8 WAYS TO GET INTO THE FARM-TO-TABLE COMMUNITY
Farm-to-table, or farm-to-fork, eating is a movement that encourages more consumption of locally grown, raised and made foods, and fewer middlemen between the farmer and consumer. If you’d like to become more involved in this growing trend, here are eight steps you can take to enjoy more of the good foods your area has to offer.
1) FIND YOUR LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET
More and more cities and towns hold weekly farmer’s markets, allowing growers to set up a booth for a weekend morning or afternoon and sell the fruits and vegetables they grow directly to local residents. Some communities have commercial farmer’s markets that operate with similar hours to a grocery store, offering expanded food choices, such as cheeses, eggs, meats, baked goods and packaged foods.
While locally produced items often cost more, they can also be cheaper than what you find at supermarkets because local farmers don’t pay distributors. Even if items cost more, the food you’ll get will be fresher and last longer at home because it hasn’t been sitting for days while being processed and shipped.
2) LOOK FOR F2F RESTAURANTS
U.S. chefs are increasingly sourcing local fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, fowl, game, cheeses and other locally produced foods for their restaurants. The trick is finding them. The easiest way to locate restaurants that offer local fare is to do a Google search. Another way is to ask the farmer’s at your local farmer’s market which restaurants they supply.
3) INVOLVE THE KIDS
Children eat so much processed junk food and spend so much time in front of their electronic devices, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions throughout the country, according to health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control.
Get your kids into eating healthy by taking them to visit farms, dairies and other local businesses that grow, raise and produce the foods they eat. Let your children plan a meal or two each week and go online to get the recipes for each dish. Take them shopping to buy the ingredients, looking for local sources when possible. Cook with them, teaching them what you know to get them more interested in eating healthy. Explain to them why buying healthy foods and cooking for yourself lowers the risk for many diseases and conditions, including juvenile diabetes.
4) POLL YOUR FRIENDS
Send a group email to your family, co-workers and friends to find out if they know of any places to find fresh, local foods and restaurants that have a F2F mentality. You might end up with another friend or a small group who want to start a F2F dining club.
5) LEARN TO COOK LOCAL INGREDIENTS
You might find your area produces a variety of foods you’ve never cooked or even eaten before. Research the local crops your area produces, find out when they’re available, and then search for recipes that include these foods.
6) EXPECT SEASONAL SHORTAGES
One feature of eating F2F is that you won’t be able to get your local favorites year round and will have to eat many foods produced out of the area throughout the year. Finding out when local foods are available will ensure you don’t miss them during their season and will help you plan bulk buys and seasonal menus.
7) START GARDENING
The ultimate F2F experience might be growing your own foods. You don’t need to invest lots of money into gardening before you find out whether or not it’s something right for you. Start small, with only two or three of your favorite crops, such as tomatoes or cucumbers or radishes or carrots. Spend some time on the ‘net learning which veggies will grow best in your area and when you should plant them. Once you experience growing a few of your own vegetables, you can decide whether you want to expand your garden next season. If you decide to stick with gardening, you can learn canning and save even more money while enjoying your veggies year-round.
8) LOOK FOR A CSA GROUP
Community Supported Agriculture groups are springing up around the country, allowing consumers to invest small amounts of money with local farmers in exchange for a portion of the crops when they arrive. When you join a CSA group, you get a “share” of the produce, with weekly allotments over the course of several months, providing you with fresh produce you know is coming in advance. The money you and other CSA member pay farmers in advance allows them to fund their growing and better plan crops, since they know how many people are involved. You might also have access to items such as fresh eggs, meat, poultry and flowers. Your upfront investment might be several hundred dollars, based on where you live, but by cutting out the middleman and joining with others, you can save money in the long run while getting the healthy foods you want.
This article was written by Sam Ashe-Edmunds, contributor for The Daily Clutch.