Farm-to-Table: The Over-Utilized Phrase of an Under-Applied Philosophy

The phrase “farm-to-table” gets thrown around so much these days it almost seems to fade into the commonality that is the infamous trip to the grocery store. What is farm-to-table? What does that mean? Isn’t everything technically farm-to-table? To answer that last question in one word: Yes. Everything is produced on some farm, some way or another, and ends up on your dinner table. But how you may ask? What is the process in which it gets there? Those are the questions that really characterize a phrase that appears to have defined a generation of foodies, bloggers, and critics.

When defining what the overused phrase “farm-to-table” means to me, I interpret it as what I have tried to do over the years of my chosen career of being a culinary professional.  I go to a farmer – who has a name, an address, a family, and piece of land which they use to produce a product. Whether that product is hogs, chickens, grains, produce, or cheese – I talk to them, arrange terms, and procure that item to use in our restaurants. I take that phrase to mean the relationship a chef or restaurateur personally forges with a producer who has made it their life goal to raise, farm, produce, and  sell their product to the best of their ability. Without compromise. Period.

Understandably, we all want tomatoes in December, we all want bananas or pineapples in Canada, and we all want cheese on sale for two dollars a pound. That in essence is what has spawned the over-use of the term “farm-to-table”. We need mass produced products and vastly imported products to maintain our everyday lifestyle. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t a good thing for those who actually represent the farm-to-table movement – the farmers, producers, cheesemakers, butchers, millers, bakers, and yes, the candlestick makers. Most of these people have never seen a farm in Mexico or California, and don’t represent large-scale industrial farming companies. For these producers, the only goal is making something to be like it was in the ‘good old days’ – the only way they know how.

We often hear phrases from some of our elders that “things ain’t what they used to be” or “I remember when a tomato tasted like a tomato”. For these reasons alone we should be supporting our local farmers and producers and be purchasing good quality, in season and sustainable products. That’s why I do it, and that’s why we do it here at B Elegant. It’s not just a catch phrase or a slogan to us. It’s not a watered down, over-used, empty phrase. It’s what we live and breathe. Supporting our local farmers, our local farm to table movement and our community, in essence, supports us all. It is vital to the conservation of good food. So next time you are out for dinner, I encourage you to ask: “where is this from?” and if the chef has done their job correctly, the answer should unarguably be, “from our farmer, to your table.”