Maddy Fredrick is a junior at Hamilton College studying Sociology and is currently a Farmscape intern. Her interest in the farm-to-table movement stems from her passion for cooking and farming.
The farm-to-table movement has grown exponentially in the last decade. Chefs such as Alice Waters (Chez Panisse), Peter Hoffman (Savoy), and Dan Barber (Blue Hill) pioneered the movement, placing as much emphasis on the source of one’s meal as its taste. Barber’s recent book The Third Plate promotes this trend, explaining how, “A delicious carrot communicates the soil it was grown in, a grass-fed lamb the kind of grasses it was pastured on.”
Yet with this call to bring the source to the forefront comes an equally passionate claim to let the flavor of food speak for itself. In Corby Kummer ‘s “Is It Time to Table Farm-to-Table?” featured in Vanity Fair, Kummer argues that placing so much emphasis on where one’s food is from reduces the importance given to taste. Although the farm-to-table movement places much more significance on taste than imported supermarket produce, the United States’ growing community of local-minded chefs and consumers has entered a debate worth having. Regardless of whether one places more importance on the distance food has traveled or how it tastes, we should celebrate the fact that new rural and urban food providers allow us to explore this argument in the first place.
Community supported agriculture and farmers markets offer source-enthusiasts access to fresh food from local farmers. Community supported agriculture, or CSAs, consist of a community of individuals who pledge to invest in the costs of maintaining a local farm operation. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty. As part of the investment, farmers are paid directly by the community. Members connect with the land by participating directly in food production. Companies such as Farm Box LA, Good Eggs, and LA Organic Veggie Express offer door-delivery from local farms. These avenues all reduce the distance produce travels before it reaches your plate. Are they better than the average American meal, which travels 1,500 miles? Absolutely. Yet, with travel comes the loss of nutrients, flavor, and freshness.
Now urban farmers offer consumers an alternative to rural selections, increasing the opportunity to access the best tasting food possible. Ventures, such as Farmscape, have reduced the distance between farm and table such that it is measured in feet rather than miles. Urban farms – created for individuals, schools, and restaurants – can provide consumers with seasonal produce year-round in California. Clients communicate directly with their farmer about what produce they like, and how they like to prepare it. This tailor-made approach to cooking ensures that one’s food is local and delicious. Because good taste is often a matter of opinion, the urban farming model ensures that the food you, your kids, or your local chef loves is the food that your farmer grows.
Although the emphasis on source over taste has been presented as a debate, it’s a debate we are lucky to be having. Both the source-emphasis movement and urban foodies have combined to generate demand for better, tastier produce than the average supermarket fare.