I think it’s safe to say that by now, we’re all familiar with the farm-to-table or farm-to-fork movement and how restaurants have gained popularity as such in recent times. Though there is no true definition of what it means to be farm-to-table, the general ideology is to source local, often organic ingredients to provide equitable food access to the community.
As Rutgers suggests, four main characteristics are the defining forces behind what it truly means to be farm-to-table: food security, proximity, self-reliance, and sustainability.
One could think of farm-to-table as a community-based food system. This communal food system allows for healthy food to be accessible to the community, develops a local food system, and provides food security to locals.
Regional-based food systems reduce the environmental impact of transporting ingredients both nationally and internationally. In the farm-to-table community, the physical distance between producers, buyers, and consumers is minimal.
The community food system allows for independence from the need for outside sources or long-distance transportation of goods. In this way, the community is self-reliant through meeting more of their food needs locally.
In sourcing local ingredients, the community is also choosing more natural and organic products. This helps eliminate the need for large agri-business products and instead supports environmentally friendly, sustainable growers.
With this in mind, let’s look at how these restaurants are changing the industrialized food system to a more localized, sustainable one.
As consumers become more environmentally aware, trust and popularity in the farm-to-table movement continue to rise. Consumers hold a fair share of purchasing power. Therefore this driving consumer ‘trend’ is quickly changing sourcing tendencies in both grocery and hospitality.
As previously mentioned, the farm-to-table ‘trend’ is changing how operators source ingredients. The unforeseen market change, as a result, has shifted from price to quality, allowing restaurants to source top-quality ingredients while still experiencing growth. Consumers are willing to shoulder the cost in exchange for quality, ethical food.
A community-based food system is a threat to big ag and large food and beverage companies. However, this market shift has allowed small, local businesses to thrive in a way that mimics larger distributors while also keeping money local.
It’s becoming apparent that this farm-to-table ‘trend’ is here to stay, and it has every right to. As consumers continue to realize the damaging environmental and health effects of conventional farming practices, the food system will adjust accordingly.