Farm to table, also known as fork to table, is a movement in which foodservice establishments source fruits, vegetables, meats, and other ingredients from local farms. Fork-to-table businesses receive food from farms that don't have added hormones or pesticides. Crops are picked at their peak freshness and directly delivered to restaurants.
Restaurateurs do extensive research to decide on which local farms to receive their ingredients from. They want to understand how each farm raises crops, livestock, and the process required to get the ingredients to their restaurant. Business owners do research on what the farms are feeding animals and how the farm operates to ensure it meets their business’s standards. In this guide, we provide you with a breakdown of what makes a fork-to-table restaurant unique and what the benefits and challenges are of operating one.
Who Started The Farm-To-Table Movement?
Chef Alice Waters is credited with starting the farm-to-table movement in 1971. She opened Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California which focused on making meals from local and seasonal foods. The restaurant features a menu of seasonal and organic ingredients sourced from local farms.
Waters was inspired to start the movement when she was studying abroad in France. She learned how to create meals around ingredients that are grown locally and wanted to bring that practice to the United States.
What Is The Difference Between Farm-To-Table Restaurants & Traditional Restaurants?
Farm-to-table restaurants receive their ingredients directly from local farms. This ensures that the food they serve patrons is always fresh and filled with nutrition. However, most traditional restaurants get their produce and meat from around the world. These ingredients need to be shipped long distances which likely means they are frozen, picked before they are ripe, or have added hormones to expand their lifespan.
What Are The Benefits Of Farm-To-Table Restaurants?
Farm-to-table establishments are known for providing customers with meals that are fresh and nutritious. However, restaurants using locally sourced ingredients are also helping the economy and environment.
Boosts Local Economy
Farming in the United States has seen a steady decline over the years because restaurants can purchase ingredients cheaper in other countries. Farm-to-table restaurants work directly with local farmers, guaranteeing that their money is going to their business. Farmers can expand their business and hire more workers to meet their demands, which helps strengthen the local economy.
Helps The Environment
Working with local farmers eliminates the need for commercial distributors or the middle man. The food you receive comes directly from farms and doesn’t need to travel thousands of miles to get to your business which helps limit car pollution.
Purchasing ingredients from local farmers also supports their practices. Many of them follow natural and sustainable farming methods to raise and harvest crops. They do not use harmful pesticides and fertilizers to keep your ingredients from spoiling.
What Are Challenges For Farm-To-Table Restaurants?
Regardless of the type of restaurant you operate, there are numerous obstacles you encounter every day. While farm-to-table restaurants face those same challenges, they face other unique daily obstacles.
Constantly Changing Menu
As the seasons change, different foods will be available on farms. For example, in Florida, blueberries are in season from April through June. During this time, farm-to-table establishments will look for ways to incorporate blueberries into their entrees or desserts. Since their menu relies heavily on the time of year, they need to incorporate new ingredients that become available to them into their menu and replace the ones that are no longer in season.
Fork-to-table restaurants may also have to change their menu daily. There may be instances when the farmers they work with are unable to meet their demands because of bad weather, they were not able to catch enough fish, or fruits aren’t at their peak. This causes chefs to get creative with the limited ingredients they have to come up with fresh and delicious offerings.
More Expensive To Operate Than Traditional Restaurants
The main objective of a fork-to-table foodservice establishment is to provide its patrons with meals that are made from locally sourced meat, seafood, produce, and other unprocessed ingredients. While this business model bodes well in attracting customers, it does cost more to supply a restaurant with these ingredients. That’s because locally sourced ingredients have a short shelf life and require a lot of labor to produce and maintain. Fork-to-table businesses are paying for quality rather than quantity.
Is Farm-To-Table Food Healthy?
Meals served at farm-to-table establishments are fresh since they use fresh produce and meat. The ingredients are harvested at their peak and immediately delivered to restaurants, ensuring that they keep all of their nutritional value. Since the ingredients come from nearby farms, they are not frozen or filled with preservatives to prevent them from spoiling. This is why farm-to-table restaurants are known to be healthier and more nutritious than conventional foodservice establishments.
The Farm-To-Table Movement Continues To Grow
The farm-to-table movement began in the United States in 1971. While it took years to take off, in the 21st century it has become well-recognized among chefs and patrons. Today, you can find a number of fork-to-table restaurants throughout major cities and across the country. This movement continues to grow as restaurateurs are following the business model to support local farmers, improve sustainability practices, and provide customers with nutritious meals.