9 Reasons to Go to Farm-To-Table Restaurants
A seasonal menu and farm-to-table food go hand-in-hand in the restaurant world. More than just culinary buzzwords, local farmers’ restaurants deliver big on flavor while supporting a positive environmental and cultural message. This restaurant movement isn’t just for modern hippies or environmentalists. The farm-to-table culinary craze is an inclusive concept with benefits for anyone who loves fresh, delicious food while dining out at local restaurants.
What exactly is the farm-to-table concept and why should you embrace it? Keep reading to understand why you should seek out restaurants with seasonal menus and locally sourced ingredient lists.
Basics of the Farm-To-Table Restaurant Movement
The farm-to-table movement generates a lot of buzz in culinary circles. At its core, this movement refers to restaurants using locally sourced foods when creating their menus. Restaurants often buy the ingredients directly from the producers, cutting out the middleman and significantly shortening the distance from the source. Fruits and vegetables are commonly procured locally in this food concept, but many restaurants also source meat and animal products, such as dairy and eggs, locally.
The movement harkens back to bygone days when, even up to the turn of the 20th century, food rarely came from more than 50 miles away. Those local food supplies diminished as more people migrated toward cities and away from the rural producers. Improved transportation routes and technology made it easier to move food long distances, and busy lifestyles pushed people toward convenience foods. Farm-to-table restaurants return to the local food roots, with an emphasis on quality foods and simple preparation.
The origins of the farm-to-table push started as far back as the 60s and 70s when the hippie movement emphasized local and natural foods. In recent years, the seasonal farm-to-table concept has become more mainstream, first gaining popularity in progressive cities, such as Boulder and Seattle, and eventually spreading to almost every city.
The meaning of local food varies depending on the source of the definition. Based on the Food, Conservation and Energy Act, local or regional agricultural food products are those that are transported a total of no more than 400 miles from their origin. Others tend to think of local food as anything produced within 100 miles of the final destination. Still others think of local as confined to a particular city, county or state. Whatever the definition, the farm-to-table movement is drawing plenty of attention, and for good reason.
Why go to farm-to-table restaurants? Local food tastes better, supports the local economy and minimizes the impact on the environment. The local sourcing means many farm-to-table restaurants incorporate seasonal menus to match the produce that is in season locally. For this reason, you can expect to see frequent menu changes and new dishes on the menu of your favorite farm-to-table restaurant. No matter what your culinary preferences, you will likely find multiple reasons to get behind your local farm-to-table restaurants.
- Seasonal Variety Keeps Your Taste Buds Guessing
When a restaurant creates a menu based around locally sourced food, that menu is subject to change frequently. That variety comes from the frequently changing foods that are in season in your area, resulting in seasonal menus that capitalize on the food that is currently fresh, in season and full of flavor. Foods that flourish in your local climate during the summer months won’t survive in winter. When the cold winter winds blow, new produce comes into season. An ever-changing supply needs a seasonal menu to match.
Why is a seasonal menu appealing to you as a consumer? Those regular menu changes make your favorite restaurants even more exciting to visit. You never know what you might find on the menu each time you visit. For people who love variety, the constantly changing menu is appealing. Each visit is a chance to explore new and varied dishes. For those who tend to order the same thing at favorite restaurants, the seasonal menu provides a gentle nudge to try something new. The food is still prepared by the chefs you love. It just comes with new twists and ingredients used at the peak of freshness.
The seasonal rejuvenation of the restaurant menu also gets the restaurant staff excited. The chef gets a chance to shine with new, inventive dishes that highlight the local seasonal offerings. A constantly changing supply of ingredients may spark creativity, giving you an experience like no other. As a restaurant patron, you get to enjoy that culinary creativity and excitement.
- Local Foods Offer Freshness and Quality
Traditional food often travels thousands of miles before arriving at supermarkets and restaurants. That long travel distance leaves food sitting in limbo waiting to be prepared and served. When food sits for a long time, it loses moisture and flavor. Naturally crisp foods, such as leafy greens and carrots, might become limp. Over time, those ingredients lose their robust flavors and appealing textures, which takes away from the pleasure of eating them.
Locally sourced ingredients only have a short distance to travel before arriving at a restaurant. That shortened travel distance also allows the ingredients to arrive faster than food hauled in from thousands of miles away. Local vendors often deliver produce directly to the restaurant the same day it is harvested from the ground. You might dine on food tonight that was growing on a plant this morning. That shortened delivery cycle means the food arrives to your favorite farm-to-table restaurant fresh and full of flavor.
The quality of local food is often superior in general. Local farmers put their hearts and souls into tending their crops, livestock and other food products. They build their businesses on producing high-quality ingredients for local consumers. Because they are generally smaller producers, the food gets personal attention instead of being mass-produced on corporate farms. That care and attention shows in the quality and flavors of the food.
- The Food Takes Center Stage
Lower-quality foods often need lots of flavor enhancements to taste good. Convenience or packaged ingredients used in some restaurants may be full of sugar, sodium and preservatives. All that junk takes away from the true flavor of food.
The focus of the farm-to-table movement is a back-to-basics approach of savoring and enjoying foods with simple, flavorful preparations. Restaurants using fresh, local ingredients serve up dishes without all of the extras, allowing the natural flavor of the food to permeate the dish. This results in vibrant flavors experienced in a way that many restaurants don’t offer. Eating at a farm-to-table restaurant may make you fall in love with ingredients when you experience the true full flavor of the food.
- Your Money Supports the Local Economy
Eating at a locally owned restaurant keeps your money in the community, but a farm-to-table concept restaurant spreads that local wealth even further to support multiple small business owners. Those local farmers and vendors who supply the ingredients get a boost in sales when farm-to-table restaurants thrive, giving them income to support their families and continue expanding their farms. Because those producers live in or near your community, they spend their profits at other local businesses.
Instead of padding the wallet of large corporations, you give a local family a way to generate income. As the demand for locally sourced food increases, those local farms and producers expand to meet the needs. This often means hiring additional workers, which continues providing income for community members and results in even more money spent at other local establishments. Supporting local businesses is a great way to stimulate the economy in your own city or state instead of supporting businesses in faraway states or even other countries.
- Farmers and Restaurants Collaborate to Improve the Experience
Restaurants using the farm-to-table concept often build strong relationships with the producers who supply the ingredients. They take a strong interest in knowing exactly where the food is grown and how it is handled. The chef or manager of the restaurant might travel to the farm to see the growing conditions in person. This builds a sense of trust and reliability, which increases the quality of food you see on your plate.
The farmer is also motivated by the collaboration. Producers want to provide quality ingredients to strengthen the partnership. This means you get delicious, fresh ingredients with an eye for continued quality.
Local producers may also experiment more than corporate farms when it comes to types of produce. A corporate farm chooses plant types based on yield and shelf life. The plants must produce a lot of food that will hold up well during the long transport period. They stick with the varieties with a proven track record to maximize production and profits.
A farmer who sells produce locally doesn’t need to focus as much on the shelf life because their products go straight to the restaurant. They can choose types of plants based on the nutritional content or the rich flavor rather than how long they will last. Local producers might experiment with heirloom plants, growing vibrant tomatoes and other produce in a variety of colors and shapes. A farmer might grow specialty vegetables that aren’t common, such as broccoli raab, dandelion greens, squash blossoms or Jerusalem artichoke. That flexibility in growing decisions provides even greater variety for the restaurant and new dining experiences for you.
- The Farm-To-Table Movement Minimizes the Impact on the Environment
Conventional produce traveled an average of 1,494 miles to get to its destination, based on a study from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Locally grown produce traveled an average of only 56 miles. That vast difference in travel distance makes a profound impact on the environment. When food travels thousands of miles to get to its destination, the transport process generates lots of pollution and consumes huge amounts of energy.
A farm-to-table restaurant boasts a smaller carbon footprint because its ingredients come from nearby locations without generating lots of pollution. Shorter travel distances and more fuel-efficient transportation methods minimize fuel consumption and emissions. You can feel good about dining at those locally sourced restaurants, knowing the impact to the environment is smaller.
- Local Food Retains Its Health Value
Nutritional value is an important part of why we choose healthy foods as the primary focus of our diets. Our bodies need the nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, grains and lean protein sources. Fresh foods retain more of the vitamins, minerals and other good-for-you nutrients that naturally occur in the ingredients. When those ingredients sit in warehouses, travel thousands of miles to the destination and otherwise sit for days or weeks before being served, that nutritional value starts to decline. Your healthy salad might not deliver the health impact you expect if the ingredients came from the other side of the country.
Another healthy advantage to eating local food is the method of growth and harvesting. Small, local producers tend to lean toward organic farming practices with reduced pesticide use. This minimizes the amount of chemicals that make it onto your plate. Animals raised for meat or animal products tend to enjoy a free-range lifestyle with a healthier diet and few or no chemicals used on the animals. Efficient farming practices conserve the quality of the soil to protect the local environment.
Food intended for local consumption also stays on the plant until it is fully ripened. This allows the produce to reach its nutritional peak before being harvested. Produce harvested when it is ripe also offers a better flavor and texture. Conventional foods are often harvested prematurely to allow for the days or weeks of transit time. This may result in decreased nutritional value and less flavor. By supporting local restaurants using the farm-to-table concept, you get the same homegrown flavor and nutrition you would get if you harvested the produce from your own backyard.
- Locally Sourced Foods Save Money
Greater demand for locally grown food has increased the availability, making it a feasible model for restaurants. As the local food movement expands, foods grown locally become more affordable, making this a profitable business model for restaurants. When restaurants save money on ingredient sourcing, they can offer customers delicious local food at an affordable price.
Local foods that are in season are generally more affordable than foods that aren’t in season. Produce that requires warm climates to grow must come from faraway tropical locations during the winter months, for example. Those foods generally come with a higher price tag. Instead of fighting the seasonal availability of produce, the farm-to-table concept embraces those changes to make the format affordable and delicious.
- Farm-to-Table Restaurants Generate Buzz
Eating at a farm-to-table restaurant is exciting. It keeps you front and center of culinary trends and makes it interesting to dine out. Supporting your local farm-to-table restaurant ensures the establishment continues providing those delicious, healthy and creative dishes, thus creating a varied culinary landscape in your community. You also get to enjoy the excitement of engaging in the local food community, and you may feel a greater sense of connection with your community and the local environment and seasons.
Support Your Local Food-To-Table Restaurants
Why wait to cash in on seasonal menu benefits? Taste the difference yourself and feel good about supporting local business when you choose farm-to-table and organic restaurants in Harrisburg, PA. Bricco serves up delicious dishes using the freshest local ingredients. Our menu changes often to reflect the freshest seasonal offerings from local Pennsylvania sources. Make your reservation today to experience seasonal farm-to-table dining for yourself.