What is farm-to-table?
The best food really is grown close to home. Simply put, farm-to-table means that a restaurant purchases ingredients directly from a local farm. This is also referred to as Farm-To-Fork. By and large it is the elimination of the middle man in the food supply chain.
Relationships. Reputation. Standards. Community. Shelf life. Quality.
The first step in this road less traveled is to develop relationships with farms in your community. Handshakes and eye contact tell you a lot about a person! We have become very close friends with many of our farmer suppliers and they have become mentors in all aspects of farming. If someone is willing to answer your questions and share their knowledge and perpetuate a life-skill it says a lot about their character. These are the kinds of people with whom to surround yourself.
We only partner with farms of great reputation. As a matter of fact, many of our partners do business with each other on their own farms! It is a circle of trust. In our food safety classes we are instructed to purchase ingredients only from ‘approved and reputable sources.’ If the farm has a long standing positive reputation with their own customers and peers, I am able to sleep well at night knowing that we are working with businesses of good repute. At the end of the day, the reputation of our suppliers becomes our reputation as soon as we set that plate full of ingredients in front of our guests.
What are the standards that guide a potential supplier? Are they organic? Do they spray harmful chemicals on their crops? Do they feed growth hormones or steroids? Are they willing to take you on a tour of their operation and answer your questions? We take great pride in having visited many of our partner’s farm’s and walked with our kids through their gardens and in some cases even fed their animals. We strive to partner only with farms whose standards are at least as high as ours. Never settle!
When we purchase ingredients from small family-owned farms in our own community, those dollars stay in this community. As the saying goes, “a rising tide raises all ships.” The money from the sale of an ingredient goes directly to the farmer rather than some of it going to a distributor, some to a broker, some to another distributor and the rest going to the farmer without whom none of this would have been possible in the first place!
If an ingredient is grown & harvested in Mexico then stored briefly (hopefully briefly) in a warehouse prior to being shipped over the border to the US where it spends more time in another warehouse before being trucked all the way up here to northern Pennsylvania it probably does not have much of its shelf life remaining. Don’t worry, the chemists got involved and developed “food safe waxes” to coat many “fresh” ingredients to extend their shelf lives. They of course need to be scrubbed off prior to consumption. Yuck. Now contrast this with a typical produce item grown locally. In many cases that tomato will be harvested and delivered from the farm to the chef in just a few days or in many instances only a few hours! Without any funky waxes or preservatives! This results in the end user having a wider window in which to use an ingredient, greater nutritional value, and a superior texture and taste as well! It’s a no brainer!
The best food really is grown close to home by people that you know and trust.