June 2014

Farm-to-table... a popular concept that needs to be further 'cultivated'

Ralph Salisbury

Last month I attended two fund raising dinners; proceeds went to the James Beard Public Market, a year-round indoor-outdoor market to be built in downtown Portland, OR. Both dinners were offered by local restaurants that are known for their farm-to-table selections. The dinner at the Old Salt Marketplace was hosted by both Chef Benjamin Meyer, owner and chef of Old Salt, and Chef Greg Higgins, owner and chef of Higgins, a well-known and highly regarded restaurant in downtown Portland. Chef Higgins and Chef Meyer not only planned and prepared the dinner, but also made themselves available for questions, a wonderful treat for the guests. In attendance were some of the local farmers and ranchers that supplied the foods for this dinner, and are regular suppliers to both restaurants. It was interesting to hear Chef Higgins infer these farmers and ranchers essentially dictate what foods he will be serving at particular times. The thought of a ‘supplier’ dictating to a chef was foreign to me, but this, in broad terms, is what farm-to-table should be: Farmers educating chefs about the availability, the benefits, and the quality of year-round crops, thus providing opportunities and challenges for added creativity in the kitchen while providing more stable year-round revenue for local farmers, an important factor in furthering a healthy food initiative. Without local farmers we become dependent upon existing large conglomerates that farm strictly for profit at the expense of healthy soil, healthy foods, healthy people, and a healthy environment.

Farm-to-table is showing an increasing presence in many environmental initiatives instituted by eco-friendly hotels, resorts, and restaurants (Green Lodging News, May 2014 – “Details trickling out…”). As a whole, the hospitality industry is doing a commendable job in its efforts to promote healthier food choices not only to its customers but also to the general public. The challenges remain formidable but with unified ‘energies’ much can be accomplished (see our June Blog)

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