The farm-to-table movement has been grown exponentially in recent years, changing the culture around how we eat. If we go back in time to just a century ago, the term "farm-to-table" or "organic farming" did not exist. But the demand for more transparency and healthier, more ethically grown food, has made the farm-to-table stronger than ever in the last decade.
What is Farm-to-Table?
Farm-to-table, also referred to as “locally sourced” or “farm-to-fork", is a social movement that encourages restaurants to sources their food ingredients from local farms. Most traditional restaurants get their produce from other parts of the country or around the world. This means the ingredients are usually shipped over long distances, picked before they are ripe and less nutritious.
If a restaurant offers farm-to-table fare, it typically suggests that they have a direct relationship with local farms. Ingredients are grown and raised on a farm, and directly transferred to a restaurant bypassing any food distributor or market. Since the produce, meats, and dairy products are delivered within hours of being harvested, the food is more fresh, nutritious and flavorful.
History of Farm-to-Table
At the beginning of the 20th century, most ingredients used to prepare food were locally sourced. But with the rise of cities and improvements in roads and transportation, food began to be shipped from all over the country and the world. In the next few decades, more and more Americans began to rely on processed food to save time and money.
But during the 1960s and 70s, many people became dissatisfied with processed food. During this time, the counterculture movement was sweeping across the country. Constituents of this movement preferred local and organic food, and the farm-to-table movement took off from there.
One of the first farm-to-table restaurants, Chez Panisse, was opened up by Chef Alice Waters in Berkeley, California in 1971. The restaurant was a huge success. In 1979, the non-profit “Organically Grown” opened in Oregon.
The movement grew steadily over the next couple of decades. But it wasn't until the 2000s that the movement exploded in popularity due to changing consumer preferences and access to information. You can find farmer's markets almost everywhere. And you can probably find a local restaurant that uses fresh food from local farms where you live.
Pros of Farm-to-Table
The farm-to-table movement goes beyond food and raises awareness about the safety, seasonality and economics of the food that we eat. There are many benefits of farm-to-table, including:
- Boost the local economy. When you dine at restaurants that source their ingredients locally, the money you spend goes directly to helping farmers grow their businesses and boost the local economy.
- Local food is fresher and more nutritious. Fruits and vegetables can spend anywhere from 3 days to several weeks in transit before arriving at distribution centers, and even longer before they make it to restaurants and onto your plate. This can lead to a significant degradation in nutrients and quality. The University of California studies have shown that vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C within a week. Spinach can lose 90% of its vitamin C content within 24 hours of harvest. Since locally sourced ingredients spend less time in transit, they taste better and are more nutritious.
- Better for the environment. Since the produce and meat don’t have to be shipped long distances on cargo ships, planes and trucks, locally grown food has a smaller carbon footprint. It also helps cut down on the need for shipping facilities, packaging, and refrigeration.
- The food is seasonal. Restaurants that serve farm-to-table fare have seasonal menus based on what is being grown in nearby farms. For example, you might find a lot more apple dishes in the fall, but none during the winter. This also helps ensure that the food you eat is harvested at the peak of freshness and has retained its nutrients.
Current Trends in Farm-to-Table
Restaurants across the country have made local ingredients both a guiding principle and a marketing tool. Food consumption habits and preferences have changed to a great extent. People want to eat and be served organic foods and steer away from processed food. Consumers today want greater control over where their food comes from. And farm-to-table restaurants are serving these needs.
According to USDA, the number of markets in the United States has grown to 8,720, an increase of about 7.07 percent from 2013. Total annual sales at U.S. farmers' markets are estimated at $1 billion. This is not only promoting healthier lifestyles but also promoting local economies. When a sale is made at a farmers' market, nearly all of the income stays in the hands of a producer. Meanwhile, farmers and ranchers receive less than 15 cents for every dollar generated in revenue through sales at traditional retail outlets, according to the National Farmers Union.
The Amsterdam - Serving Farm-to-Table fare in Rhinebeck, New York
The Amsterdam has been serving contemporary farm-to-table fare in a beautifully renovated city-meets-country space. In its first year The Amsterdam was named Best New Restaurant in the Hudson Valley by HV Magazine and instantly became one of the best restaurants in Rhinebeck. Chef Alex Burger brings a fine dining and French perspective to American classics. Our relationships with local farmers and a deep appreciation for the rich agricultural region allows the bounty of the Hudson Valley to shine throughout the seasons.
We source a lot of our meats from Northwind Farms in Tivoli, NY; about 5 miles north of The Amsterdam. For over 30 years, Northwind farms have been providing the Hudson Valley with all-natural, pasture-raised and grass-fed beef as well as pork, poultry, turkey, duck, goose, rabbit, goat, lamb, quail, guinea hen and more. Our duck is sourced from D’Artagnan, which is committed to raising animals without antibiotics or hormones.
Our dairy is sourced from Hudson Valley Fresh, who process their milk products in Kingston, New York, and deliver from farm to restaurant in 3 days.
The locavore menu is complemented by a beverage program curated by General Manager and Beverage Director Fletcher Tingle. The wine cellar is classically composed, encompassing bottles from the New and Old World producers, many of which are exclusively available in the region at The Amsterdam. Prohibition-era gin and whiskey cocktails are highlights on the cocktail list, made from fresh ingredients and local spirits at the hands of craft bartenders.
Join us at our dutch townhouse located in the heart of Rhinebeck, NY. Dinner is served nightly & brunch on weekends; Reservations are encouraged!