If you’ve eaten at a restaurant lately, you may have noticed that the menu included a list of local farms and ranches at the bottom. Or perhaps there was a chalkboard displaying the drinks menu—along with the names of some local breweries and distilleries.
Welcome to the farm to fork movement.
It’s a movement in which restaurants source their ingredients locally whenever possible, and in which consumers are encouraged to become more connected to where their food comes from. Though far from new, the farm to fork (sometimes called farm to table) movement has enjoyed a dramatic increase in popularity over the last decade or so—and with good reason.
Anyone who’s ever picked fresh basil from the garden or eaten a sun-‐ripened berry straight off the vine knows first hand the appeal of fresh produce. When food is sourced locally, it can be picked when it’s ripe instead of being shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles away. It can be served sooner, retains more of its nutrients, and just tastes better.
By sourcing their ingredients directly from local farmers, ranchers, and other producers, restaurants are also able to cut out the middleman of big suppliers and distributors. Not only does this keep food fresher and less processed, but it also reduces the impact on the environment and encourages sustainability.
Finally, buying directly from local producers allows chefs to develop a relationship with them, often resulting in changing seasonal menus that take advantage of the ingredients of the moment and introduce diners to a wider variety of dishes throughout the year. These kinds of relationships also support local farmers, who are often more likely to treat their animals humanely and less likely to use harmful pesticides or GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
In the end, however, while all these factors are important, the real reason most people choose to visit a restaurant is the chance to eat great food in the company of family and friends. And with its fresh, local ingredients and inspiring seasonal menus, the farm to fork movement allows diners to do just that.