Chances are, if you’re interested in the food world in the slightest (which, I assume you are reading this article), you’ve probably heard of the current “farm-to-table” movement that has shaken up the restaurant industry for the past several years.
In the beginning, the catalyst to the movement was the chef’s desire to use more local and wholesome ingredients in his or her cuisine, to add integrity to the menu. In the fetal stages of the movement, the clientele was lacking, and as a result barely permeated the food world outside of affluent and food-centric towns. The new loftier-priced menus with strange sounding dishes scared off many diners, most of whom were seeking something more familiar— but consequently unsustainable.
Trying to convince the Chicagoan — for example — that she should pay a premium for Illinois grass-fed beef, farm fresh eggs, and the country’s best dairy proved more difficult than anticipated. People wanted what they wanted, and the morality of the situation which weighed heavily on determined chefs barely left an imprint on the souls of the average eater.
But alas, with the passage of time, younger folks with more of an ethical compass (culinarily speaking) began to flock to restaurants that supported locally-sourced ingredients. This meant they couldn’t get a fatty Atlantic tuna steak or bright red juicy tomatoes in mid-January — a crippling reality many were not willing to face quite yet. It also meant the realization that hey — maybe a chicken breast was actually not supposed to rival the size of a futon mattress.
Historically speaking, these open minded individuals were merely acknowledging that the past few decades completely overlooked sustainable food and realized the importance of eating only what was in season and what could be harvested from nearby.
The movement was certainly catching on, and more farm-to-table restaurants and food providers began popping up nationwide. Momentum was growing, and creating a snowball effect in the food world the likes of which had never been seen in recent history.
Enter the cruel dichotomy of a successful movement: the generally unpalatable connotations with the terms “fad” and “trendy.”
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that some of the most successful farm-to-table businesses popped up in Brooklyn, NY, Portland, OR and Asheville, NC. Upon entering said establishments, you’d find white tattooed urbanites clutching mason jars brimming with craft beer, listening to the musical stylings of Vampire Weekend.
As much as it pains me to use the word, “hipsters” were some of the most steadfast supporters of the FTF movement, which turned off those of us who would rather shave our upper lips and listen to Billy Joel non-ironically.
Like I said, a cruel dichotomy.
So while the farm-to-table movement was becoming somewhat successful, the trendiness of this very important revolution carried a face that many wanted nothing to do with. Average Joes began to see the whole concept like they do Google Glass, platform shoes and Volkswagen camper vans: a fashion statement rather than a utility. And with this new, fallacy-driven point of view beginning to take hold, we supporters currently find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
Hopefully, after some collective reevaluation of the factual nature of things, this current moodiness about how the farmed food movement is merely “hip” will prove transient. This is one instance where I am comfortable saying that the hippies are right, that we should not be distracted by the fashionable nature of the campaign. This is one fad that is here to stay.
But local farms need your support, and a big change in sustainability needs to occur for many other social and environmental issues to be brought to the cutting board. Together, I assure you, we can beat the bandwagon mindset and make the move towards a better, healthier culinary world.