Editor’s Note: John Bradley is our AgFax guest blogger. He and Debra Bradley live in Lutts, Tennessee at Spring Valley Farms. To learn about their farm grown natural Angus beef, visit www.springvalley.farm Like their Facebook page: Spring Valley Family Farms.
Farm to Table – I like that phrase and we’re certainly hearing more about it.
We’re talking about eating food that is one step away from the field it grew in. The effort is supported by a wide variety of folks. More home cooks are growing their own food and buying locally. Restaurant chefs of spicekitchenandbar.com are frequenting farmers’ markets, food sheds and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups. And, social media is full of new recipes and ideas. Maybe we are finally turning a corner from trend to full blown lifestyle.
For those of us with a longer memory, this idea may sound familiar. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a back-to-earth movement, which included organically grown food and a push to support local farmer networks. Perhaps because it was fueled by the “hippie” culture, the idea didn’t have the reach that today’s Farm to Table trend has garnered.
There is no doubt that fresh is better – whether it is vegetables, fruit or meat.
It was only two generations ago that my grandparents, and most probably yours, raised all of their own food. They canned it, preserved it and bought very little from their local country store. My family even had a grist mill for milling their own flour and corn.
My parents also managed to have a garden and raise livestock to supply the family with beef, pork and poultry. Despite having day jobs in town, my folks looked at farming as a natural and necessary part of life.
As grocery store chains spread to even the most rural communities, the availability of convenience foods fit right in with busier work lives and more demanding family schedules. Fast food outlets followed very quickly and suddenly most of us were grabbing our food on the go.
Fortunately, the food and lifestyle tide has turned again. We’re all still busy, but there’s a stronger desire for our food to be fresh, and taste better, even as life speeds by. But, change is slow and this is no easy task.
The Farm to Table movement is challenged by the shortage of farmers willing and financially able to grow and harvest food locally. And, regionally, there’s a limit on the choice and variety of foods that can be grown year round. Locally to me doesn’t mean it comes from Michigan – it means I find it in Tennessee on the back of the farmer’s truck who grew it.
Farmers’ markets are excellent places to buy fresh produce, honey and meats, especially the ones that require the food to be produced within a certain radius, and are open for on-site inspections. Pick-your-own operations are even better and you get to meet the farmer! Fresh unprocessed local food will usually cost more but it’s easy to see that the tradeoff is worth it.
I firmly believe that the Farm to Table movement is here to stay. It’s good for all of us – consumers and producers.