Many people don’t know where the food they eat comes from. Too often we eat not what is fulfilling, but what is convenient. We never stop to think about what the animals eat, or if they come from clean environments. The farm to table movement promotes serving local food in restaurants and cafeterias through a direct association with the producer. This is a natural approach to cuisine creation emphasizing the environmental impact the agricultural industry has on the planet. Places all over the country are promoting this new way of eating, but what makes it so special?
If every vegetable found on your table comes from a farm, does that mean its farm to table? Not necessarily. There are no strict guidelines when it comes to the definition of farm to table food. Although, it typically means you have a direct connection with the farm or ranch where your food is being produced, and can confirm that the food is all natural without pesticides or hormones. Locally grown food is significantly healthier for you. We have grown accustom to food that may take weeks to ship across the country. This becomes unhealthy when companies worry about their food spoiling before the pilgrimage ends, so they pack the food with with chemicals and preservatives. A study done by The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture showed the results of the average piece of produce was transferred nearly 1,500 miles before being sold. 39% of fruit and 12% of veggies are imported from outside the United States. Fruits and veggies that must be shipped are picked too early for all the nutrients to settle in. Locally grown food gets all the time it needs to sanctify the nutrients.
Besides the fact that are you doing good for your body by eating locally sourced food, you are also assisting your community. Economically, smaller communities don’t benefit from the sale of food that has to travel an average of 1,500 miles, so it helps the small farms when you consume their products. A semi-truck travels about 5.6 miles per gallon. This conventional system guzzles diesel fuel, and damages the environment. Which means you could be saving roughly 500 gallons of gasoline every time you dine locally. That distance reduction makes your food at lower risk for contamination, thus safer to eat.
I spoke to the head chef Seth Lacy of Dante, a contemporary pizza place restaurant tucked into the thriving neighborhood of Blackstone. Lacy shared with me some of his favorite parts of working in a farm to table restaurant. “The menu can change based on the seasons. When things start to grow, you can look at [the farmers] website and pick out all the fresh produce you want, and they’ll bring everything in for us. That way we can run specials instead of having the same menu all the time,” Lacy said.
To know precisely where your food is coming from is a luxury that has been foreign to us since the dawn since the invention of genetically engineered foods. Food is meant to be grown for quality not quantity, but sometimes that is forgotten in this world where convenience is the priority. “All of our farms are organic, so we never have to question anything. You have the knowledge that everything is coming in clean, and ready to cook. But if you really think about it, cutting out the middleman provides you with fresh, healthy food faster,” Lacy said regarding the benefits of having that direct connection with the farmers. Money is a big turn off when it comes to locally grown food, but it truly isn’t as expensive as you think. Making homemade food with local products saves you money.
Not only is eating locally beneficial to you, but it benefits the animals too. Large “factory” farms driven by money force their animals to suffer terrible conditions, and eat foods they weren’t meant to consume. Local farmers know not only how their meat is raised, but how it is slaughtered too. Currently all meat in the United States must go through an inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture or local state. However, there is a shortage of inspectors that work with slaughtering and meat-packing plants for small scale farmers to meet the demand for special styles of meat such as grass-fed and locally raised cattle. Farm to table chefs are improving the lives of animals by providing their clientele with as local a product as possible, so they check to see where their rancher gets livestock slaughtered, and whether that facility meets the chef’s criteria for quality.
The farm to table movement is taking the world by storm, by making us think a little harder about what goes into our bodies. Eating locally may not seem like it has a large impact on the the quality of our planet, but every once in a while grab a seat at the table and dive into food from the farm.
story by daisy friedman, photos by elliot evans