We hear it everywhere these days: restaurants that boast “farm-to-table” cuisine. It began as a trend among foodies but has since turned into a model for more sustainable farming, healthier food, and a healthier planet.
In the United States, the notion of relying on seasonal, fresh, locally-grown foods for the menu first took root around 1971. World-famous chef Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in California as (arguably) the country’s first farm-to-table restaurant, based on her experience living in France where a local community food infrastructure was commonplace.
Since then, the practice has exploded…for many good reasons. First, relying on local farms and purveyors supports these essential area businesses. In fact, the FDA notes that the popularity of farmer’s markets has quadrupled in the last 20 years as more people enjoy making fresh, healthier meals at home versus eating out. Nielsen notes that almost 70 percent of people are interested in using local, organic foods in their cooking.
Next, staying close to home for ingredients is good for the planet as food doesn’t have to be trucked around the country in gas-eating trucks. Finally, local, seasonal food simply tastes better and is healthier.
But there’s more. In recent years. the popularity of “farm-to-table” has inspired a younger generation to get involved in the practice of farming. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of people under 35 who began operating farms increased by 10 percent. The definition of “farm” is also being changed as more urban areas repurpose abandoned zones and turn them into community gardens. That benefits both the health of many underserved “food deserts” and improves the neighborhood overall.
But the really exciting twist is how cuisine overall is being impacted. When relying on only what’s available nearby and when it’s available generates new creativity among the next generation of restaurant chefs.
We recently helped to produce a TV series on sustainability for Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK. “The Sustainable Feast” reveals how the farm-to-table practice is having a ripple effect across all parts of the food industry, spurred on by thought-leaders like The Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA). The full episode features some other tasty stuff we think you’ll like. Please have a look and let us know what you think.
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