What is farm-to-table philosophy?

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Strawberries sold at markets are a popular farm to table item
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Farm-to-table philosophy gets people closer to the source of the food they eat

If you have been to a nice restaurant lately you have probably seen boasts of their “farm to table” menu. But what is “Farm-to-Table” philosophy? 

In this article, I will break down the meaning. This term might seem a bit confusing because after all, most food comes from a farm somewhere and ends up at a table somewhere else. In fact, the whole concept of farm to table is more complex than that. True farm-to-table restaurants are supposed to make a commitment to supporting the local economy and use less in the way of processed or factory framed foods. 

Farm to Table is About Sourcing

Farm to table implies that the restaurant in question has made a deal directly with local farmers to source the vegetables, meat, or other primary ingredients used in their recipes. 

Part of what the phrase is meant to connote is that the restaurant is philosophically trying to support other local businesses. This brings with it the peace of mind knowing that you are supporting a local business which, in turn, is using those profits to support other local businesses. 

This is usually achieved by dealing directly with the producer as opposed to a distributor. 

Farm to Table is About Freshness

Because they source their ingredients from local producers, farm to table restaurants should ideally have fresher foods, organic produce, and products that are free of GMOs and preservatives. One should expect then that a meal from a farm to table restaurant will at the very least provide a fresher flavor (if not some mild health benefits). This means salads with crisp lettuce, tender meats, and juicer fruits and veggies.  

With all of this in mind it is important to note that farm to table restaurants will vary in quality according to the restaurant’s staff and its specific suppliers. One farm to table restaurant is not like the every other and while you may have a bad experience at one farm to table restaurant it doesn’t mean that you should avoid others. 

Different establishments take the label more seriously than others and since there is no industry standard definition for such an establishment the label does not bind any individual establishment to a standard of commitment. 

The Movement is Larger Than Restaurants

In addition to many restaurants adopting the farm to table model, many stores and schools are making the move to dealing directly with local producers. Many school districts across the country have taken the farm-to-school pledge to source the food they give to students directly from local producers. Ostensibly, this should provide schools with fresher and healthier foods. What makes this especially difficult is the strict budget allotted to public schools from local governments, it is much cheaper to source foods from larger distributors.
I hope this article has helped demystify the farm-to-table movement, at least somewhat. There is certainly more that can be said about it. While some businesses may simply adopt the label as a marketing gimmick, true farm to table food sourcing is a fantastic way to support your local economy. 

It is also an important step away from our national dependence on large factory farms, which can prove destructive to the environment. It may cost a bit more to eat farm to table, but it sure comes with a lot of benefits as well. 

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