incorporate fresh ingredients. Renewed interest in consuming locally-sourced produce and meats eventually spawned the current farm-to-table-movement (FTTM) in the United States.In this article we’ll explore the top reasons that make this movement one that should become entrenched and influence how Americans eat for decades to come.
Like many a food trend, there are many who claim to have been instrumental in the growth of this now world-wide trend. Some claim that the FTTM began in Italy back in 1986 as the Slow Food Organization. Others point to the Post WWII era when returning soldiers left farming for the cities and newly created subdivisions, only to experience fewer fresh food choices and a rise in packaged goods such as canned vegetables and frozen TV dinners. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962 is generally heralded as a major influence on farmers, restaurateurs, and consumers alike. In the 1990s consumers began seeking food that was sourced locally and farmers markets, long out-of-vogue, re-emerged throughout the country. Today the FTTM’s influence is widespread and to date has influenced school-lunch programs, food labelling, and even a vegetable-forward subset.
Good for the Environment: Many Americans might not be aware, but trucks provide the primary transport for fresh food. Consider the amount of noxious fumes released into the air during cross country transport by thousands upon thousands of trucks. With the FTTM, smaller vehicles bring fresh foods to market across much shorter distances.
- Good for Employment: Everyone along the chain benefits from an increased need for staffers. More interest in the movement increases the number of growers, farmers, distributors, and of course, restaurants all of which sustain their employees and their employees’ families.
- Good for Health and Wellbeing: farm to table food is fresher, healthier food. Local produce, for example offers more health benefits than supermarket veggies which have been picked prior to ripeness to compensate for shipping time. Not only are these foods not fully ripe and therefore minus many vitamins and nutrients, these foods are often sprayed with chemicals to survive transit. Another plus is that fresh, ripe produce tastes better and can make even picky eaters devour their vegetables. Today there is a resurgence in healthy eating that excludes processed and genetically-modified foodstuffs. Plant-centric eating is eating healthy!
- Good for the Local Economy: Long haul trucking that delivers Florida and California fruits and vegetables across the nation takes profitability away from the local vendors in those states. Not only does FTTM provide jobs for local people, but also since the monies are being bought and sold within a short distance, the proceeds benefit the local economy. It also ensures cheaper prices which means more wholesome and nutritious food choices even for those on a low or fixed incomes which improves their overall health and wellbeing.
- Good for Sustainability: Fewer toxic emissions are not the only way in which the FTTM is sustainable. We must respect the earth our food is grown in and restore it by rotating crops, and increasing the use of hydroponic farming. To some, the concept of Farm to Table is backwards. To be fully sustainable, these experts claim, the table must support the farm. In other words, the menus must support agriculture.
That means instead of demanding crops out of their normal season, for example, which some farmers extend through the use of chemicals and sprays, accepting that the best quality items offer a window of opportunity. Also that alternates must be found and accepted by restaurant goers and those who gather around the family table. Must there be a 25-lb, chemically-induced turkey at your Thanksgiving table? What about preparing two smaller organic birds instead using the same oven space. This way consumers will not only save preparation time but also consume less energy. Now if we only had a cure for overeating on that day!
We hope we’ve shed some light on the value of the Farm to Table Movement and why it must not be regarded as a passing fad or food trend. Instead, it’s value to several sectors of our society is key to our continued vitality as a nation. If you think about it that’s not a lot to ask of the foods that fuel us, it is actually a concept we can easily all get around to our mutual benefit!