Farm-to-table trend shows no signs of slowing down.
What did you have for lunch today? Do you know where it came from? How far did it travel to make it to your plate?
According to Steven Bailey, Farm Director at Homestead Manor in Thompson’s Station, our food travels an average of 1500 miles (and several days—or sometimes even weeks) before it’s prepared and served to us. And to make matters worse, most of us don’t have a clue as to where our meal’s “journey” began.
The concept of “farm-to-table” dining has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the movement seeks to close that knowledge and distance gap surrounding the food we eat. It’s gaining momentum and popularity all over the United States, and Bailey believes that’s for good reason. “There is something in us that wants to be connected to our food,” he says, and that visceral connection to nature is what he believes is driving the farm-to-table movement and its constant growth.
Unlike traditional sourcing channels that cart frozen foods and ingredients across the country (or even the world), farm-to-table restaurants use ingredients from providers in their local community, state, or nearby region. More restaurants are hoping to create and foster relationships with local farmers, and Homestead Manor takes this notion one step further. The restaurant does in fact use meats from Middle Tennessee farmers, but they also operate a fully functioning farm right outside, and they grow all of their own produce and herbs on site. In stark contrast to the 1500-mile adventure of commercially processed and batched food, Bailey says that vegetables served in the restaurant were likely harvested within the previous 24 hours, and travel less than 100 yards from the ground to the kitchen to the plate.
Farm-to-table dining is an opportunity to educate people about the processes of agriculture. “We don’t ask enough questions about our food,” Bailey says, and he wants more people to be able to see the work and extensive care that goes into the food they eat.
At Homestead Manor, intentional education is built-in to the dining experience. Patrons can have a meal at the restaurant, then take a tour of the farm grounds to see the story behind their meal. “This is what I want,” Bailey says, “My dream has been to continue to be able to tell the story.”
Bailey works closely with Corey King, Homestead Manor’s executive chef, to develop recipes based on what will be harvested in the coming days from the farm’s many gardens. Bailey and his crew harvest produce and herbs at least twice a week, and King puts his culinary expertise to work in creating delicious, unique dishes for the restaurant menu.
While plenty of restaurants like Homestead Manor offer a full farm-to-table meal and experience, you don’t necessarily have to eat out all the time to support the movement. Bailey encourages people to be curious about their food by planting their own vegetable garden or simply buying from local farmers at a nearby market. Homestead Manor hosts the Thompson’s Station Farmers’ Market, but it’s only one of many great places where you can meet local farmers and learn more about your food.