By Emily Folk
The farm-to-table movement is more than a passing fad. People have a fundamental desire to know where their food is coming from, and they'll often choose restaurants with a close affiliation with local farmers. In doing so, they know their fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products are fresh.
These consumers can also trust in the superior quality of the ingredients in their meals. Where industrial agriculture provides mass quantities of consumables to meet demand, professionals who run small-scale operations can give their crops and livestock more time and attention. Their care is reflected in the taste of the food.
But what of the benefits for farmers and ranchers? What do they stand to gain from a partnership with restaurants? Let's explore the subject in greater detail, catching a glimpse into the advantages of the farm-to-table movement for the hardworking individuals who make it possible.
Financial Security and Stability
Partnerships are often beneficial for small farmers interested in expanding their operation. They'll sometimes struggle to find enough outlets to sell all of their fruits and vegetables, but with a secured buyer, they're free to plant more crops at less risk. Their relationships with local restaurants can provide enough financial security to sustain their growth.
When these farmers, ranchers and other professionals in agriculture seek out partners in need of a steady supply of ingredients, they both profit from their interdependence on one another. The producers of the food can feel confident that their money and time is well spent, and the restauranteurs can feel confident in the happiness and satisfaction of their customers.
An excellent example of an effective partnership is the collaboration between Arizona's Tucson Medical Center and the Community Food Bank. The Tucson Medical Center agreed to purchase large volumes of produce from farmers within a 90-mile radius of the facility. In doing so, they contributed to the region's economic health and gave back to the local community.
Acknowledgment and Credibility
Farmers have a largely thankless job. Although these professionals spend long hours working the land and caring for livestock, the consumers they serve aren't always appreciative of the produce and meat that ends up on the plate. They're often unaware of the substantial amount of energy that goes into maintaining an operation.
This disinterest has led to a divide that might prove disastrous to the future of the industry. Since the 1930s, the number of farmers has decreased from 6.3 million to just over 2 million, a startling statistic that reflects an indifference to agriculture. The farm-to-table movement could shift this perspective, driving more people to pursue a rural lifestyle and profession.
Katie Bloomfield, manager and owner of Q7 Ranch, partnered with a family-run eatery in the Chicago area called The Farmhouse Tavern. She found that her affiliation with the restaurant lent credibility to her operation, with customers actively seeking out her beef, chicken and turkey products. As more professionals like Katie strengthen their bond with the people they provide for, they'll bridge an increasingly dangerous gap.
Healthy Local Economy
A farm provides for a community, but a community also provides for a farm. There are very few professionals in agriculture who are entirely self-sufficient, after all. They'll often rely on other vendors within the region to secure the materials they need to sustain their operation, purchasing equipment and supplies to tackle their day-to-day responsibilities.
As these farmers engage in partnerships with restaurants, consumers purchase produce, meat and dairy products locally, benefitting the area where their food is grown and raised. Their spending contributes to the region's economy, which in turn fosters an environment where small farming operations can develop.
Considering that a large volume of produce often travels 1,500 miles before reaching its destination, keeping resources within a community is a smart idea. The farm-to-table movement encourages customers to invest their money not only in delicious food but also in the place where they live. It's a cycle that ultimately profits all parties involved.
A Win-Win Situation
Restaurant-goers want fresh ingredients sourced from local farms, and local farmers want secured buyers for their products. They want financial security and stability, credibility and, to some extent, acknowledgment. They want to contribute to a local economy that will help them develop and expand their operation.
The farm-to-table movement will provide all of these benefits and many more like them. When farmers partner with restaurants, everyone wins.
About the author: Emily is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.