All-natural, local, and on-trend? All the buzzwords of the moment at once?! Some might think that the farm-to-table trend is too good to be true. They’d be wrong. It’s even better!
Farm-to-table dining and eating forces us to slow down, take a good look at not only what we’re eating, but also why we’re eating it. The ethics behind our eating habits is a typically unexplored, albeit incredibly important, journey. Look at the farm-to-table trend — it’s based in buying directly from farms or carefully curated local sellers instead of from mass-market distributors. Many restaurants that have adopted a farm-to-table menu have thus chosen to prioritize not only producing great quality dishes, but to prioritize where those ingredients come from. Farm-to-table dining depends on quality and freshness, which is an almost 100% guarantee for a great meal. Typically, ingredients are delivered to restaurants on the same day that they’ve been harvested or prepared. A lot of these restaurants will name the farms they’ve frequented on their menus, some even including stories or quotes from the farmers themselves! While most farmers enjoy learning a chef’s intentions for their ingredients, they also benefit monetarily from not only the restaurant’s initial purchases, but from the popularity that inevitably follows by patrons’ word of mouth.
Shopping farm-to-table, whether you’re a professional chef or a home one, allows for the rare and unique opportunity to have a conversation with the experts themselves: the farmers. Shopping at farmers markets gives consumers the chance to not only interact with and learn about the people growing their favourite foods, but the opportunity to ask for recipe suggestions and preparation tips! Depending on where you live, and the time of year, farmers markets may still be up and running.
Something special about farm-to-table dining is its seasonal nature. Menus are constantly changing to include in-season produce. This not only challenges chefs to stay creative and inventive with their dishes, but is a great marketing tactic to keep people coming back. Here’s a list of some of our favourite farm-to-table treats from every season:
Sprouts, Pumpkins, Molasses, Salmon
Rosemary, Sweet Potatoes, Clementines, Kale
Apples, Sweet Onions, Avocados, Cauliflower
Bell Peppers, Eggplant, Shallots, Peas
This may come as a surprise, but farm-to-table dining also allows for more flexibility in a menu. As chefs continue to build relationships with farmers, they’re able to request specialty or uncommon produce that may not otherwise be available to a restaurant that uses distributors.
As farm-to-table dining has drawn quite a buzz, it’s no surprise that many distributor-to-table businesses have been piggybacking on the hype. While no actual regulations have been put into place to help definitively define farm-to-table dining, asking questions about the food and the farms it supposedly came from can be a quick way to determine if the establishment is true or just trendy.
Looking to experience farm-to-table for yourself?
Of course you are!
For the most authentic experience we’d recommend researching farms in your area. After all, farm-to-table at it’s core is about eating food in the place where it was originally produced. In addition to daytime tours, more and more farms are offering on-site dining! Visiting a farm and enjoying a meal prepared by its farmers builds not only genuine human connections, but a deeper appreciation for the great efforts of those farmers and of the land itself to produce even the smallest of ingredients. When we venture out of our homes to eat, the process of cooking is one many of us tend to overlook and often take for granted. The experience of eating farm-to-table, however, opens our eyes to processes of cooking and eating that we may have never considered before. Some of these concepts include humane animal treatment, reconnecting with the environment, and creative cultivation.
The act of eating, when you think about it, is an occasion. Typically, we set a time, pick a place, and maybe invite a few of our favourite people to join us. Even the act of solo-dining and cooking is a ritual, or at the very least a routine, in itself. Farm-to-table dining is incredibly community oriented.
Unfortunately, cooking can often seem at best like a box to tick off of your daily to-do list and at worst a chore you’ve been desperately putting off. It’s easy to get comfortable, even stuck, in a rotation of preparing the same meals day after day. But maybe, just maybe, this post has inspired you to switch things up a bit! If you’re looking to bring the farm to your own table (Ha, get it?), here are some easy ways to start shopping more consciously, delicious recipe ideas, and even how to get in on that farming action from your home!
Now, depending on where your city falls on the scale of semi-functioning pandemic to locked-WAY-DOWN pandemic, you may not have the option to visit a farm or even eat at a restaurant right now. However, pick up and delivery services are still up and running all over the world. Some of our favourite spots include:
The Shed, London
Blue Hill, New York
Chef Panisse, California
Farmhouse Tavern, Toronto
Fable Kitchen, Vancouver
Farm Girl, Notting Hill
Malibu Farm, Malibu
The Spillover, Miami
Ma Prairie, Paris
While ordering in is a fun, and the easiest, option for getting to know your local farm-to-table options, keep in mind that you have the opportunity to be both the customer and the chef! Another great element of farm-to-table dining is its accessibility — anyone can do it! You don’t even need a farm! Remember, the definition of farm-to-table is rooted in the effort to eat the food you make in, or as close as you can get, to the place it came from. Now, that place can be a farm or a restaurant, but it can also be your own backyard or even be your kitchen window. This is our long-winded way of saying “Grow them yourself!”
Gardening is not only a great way to try out the farm-to-table trend, but helps create a connection with the food itself. When you take the time to learn about and involve yourself in the process of growing your own food, you not only develop a greater appreciation for the farming industry but for the actual food itself. You’re taking the time to truly consider what you’re putting in your body and feel good about it!
Now, no one’s telling you to sell your car and buy an acre of land up north. You can start small… maybe a basil plant by your window? Potentially planting some tomatoes out back? The easiest starting point, for any space, is an herb garden. They’re extremely low maintenance: they take up almost no space, they’re perfect for homes of all sizes, they love the indoors, they can grow all year round, and only require some water and a few hours of sun to thrive! Some great beginner herbs include oregano, parsley, and rosemary. And if you want to grow your herbs indoors, take advantage of self-watering herb starter kits with grow lights such as the ‘Click and Grow’ Smart Herb Garden. No green thumb needed!
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably as hungry as we are. Here’s a quick and easy recipe to try out once you’ve completed your farm-to-table grocery trip (via: The Spruce Eats):
Additional benefits of farm-to-table dining can be summed up using the Three S’s!
Saving gas! Since farm-to-table ingredients only travel short distances from, well, the farms to the tables, fuel consumption is very low.
Supporting local! (Duh)
Significance! Critically-acclaimed author Michael Pollan once said, “Cooking is a defining human activity”. Without getting too Philosophy 101, many interpret this statement as commentary on the intersectional nature and connective capabilities of food itself.
The food we choose to eat, whether we realize it or not, is a reflection of our values, emotions, and even our ideas. Cooking is the middle ground between nature, the place where our food comes from, and culture, that which influences what we’re eating. Choosing farm-to-table, whether eating in or out, is the perfect way to start being more conscious about what food you’re choosing and why you’re eating it. Although, the fresh flavours and new recipes never hurt anyone either…