Farm-to-table is a movement that promotes serving local products, preferably food and beverages acquired directly from a producer. Farm-to-table eateries source ingredients locally as much as possible, and diners are increasingly expressing a preference for these establishments. According to the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2015” survey, locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, environmental sustainability, and natural ingredients/minimally processed foods were among the most popular food trends.
Farm-to-table establishments reduce carbon footprints by cutting back on the amount of resources necessary to get food from the farm to the restaurant. The farm-to-table movement began as a countermeasure to big agriculture and chemically controlled produce. Although there is no hard data on just how many restaurants can be considered farm-to-table, organic farming in general is big business. In its 2014 Organic Survey, the U.S Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service reported that sales of organic products increased by 72 percent since 2008. California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Wisconsin were the top five states for organic farming, accounting for 78 percent of organic sales in the United States at the time of the survey. Supporting farm-to-table establishments can benefit the planet, but consumers should know that there are additional advantages to patronizing such businesses.
• Support for local businesses: Local restaurateurs who embrace farm-to-table can support and promote other local operations. Restaurants can help farmers by purchasing excess crops or simply providing the demand for farmers’ products.
• Greater control over ingredients: In some instances, chefs can travel to nearby farms during harvest to personally select items for their restaurants, ensuring excellent quality.
• Better taste and quality: Fresh food is picked at its peak instead of being forced to ripen during a long journey. This typically translates to more flavorful foods.
• Evolving and updated menus: Because farm-to-table means sourcing in-season ingredients, restaurants must have fluid menus that change based on the availability of ingredients and fishing and harvesting quotas. This can lead to greater variety and prevent menus from becoming dated or overly familiar. Hyper-local sourcing that fuels farm-to-table operations continues to be an in-demand restaurant trend. Diners can rest easy knowing that patronizing such establishments benefits both the environment and the local economy.