Farm-to-Table Dining

Long View: Fresh from the Farm and Close to Home

The concept of farm-to-table eating intrigues me. I’ve noticed the term showing up in the local, independent restaurants in Iowa and Nebraska.

Farm-to-table means the food comes directly from the farm to your local restaurant, without first going through a store, market, or distributor.

A well-loved farm-to-table restaurant in Omaha has 19 different local, independent farms as partners. Its mushrooms come from Grand Island, its walnuts from Valparaiso, its poultry from Burchard, and even its vinegar is locally produced in Cody, NE, which has a population of just 156 people. Another restaurant in Des Moines claims that 90% of its ingredients come from local farms. Even the house liquors are Iowans’.

None of this is new, really. When I visit our home office in Urbana, I like to eat lunch nearby at Common Ground Food Co-operative, which has been in business since 1974. Its website can show you a map of where your groceries came from in Illinois. The furthest any of the apples have traveled is right around 200 miles, from freshly picked trees in Murphysboro.

But does eating locally really make a difference? Science tells us that fruits and veggies begin to lose nutrients once they are picked. If they’ve been sitting in a crate on the back of a truck or in a grocery store very long, you’ll miss out on the fruit’s or veggie’s full flavor and nutrition.

And when you choose a farm-to-table restaurant, you’ll know that a lot of your hard-earned money is staying in your community. The American Independent Business Alliance found that on average, 48% of each purchase at local small businesses went back into their communities. That’s more than 3 times the amount at chain stores.

The next time you sit down at your favorite local restaurant, go ahead and introduce yourself. Find out where those delicious ingredients came from. You might be surprised how close to home their journey started.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

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