Written by Cheyenne Watts | Reviewed by Adiana Castro MS, RDN, CDN, CLT
Recently you may have gone out for a nice, sit-down meal at a trendy New York City restaurant. The menu is made of recycled cardboard, the ink used to print the meal options is eco-friendly, and the furniture upon which you sit and dine is made of reclaimed materials collected from ship wreckage. You begin to consider the options, but are overwhelmed by the options- Do you want free-range chicken from Upstate New York? Or would you prefer grass-fed beef that roamed on a 50-acre pasture? Or, perhaps, you’d like to order the goat that was raised by a traditional two-parent family with a steady income, and went to a private school for gifted goats? That last option is a silly exaggeration, but it brings us to the point that the Farm-to-Table trend has gotten a bit out of hand. The line between serving food that is truly local and telling utter lie to keep up the establishments’ appearances has become blurred, but this does not mean fresh foods are impossible to find.
Farm-to-table is a social movement which promotes serving local food at restaurants and school cafeterias, preferably through direct acquisition from the producer. Farm-to-table often incorporates a form of food traceability, or knowing where your food comes from, where the farm or garden the food originates is made known.
The farm-to-table movement has arisen more or less concurrently with changes in attitudes about food safety, food freshness, food seasonality, and small-farm economics. Alice Waters, restauranteur of Chez Panisse and mother of the Slow Food movement, began listing the farms on her restaurant menus to “remind people that food really did grow on farms,” (Vanity Fair, 2015).
Restaurants, schools, and hotels alike want to source locally and follow a farm-to-table method because locally sourced food is more frequently organic (meaning it doesn’t use GMOs), tastes better (because it hasn’t been picked early and shipped in a truck), it comes from small family farms, and there are more unique types varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Recently, farm-to-table eating has become more available to the general public through farmers markets and monthly food box subscriptions. Families can visit the farmers market on the weekend to pick out organic produce, fresh baked goods, homemade jams, and grass fed meat to cook for a wholesome dinner. Also, some subscription food boxes source locally when possible and only buy their product from organic, small farms.
New York City is home to many farm-to-table restaurants. You can find a comprehensive list of some of the most famous ones here. In addition, you can find all of your local farmers markets on this site.
If you want to support local farmers, eat healthier and more delicious food, and reduce your carbon footprint, please try out a new farm-to-table restaurant, or cook a meal with your family using produce you purchased at a local NYC Farmers Market. Happy Eating!