Tag Archives: farm

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.

Enjoying Organic Healthy Greens

Organic 101

You’ve probably noticed in your grocery store that there’s a whole display of fruits and veggies (that usually cost more) labeled organic.

Lots of people just assume that it means they’re all-natural, but everything in the produce section was grown instead of manufactured, so isn’t all of it all-natural?

When something is labeled organic, it actually means that it was grown in a certain way. Organic foods are grown without the use of:

  • Pesticides, which stop weeds and bugs from hurting a crop and are usually made with chemicals
  • Fertilizers, which make the land better for growing crops and are usually made with a town’s sewage, animal manure, or man-made ingredients, like chemicals
  • Bioengineering, when scientists change things about a crop in its DNA or genes to make it grow better
  • Ionizing radiation, when produce is radiated to preserve it, reduce the risk of illness, prevent bugs,  or slow down sprouting or ripening

Before a product can be labeled organic, someone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) checks the farm and any companies that handle or process the food before you get it to make sure they’re meeting organic standards. This means that when you buy organic, it’s guaranteed to be organic.

However, when you buy organic, you’re also paying more because farmers who don’t use things like pesticides, fertilizers, and bioengineering usually get smaller crops from their land than other farmers. Those things were invented to help farmers grow as much food as possible, and when organic farmers don’t use them, it makes their jobs harder.

Each year, a company called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out lists of which fruits and veggies have the potential to have the most pesticides on them and which don’t.

The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and veggies with little to no pesticides on them when you buy them at the store. The Dirty Dozen have the potential to have the most pesticides on them. Plus, they’re mostly things you either eat the peel of or don’t peel at all.

Whether you buy organic or non-organic produce, it’s important to get fruits and veggies in your diet. Just be sure to clean your produce properly before you eat it.

Clean Fifteen

Dirty Dozen

Up Next:

Why should you shop at farmers markets? One great reason is local food!

And make sure you keep your food safe at every stage by practicing safe food prep.

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