"Farm to table" is the concept of purchasing locally grown food directly from the source. The term comes from the idea that the less time and fewer hands it takes for the food to get from the farm to the table, the fresher, more environmentally sensitive and community minded it is. This can include growing your own garden for sustainable consumption at home or for your restaurant.
You can greatly impact the economy of your community, health of your patrons and bottom line of your food cost budget as a result of buying from a local farm as your main food supplier.
Support the local economy. Money stays within your community, which in turn directly supports your business. Advertise the information about the farm that grows your food. Engage your customers with your locally-minded concept and inspire your neighbors to support local commerce as well.
Keep inventory longer. Food that is purchased directly from the farm will naturally last longer on your shelf. It hasn’t spent time in a processing plant or on a truck for shipment. It came straight from the ground to you, meaning you just bought yourself more time to think creatively.
Invest in value. Many local farmers will compete with nationally recognized grocery store chains, but at times may charge a bit more because the quality of product that is being sold may be greater. Local produce and meat is more likely to be organic which increases the value of your menu.
Create a local partnership. Building a business partnership between your business and local farmers, and other restaurants or business that support local business, can create a marketing network that promotes and sustains the local economy.
Buying meat locally. Buying locally raised and processed meat, fish and poultry can be challenging. The U.S. Department of Agriculture restricts the number of birds a farmer can process on site and does not allow any red meat processing for small farm operations. Because of this, the meat may have been locally and organically raised with an emphasis on humane standards, but the slaughter and processing of the meat animals are probably (with the exception of poultry) handled off site.
Finding off-season produce. There will be periods between planting and harvesting when produce may not be as bountiful. However, many farmers do have greenhouses where produce can be grown during colder months. Discuss off-season options with your partnered farmer or farmers ahead of time to avoid lack luster deliveries.
Setting-up in the city. Maybe there isn’t a farm just down the road from your restaurant. This is the case for many businesses, but chances are there is a farm within a reasonable enough distance to your urban area. Visit your local farmer’s market and inquire about locations. Learn about delivery options for your establishment, or show up early and stock up weekly at the market.
Try one of these organizations to help get you started:
Farm to table business supports your local ecology and economy. Many restaurants who have joined this movement have also developed composting programs to assure that their business stays green from start to finish. Consider buying locally to strengthen your neighboring rural community as well as your immediate neighborhood’s economy.