Getting Farm to Table Right

What would you do if you had to figure out food by yourself? Imagine a time when you were responsible to grow and raise everything you eat yourself.

Imagine a world without farmers who grow our food.

Imagine being a farmer and having to get another full-time job because farming doesn’t provide enough to support your family.

Imagine a world where food wasn’t everywhere we look, from the lumber yard to the mall to the grocery store to sporting events to online accessibility.

Imagine a world with no grocery store. No restaurant. No place to get food delivered to your door on demand.

These are the things that are foundational to “farm to table”. We say we want transparency, authenticity, and choice. It’s good to want to know about and care about our food supply. I LOVE that this is part of our conversation right now. Here’s the thing. The words we choose and what we are focusing on and talking about matters. Maybe more than ever.

if you are a parent, do you want someone to tell you how to raise your child?

Do you want someone who has no training or expertise telling you what to do?

If you do a good job, doesn’t it feel good to be thanked?

If you know how to do something others don’t, isn’t it satisfying when someone shows interest in learning about what you know?

Do you want someone telling you what you are eating is wrong?

Why do we eat what we do? (this is an awesome topic to dig into more in the future)

My guess is, we all answer these questions similarly. Now let’s think of the answers in context of a farmer. Farming is a noble profession.  We literally will die without food. If we think of farmers as the business people they are, growing our food, let’s think about what it takes for them to be able to farm full time and support their families, like we go off to work to earn a living to support our families.  The cool thing about their choice of work is that they not only take care of us, but they grow the food that feeds their families, too.  We must consider this as we think about living “farm to table”.

On a recent trip to Italy (note all the pictures in this post from my vacation), I started thinking about this context to the conversation as I got to meet farmers who opened up their homes to us and artisan farmers who sell their food to stores so we can experience and benefit from their knowledge and hard work through what they grow/raise.  They shared their way of life, raising food for us and their own families, and the realities of food and what it takes to provide it.

 

We heard stories not that long ago when many people didn’t own their own land and were expected to give a large portion (we were told 51% by our tour guide) of what they grew/raised to the landowners, and of people who started with nothing and became land owners themselves. This may seem foreign to many who prefer to rent, or to condo dwellers these days.  We talked with a couple who had a farm that raised chickens, rabbits, pigs, cows, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Enough to feed themselves, their children and grandchildren, their animals, and whatever was left after that could be sold to people within their town.  I’ll likely share more about each of these experiences over time, but for today, let’s stick with the big picture of how to think about farm to table. It’s not just a décor theme for the kitchen. It’s not just a Saturday stroll through a farmer’s market or buying that first bag of Bing cherries in the summer at the grocery store.  Let’s start on the farm.

Farming is complex, challenging work, yet many people want to think of simplicity in food and farming.  The best analogy I can give you is, would you prefer a rotary phone over your smart phone? Are you wearing bell bottoms or parachute pants? Want to cavort around in a horse and buggy, or in the comforts of your air-conditioned car? Hopefully you are smiling and the lightbulb went on over your head. It’s good to have advances and learn more about all aspects of our lives.

Just like in every other aspect of our lives, food and farming has evolved, improved and grown in terms of options to make it better and efficient for animals, crops, farmers, and all the other experts it takes to be successful in agriculture.  Have fun with this. Be curious. Do some of these things to get your farm to table groove on just right:

Go on a farm tour (online or in person).

Google a company to read their story and learn about their values.

Connect with your state department of agriculture.

Check out Know your Farmer, Know your Food, and learn how your local grocery store supports farmers.

Ask the right expert for information. You aren’t going to a foot doctor for an eye checkup.  Build your network to include agricultural experts, from soil scientists to veterinarians to farmers themselves. Connect with the real deal. Check your sources.

Slow down and enjoy your food. Make the meal the focus of your meal (turn off the telly, stop staring at your phone and pay attention to your food).

Look at food and see the story. Consider all the people who helped make that food a reality to your day. The farmer, the workers who harvested it, the facilities who cared for it and packaged it to arrive safely in your store, the veterinarian, the plant breeder, the stocker, the retailer…I could go on but you get the point).

Let me know what you think. I’ll be sharing more in and around this topic soon.