Farm to Table: What Does It Really Mean

As consumers grow more agriculturally conscious, a number of terms have sprung up to entice these would-be customers. One such term is “farm to table,” which is meant to imply the highest freshness in the ingredients. Unfortunately, because such terms are unregulated, there can be some confusion, or even misuse, surrounding it. Luckily, with a bit of clarification, we can make a bit more sense of what “farm to table” is and what it isn’t. 


What It Is

The term “farm to table,” in its purest sense, is meant to denote a lack of an intermediary, or “middle-man,” in the supply chain. “Farm to table” food should progress from the grower to the diner in as few steps as possible.


The term “farm to table” can generally be applied to food prepared in one of three settings with a fair degree of accuracy.


Food Prepared at the Farm – This is perhaps the most fitting use of “farm to table,” as the meal is served on the same premises as it was grown. This typically takes the form of an event such as Outstanding In the Field, where chefs will prepare their dishes on the farm grounds using ingredients mostly sourced from the farm. These events also frequently include tours or other educational experiences as well. 


Restaurants Partnered with a Farm – This is the most common type of “farm to table” food. In these cases, a restaurant will source one or more key ingredients for certain dishes from local farms. This is typically a mutually beneficial relationship: the farmers have a guaranteed buyer for their product, and restaurant owners know they have quality fresh produce, and may serve in an evening something that was in the field that morning. 


Farm to (Your) Table – The third form that “farm to table” takes is consumers buying produce from a Farmer”s Market or otherwise direct sourcing from a local farm. In this case, the “table” in question is that of the customer. 


What It Isn”t

While browsing through your local supermarket, you may run across “farm to table” products. In this case, the use of the term is inaccurate: here, the market is serving as the middle-man that “farm to table” is meant to cut out. (Note: other, similar terms, like “farm fresh,” “locally sourced,” or the state”s “Fresh from Florida” may still apply here)

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