The farm-to-table idea is seen, by some, as something relatively new. As a social movement in our modern culture, maybe it is. However, we are just getting back to our roots. Are we not?
This social movement, which promotes serving local food at restaurants and at home through direct acquisition from the producers, is beneficial in several ways:
Knowing where our food comes from. Whether it is a winery, brewery, farm, fishery or other type of food producer, we often know the local proprietors personally, we know where they are, and they are accessible. Many even offer tours that highlight the way they produce what they do. When you know where your food comes from and who grew it, you know a lot more about that food.
Locally grown food is full of flavor. Crops are picked at their peak of ripeness. Meat, fish and poultry are delivered fresh versus being processed to be stored or shipped to restaurants far away.
Eating local food is eating seasonally. It offers the community the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful seasonality that Wisconsin has to offer. Many of our festivals started out as local community celebrations of the changing seasons.
Local food has more nutrients. Local food has a shorter time between harvest and your table, and it is less likely that the nutrient value has decreased. Food imported from far-away states and countries is often older, has traveled and sits in distribution centers before it gets to the restaurant.
“Buying Local” is at the heart of the movement. When we look to the local community first for what is needed, the local economy is supported. The money that is spent with local farmers and ranchers all stays close to home and is reinvested with businesses and services in our community.
Local food benefits the environment. By purchasing locally grown foods you help maintain farmland and green and/or open space in your community. The disappearance of heirloom and open-pollinated fruits and vegetables due to the diminishing number of local family farms is harmful to the local environment.
Local foods promote a safer food supply. The more steps there are between you and your food’s source the more chances there are for contamination. Food grown in distant locations has the potential for food safety issues at harvesting, washing, shipping and distribution.
The disappearance of small family farms is not only disappointing on a local level, but it lends itself to a centralized food distribution system which can rob a community of the ability to be self-sufficient.
So, whether we are carnivores, omnivores or herbivores, certainly we should all be locavores.
In writing this article, we relied heavily on Michigan State University Extension, 7 Benefits of Eating Local Foods, by Rita Klavinski, published online April 13, 2013. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/7_benefits_of_eating_local_foods