There’s no better example than the rise of the farm to table movement to prove that the world is indeed round. As the reality of global warming and climate change hits home, weno longer want to be responsible for food on the table that comes with a big helping of carbon emissions – as in frozen foods shipped across the country or even across the oceans. People now want organic and sustainably grown produce that is grown in nearby farms, if not in their own backyard.
Until the early 20th century, most of the food purchased and consumed was grown locally, within a radius of 50 miles or so. Then urbanization, technology advances and globalization shifted the balance from rural farms and the growers to large retailers who could ship in fruits and frozen foods from anywhere in the world. It killed small farmers and hastened up the growth of mega cities with massive transportation hubs and infrastructure.
Ironically, it was the all the Co2 emissions from these vehicles, ships and planes carrying food and other goods from one place to another that are largely responsible for global warming, which in turn led worried consumers to turn the clock back and prefer locally grown food. This has resulted in the rise of movements such as Farm to Table, Slow Food, Local Food, Sustainable Farming, Organic Food, etc.
The Farm to Table movement encourages restaurants to buy their produce directly from local farms and farmers markets, cutting out the big-city distributors and traders from the equation. In fact, many participating restaurants have their own farms and gardens so that customers receive fresh produce and herbs that elevate flavorover dishes prepared using frozen foods.
One of the first such restaurants which adhered to the principles of the Farm to Table movement was Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. There are now dozens of such restaurants in every major city in the U.S.This has led to systemic changes in the way food is prepared and served in these restaurants, and has also triggered a growing realignment of local economies.
Chefs in Food to Table restaurants are moving towards menus that favor healthyand traditional dishes prepared simply without extracting the nutrients, over-cooking, or using artificial flavoring and other additives. It fits in perfectly into the natural order of things, given the health attributes, local economy and the environment. Even the White House is on the action, with the White House Kitchen Garden and the White House Honey Ale, which is brewed in the White House itself.
The economic possibilities are also just as compelling. Local farms are back in business, generating strong revenues and creating jobs. This is just the top of the local food iceberg, especially given most of America’s metro areas still don’t grow more than two percent of their own food consumption.
Culinary experts and Restaurant Consultants, The Next Idea, reported that 30% of their new concepts include a large farm to table element. Also, the Next Idea predicts that this movement while still in its infancy, will become mainstream over the next five to ten years as consumers latch on to the health and local benefits.
As America’s food dynamics change – we will see better quality food available at all levels of the market – this means that the consumer will benefit.
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