With the fast evolution of technology, it would seem that society has become increasingly focused on accessibility and easy preparation rather than nutritional value and health when it comes to food. The massive consumption of processed foods and fast food items is the best proof that we’re more interested in ready-to-go or easy-to-make meals rather than in the quality of the food we eat.
However, since the massive side effects that a diet high in processed foods and saturated fats has have become clear to the population, more and more people have been looking for a healthier alternative to their usual diets. As a result, the need for fresh, easily accessible, and affordable produce has sparked new culinary movements such as the farm to fork initiative and the farm to table system.
What Does Farm to Fork Mean?
The farm to fork initiative started as a response not only to the growing consumer demand for fresh, organic produce but also to the drastic loss in farmland that the U.S. has suffered in recent years.
Not only has the number of farms in the country gone down at an alarming rate but the average age of farmers today is 59, which means that small, privately owned farms might become a dying sector of the agriculture. This is concerning since local farmers and growers are the most valuable sources of healthy, organic, locally grown produce for their communities.
The farm to fork NC initiative is aimed at supporting the training and development of new farmers in order to create more local sources of fresh produce and to boost local economies by aiding the community-supported agricultural programs.
Several such support programs and initiatives have been launched in order to support local farmers and growers to supply their communities with fresh produce. The farm-to-table movement has been encouraging restaurant owners and chefs to cook using local, fresh ingredients from small suppliers in the area while initiatives such as the Garden Home concept promoted by P Allen Smith help inform the public about the available options for living a healthy, natural life.
How Does a Farm-to-fork System Work?
Community supported agricultural projects help small farms and producers to equip their facilities, respect FDA regulations, and produce fresh, organic goods for their local communities. These small farms can then sell their produce directly to consumers and businesses such as restaurants and bistros directly for fair prices, bypassing middlemen such as grocery stores.
Not only does this cut down on some costs making the produce more affordable, it allows for the profits to actually go into supporting the farmers themselves and ensures that the products are always fresh. Creating a direct relationship between the farmer and the consumers means reducing the transportation time required for the food to reach the proverbial fork because the produce is grown in the area and can be supplied any time it is needed.
It also enables chefs and consumers alike to know where their food comes from, how it has been grown, and when it has been harvested. This leads to wider consumption of fresh, organic produce and easier access to a healthier diet and lifestyle for the local community.
Why Is Locally Grown Produce Better?
One of the best arguments for using locally grown produce is that it is simply better in so many ways. Vegetables and fruit that you can find in supermarkets and grocery stores are usually shipped from other locations and has to be picked before it is ripened in order to make it through the transportation process looking fresh.
This means that this produce is often not picked at the best time and is lower in nutrients by the time it reaches the shelves than freshly harvested produce. Not only does it take time to transport fruits and vegetables, but they also spend some time on the shelves, so they will be significantly less fresh by the time they have reached the plate.
The farm to fork initiative focuses on drastically cutting down on that transportation time and on supplying consumers and restaurants with produce that has been harvested at the ideal time.
When discussing meat and dairy products, the farm to table movement encourages the same motto of relying on organic farms in the area. There has been strong evidence of the bad treatment of animals in factory farms that produce high quantities of meat products meant for human consumption.
The outrage that these inhumane factory farms have incited by their cruel treatment of animals has prompted many consumers to become more aware of the source of the meat they eat. Consumer awareness about the provenience of their food has increased in recent years along with the popularity of farm to table initiatives.
Understanding where our food comes from has become more important to us as a society, and that is an important step in improving our dietary habits and our health. Using local, free-range farms that do not cram hundreds of birds in tiny, dirty spaces and do not mistreat the animals that they handle means getting better chicken and eggs at the end of the day, since stressed, sick, mistreated animals make for lower quality food.
Local farms that properly care for animals supply better meat, dairy products and eggs directly to restaurants and buyers and combine the need for these products with the required standards for producing them.
The farm to fork initiative is one of the most influential culinary and agricultural movements in recent years and its benefits can be seen in several sectors of the communities in which it is applied. From improving the local economy and building sustainable, organic agricultural models to providing easily accessible fresh produce for consumers and restaurants and being environmentally friendly, it has proven itself to be a functional alternative to the processed foods and imported produce so many people rely on today.
We can only hope that it will keep expanding its influence and that more and more communities will embrace it and benefit from the positive effects that it has had so far.