Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Farm-To-Table: Local Sustainability

Farm-to-table (or farm-to-fork) is a food movement that promotes the traditional use of that which is closest to you. Farm-to-table advocates utilize as many local ingredients as possible, often directly from farmers in their areas or from businesses that carry local products. This sustainable approach not only results in fresher, more natural products but also helps to support local communities and economies.

This season on Top Chef Canada, 26-year old Carl Heinrich of Sooke, BC won the renowned title of Top Chef with his farm-to-table approach.

"Heinrich is deeply committed to the farm-to-table culinary philosophy. And in Top Chef Canada's final episode, Heinrich cashed in: the competitors were able to raid the garden of Hockley Valley for fresh ingredients with which they would prepare their final meal. 'Being from Toronto, I was also at an advantage in that I was able to say exactly which producer I wanted my product from.'" - Calgary Herald

A low carbon diet refers to making lifestyle choices to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by energy use. It is estimated that the U.S. food system is responsible for at least 20 percent of greenhouse gases. But the 20 percent only counts from direct sources of GHG emissions. Indirect sources, such as demand for products from other countries, are often not counted, so an accurate percentage would be much higher than 20 percent. A low carbon diet minimizes the emissions released from the production, packaging, processing, preparation, and waste of food. A low carbon diet includes eating less industrial produced food in general, eating food grown locally and seasonally, eating less processed and packaged foods and reducing waste from food by proper portion size, recycling or composting.

Farm-to-table refers to, in the food safety field, the stages of the production of food: harvesting, storage, processing, packaging, sales, and consumption. Farm-to-table also refers to a movement concerned with producing food locally and delivering that food to local consumers. Linked to the local food movement, the movement is promoted by some in the agriculture, food service, and restaurants communities. It may also be associated with organic farming initiatives, sustainable agriculture, and community-supported.

Many farm-to-table advocates work hard to spread the word and to show others the importance of finding the freshest ingredients, while attempting to educate their customers about the link between farmers, farm communities, ancient food-production practices, and the food we eat. The public backlash against genetically-modified organisms in our food supply has added a note of political activism to what had been, until recently, a largely aesthetic movement. Farm-to-table restaurants may buy their produce directly from farmers, usually local. In a few cases, the restaurants and farms may be owned and operated by the same people. Restaurants who choose to buy from local food producers regularly yield healthier, better quality meals for their customers. 

This movement has arisen somewhat simultaneously with the increased knowledge and recent changes in attitude about food safety, food freshness, food seasonality, and small-farm economics. Advocates and practitioners of the farm-to-table model frequently cite as their motivations the scarcity of fresh, local ingredients; the poor flavor of ingredients shipped from afar; the poor nutritional integrity of shipped ingredients; the encroachment of genetically modified foods into the food economy; the disappearance of small family farms; the disappearance of heirloom and open-pollinated fruits and vegetables; and the dangers of a highly-centralized food-growing and -distribution system.

In the last few years the number of farm-to-table operations has grown rapidly. Recently, some food and agriculture writers have begun to describe a philosophical divide among chefs: the "food-as-art", or, in some cases, "molecular gastronomy” camp have increasingly focused on "food made strange", in which the ingredients are so transformed as to be surprising and even unrecognizable in the final food product. The farm-to-table chefs, on the other hand, have increasingly come to rely upon extremely fresh ingredients that have been barely modified, sometimes presented raw just a few feet from where they grew. Generally, the farm-to-table chefs rely on traditional farmhouse cooking with its emphasis on freshness, seasonality, local availability, and simple preparations.

Do your part and support local farmers! It is not only beneficial to the earth, it is also beneficial for the health of your families. 

xo ginny

Hailing from the small town of Sooke, BC, Carl Heinrich is the 26-year-old executive chef at Marben restaurant in Toronto. Although young, he has been working in kitchens since he was 13 years old and is extremely driven and accomplished for his age. Strong support from family and early mentors encouraged Carl to enter the culinary world. During his time at Stratford Chef School, Carl worked at a restaurant as a chef de partie and completed a summer stage for Daniel Boulud in New York City. After graduating, he took up an offer to return to New York and work at Daniel’s busy bistro in Midtown for nearly four years. Motivated by a desire to move back to Canada and be closer to family, Carl accepted a position at db Bistro Moderne in Vancouver where he worked alongside Top Chef Canada season one winner Dale MacKay. Carl's stages over the years include time at Camille's West Coast Fine Dining in Victoria, Marron Bistro in Toronto, Gramercy Tavern and Daniel in New York, Georges Blanc, La Regalade, and Le Comptoir in France and Alain Ducasse' Le Louis XV in Monaco. Carl now lives in Toronto, a city and a culinary scene he loves, where he learned the benefits of farm-to-table and nose-to-tail cooking. Inspired by ingredients and driven by French technique, Carl aims to make approachable but refined food. - Food Network