In cooking, the process of clarification entails straining out extraneous muck from liquids so that they might be pure, clear and ideal for consumption. With this series on food terminology we're attempting to do the same.
On Wednesday, November 10th, Eatocracy is hosting its inaugural Secret Supper in Atlanta, Georgia, centered around the topic of how chefs' increasingly close collaboration with farmers figures into the preservation and evolution of Southern cooking. Take your place at the (virtual) table, by joining in the conversation and cooking along at home.
As diners become more concerned with where their food comes from and how it is prepared, the term “farm-to-table” has entered the national lexicon. Restaurants specialize in it, food and environmental activists extol its benefits and farmers markets and roadside stands live and die by it.
So what does it mean and why are we on the hunt for it?
Getting food straight from the farmer cuts out the middleman – like packagers, processing plants and commercial vendor - and assures consumers that their fare is fresh, nutritious and locally produced; something worth paying a little extra for.
Even though farm-fresh produce and meats might cost more, “You’re not spending a lot of money on travel expenses and you’re being more environmentally friendly,” says Kim Sopczyk, a nutrition community educator at Cornell University and star of From Farm to Table, a PBS show broadcast in New York’s Capital Region. You’re also keeping business in the community and supporting the local economy.
“The farm to table community is strongly of the belief that over time, once we shift more resources into a local food culture, prices will drop,” Allen says. Some food programs for low-income families already offer discounts for eating locally, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Women, Infants and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Chef Michel Nischan’s Wholesome Wave, which offers a Double Value Coupon Program that doubles the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, when used at participating farmers markets nationwide.
Farm-to-table food offerings encompass any type of whole food imaginable, as long as it’s in season. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses and other dairy, nuts and even baked goods; just not anything processed - like that bag of chips on your desk.
Many restaurants – like Nischan’s Dressing Room restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, Steven Satterfield’s Miller Union in Atlanta and David Kinch’s Manresa in Los Gatos, California, among many others, build their image on farm-to-table food, focusing on seasonal varieties and changing their menu daily, according to what’s available. This gives their customers a chance to enjoy an ever-changing menu and a sampling of local cuisine.
Still, Sopczyk stresses that you don’t need to go to a restaurant to enjoy farm-to-table food. “You can make healthy meals using local produce, and it doesn’t always take a lot of effort.”
Need even more incentive? CNN and Foursquare have made it easy to find your local farmers market – and maybe even reap a little reward. Learn more about the CNN Healthy Eater badge, available at more than 6000 locations across the US.
Previously – What is a CSA?