The History of the Farm to Table Movement

The Farm to Table movement that seemingly exploded onto the restaurant scene over the last two decades has been around for longer than you think. Many people connect the movement’s increasing international popularity to the rising general awareness of climate change and animal rights. Read on to discover the origins of the term Farm to Table, also called Farm to Fork, and how it may affect your business in the food industry today.
What is the Farm to Table Movement?
The Farm to Table movement is a social movement calling on consumers to choose natural, often organic, locally produced foods over imported or processed alternatives. The movement supports community- rather than global food systems. That means purchasing produce directly from growers to support local economies and farming communities and encourage sustainable farming practices.
There are four driving forces behind the Farm to Table movement, namely:
1. Food security: Increasing food security for each community that plays a role in the regional food supply chain or system.
2. Proximity: Decreasing the physical distance and improving the relationships between food system stakeholders to reduce the environmental impact of food transportation.
3. Self-reliance: Encouraging communities to meet their own food supply needs as much as possible.
4. Sustainability: Creating food systems that do not compromise future self-reliance through ethical labor practices, community upliftment, and environmental conservation.
The Origins of the Farm to Table Movement in the USA
During the early 1900s, many consumers were concerned about the freshness of their food. The US post office made it possible to ship farm-fresh produce directly to consumer homes between 1915 and 1920. However, with the advent of more efficient food transportation and road and rail networks, this practice was soon discarded. By the 1930s and ‘40s, many people had moved away from rural areas and no longer prioritized eating fresh food.
1950s America was the golden age of processed foods. Swanson produced the first-ever TV dinner, post-war prosperity caused a surge in fast-food dining, and the all-electric kitchen encouraged homemakers to celebrate convenient cooking. A surplus in canned foods made them more accessible to the average consumer, and by the 1960s, the nation was almost entirely dependent on highly processed food products.
The Pioneers of the US Farm to Table Movement
During the 1960s and ‘70s, thousands of young Americans were attracted to the hippie subculture. Hippie ideals included the rejection of commercialism and materialism, causing general disapproval for the industrialized food production practices of the time.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book outlining the devastating environmental effects of chemical insecticides, was first published in 1962. Many Americans, especially hippie groups, moved towards eating organic food to protest the poisonous pesticide use of the time.
Chef Alice Waters opened the first farm-to-table restaurant in California in 1971.
Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, featured fresh, locally grown ingredients as part of a seasonal menu. Waters was inspired by the sustainable community food structures she enjoyed when she lived in France. In an interview with CNN, Waters mentions her desire to move away from the “land of frozen food” the USA had become during the 1950s and ‘60s.
The Chez Panisse staff have published over a dozen farm-to-table cookbooks to date.
Incorporating Farm to Table Ideals in the Modern Food Industry
Embracing the farm-to-table movement can help you build more sustainable relationships with your customers and suppliers. Introducing ethically sourced natural flavoring ingredients into your food products can help you adopt more eco-conscious food production processes.
Advanced Biotech is a leading supplier of natural food flavorings and aromatics that complement a range of farm-fresh ingredients. Please contact us for more information.