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Gastronomy, Farm to Table

Next time you pick up your favorite food, take a moment to think about how that food got on our plate and who grew it.

Gastronomy is the study of the relationship between food and culture, the art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food, the cooking styles of particular regions, and the science of good eating.” –


Oh, the power of words! Love this quote. It’s everything we want our food to be, from farm to table: Culturally connected. Selected/stored/prepared well. Served with care.

“Traditional food system work is a reality check; it helps to not forget where you come from and who you are. It makes sense to us.”

Earl Nowgesic, indigenous health leader, Canada

It’s not as often as it should be that we pause to think about regional differences in farming and food. When we go to a new restaurant and are excited to try the “global cuisine”, or we go to a new country and can’t wait to try the food, there’s a reason for that. There’s a reason a country and place are known for a type of food. Think about agriculture.

Here’s the deal – things are grown and raised where it makes the most sense to do so – it’s natural resource management. I live in Illinois. Not once have I seen a banana or pineapple farm. Why? Hello, winter. So this whole local food thing, from an agriculture perspective, takes on a very different meaning depending on where you live.

I was at the Farm Progress Show for a speaking engagement in 2019 (#sponsored), and one of my points on our panel with a chef and dietitian (me!) was that people are curious about their food in ways they weren’t before. Back in the day, more of us were living on farms and in direct day to day contact with agriculture. The journey of our food, fuel, and fiber was knowledge we literally grew up with.  We inherently knew, because we saw, that pretty much everything that is done on a farm (and ranch) is intentional.

No farmer walks out their door randomly and starts doing things.

Farm life is challenging. It’s 24/7 all day every day.

Animals and crops need – and get – care around the clock.

Weather is unpredictable and impacts the health of people, animals, plants – all of it.

It takes money, time, patience, faith, hope, knowledge, collaboration, trust, demand for product – the list is long and this isn’t everything.

Think about it like this: local food comes from local farms and local farmers where it makes the most sense to raise and grow the food.

Transportation, refrigeration, how we store food – we have so many more tools in the toolbox to make this food journey much more cohesive and smart. That’s not to say there isn’t need to keep trying for better. This is why, in agriculture, you hear the phrase “continuous improvement”.

Barns have changed to be better homes for animals (warmer in winter, cooler in summer)

Storage of grains and crops has many more options.

How we feed animals continues to evolve and improve as animal nutrition experts continue to learn more and more about nutrition (like it does with people and nutrition research).

Technology has made it possible to pinpoint areas of fields that need fertilizer or other specialized attention to help manage how much is added to fields.

Cover crops are used to help with soil health.

Oh, the list is long about on farm productivity and advancement.

You want a career that calls to your inner computer geek AND your love of outdoors? Agriculture.

You want a career that changes lives and has the ability to support human life? Agriculture.

You want a career in fashion? Agriculture.

Sports is your thing? Agriculture.

You want to be a healthcare professional? Agriculture.

You want to be a chef? Agriculture.

I could go on, but you get the point. Agriculture makes food, fuel, and fiber possible.

Next time you pick up your favorite food, whatever that may be, take one moment to think about how that food got on our plates and who grew it. Pretty sure this will make you enjoy and appreciate it even more.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.