It’s getting pretty hard to find a basic breakfast bagel in New York City. Instead, neighborhood cafés are offering up scrambled duck eggs, venison muffins, and pear quiche to go with your morning latte.
These dishes may sound exotic, but they’re quite the opposite: they’re all made using locally sourced ingredients. Welcome to the fresh face of New York City’s Farm to Table movement – we’ve come a long way from your basic heirloom tomato salad.
It’s strange to think that we live in a world in which bananas from Ecuador, beef from Australia, rice from Thailand, and olives from Italy can all end up in the same shopping basket.
It may seem like a modern marvel, but slicing into a mango in the middle of a snowstorm isn’t necessarily a good thing – why should our food get to travel more than we do?
Eating locally sourced food is better for the planet – and it often tastes better too. Here’s why you should make sure it’s locally grown and the best places to enjoy it.
The farm to table movement puts farms directly in touch with restaurants and markets, moving food much more directly to your mouth. This means great things for the environment – cutting down shipping and storage means local food comes with a much lower carbon footprint, while eliminating packaging means less waste ends up in the landfill. Also, smaller farms tend to use more sustainable farming practices than industrial crops, leading to a lower impact on native species, soil, and water. After all – aren’t vegetables supposed to be green?
Taking out the middleman also means farmers get a better price for their product. “For farmers, there isn’t a market to sell grains, meat, dairy, fruits and veggies into that they can get a decent price, unless they are doing direct sales,’ says Wenonah Hauter, author of Foodopoly and director of Food and Water Watch. With Farm to Table food, instead of giving your money to a faceless corporate distributor, more of what you pay for your food goes where it belongs – into the hands that actually grew it.
The terrible conditions factory farmed animals are raised in is finally gaining attention, as is the increased danger in disease contamination, like E. Coli, these crowded conditions lead to. The Farm to Table movement allows small scale farmers, who tend to raise their animals in more humane conditions without the use of dangerous antibiotics and growth hormones, a viable avenue in which to sell their products, while simultaneously giving consumers a way to vote with their dollar for safer meat, and better living conditions for livestock.
Locally sourced food is fresher, meaning it has a higher nutritional content. Produce begins to leach out vitamins and nutrients as soon as it is cut from the plant, so, unlike mangos flown in from Manila, fruits and vegetables that hit your plate soon after they were picked are still bursting with nutritional value.
Compared to the flavor packed into farm fresh fruit and vegetables, store-bought produce simply doesn’t hold a candle. More and more quality restaurants offer menus packed with seasonally appropriate local ingredients, and the movement isn’t limited to upper class dinner spots – don’t be surprised to find your local pizza joint is on board too.
To implement farm-to-table into your daily life, Farm Star Living’s Farm to Table Finder helps you find local-sourced restaurants across the USA. Their A-Z Farm Food Guide lists the specific health benefits of 100+ fresh food items (search by food or health benefits).
And if you want to visit a farm, here’s a handy guide by Farmstar Living that helps you find the perfect farm to visit on a day out in your neighborhood.
Union Square Café is just a skip away from The Union Square Green Market, and the proximity has allowed them to foster personal relationships with local farmers over the years. “I get little reports when things start showing up in March and April,” Executive Chef Carmen Quagliata explains, and he plans his menu accordingly. Over the winter, the menu features local items like squash, potatoes, and chard. “We use whatever the farmers have,” Quagliata says. “What you do with the ingredient might change; for example, by January or February you might not put the apple in a salad, but you might bake it.”
Before Blue Hill was a restaurant, it was a farm. The inspiration for the restaurant’s name is also one of it’s suppliers: Blue Hill dairy farm in Massachusetts has been in the owners family for three generations.
Blue Hill also sources from over 40 other family-owned small farms in the Northeast. At the height of the season, about 80 percent of their veggies are locally sourced. Even in the off-season, Blue Hill strives to keep it local – check out their annual Sausage and Beer Dinner, held on January 25, for a taste of locally sourced brats and brews.
If you’re looking for a Farm to Table version of New York’s most iconic dish – pizza, of course – check out Roberta’s. The trendy Williamsburg spot has some of the best pie in town, and they source their meat from Brooklyn’s own Heritage Foods. They already source their ingredients locally, and have their own greenhouse under construction.
Don’t let the name confuse you – this restaurant helped set the standard for genuine Farm to Table dining when it opened in 2006, and their reputation holds true – the menu is sourced almost exclusively from regional growers.
Named after on of New York’s heirloom apple varieties, Northern Spy Food Co. always has tasty ciders and pies – but their entire menu is heavily dedicated to local ingredients – this fall, for example, featured a No Goat Left Behind campaign, dedicated to promoting local goat farmers in New York and Vermont through a menu featuring this underappreciated meat.