It seems that everyone is calling themselves “Farm-to-Table” these days. Is there any standard for what that means?
– Forager, New York, NY
I agree that “farm-to-table” is a term used—and overused—in a variety of ways these days. It can mean an entire restaurant concept, a social movement, a philosophy of cuisine, a sourcing strategy, a vertically integrated restaurant, or an aspiration. Few restaurants fully embody the farm-to-table philosophy throughout the year, but looking at press materials and chef interviews, you wouldn’t know that.
In a way, all food is ultimately farm-to-table but the term is generally taken to mean that a restaurant has a relationship with local farms or its own farm for procurement of meat and poultry, eggs, produce, dairy, and other items. The definition often extends to include artisanal food producers like brewers, bakers, and cheese makers.
Legally, it seems farm-to-table doesn’t have a definition. While local is defined by the USDA as coming from within 400 miles, farm-to-table has no teeth. This lack of guidelines causes frustration among those devoting effort to farm-to-table concepts.
Andrew Wood, Chef-Owner of Russet in Philadelphia says, “Farm to table is getting played out. I see people refer to it as a concept, for me it is an ethic. It is a discipline and it comes with a fair amount of sacrifice that I don’t think a lot of people are prepared to do.”