~ Hippocrates, 4th century BC
A quick Google search will reveal a list of upscale “farm to table” restaurants in nearby Connecticut towns that serve a range of cuisines and types of experiences from small plates to prix fixe menu options. Anyone lucky enough to be able to enjoy a meal in a “farm to table” restaurant can attest to the taste benefits of eating small batch cooking of fresh, locally sourced food. Thankfully, the movement which was initiated by famous chefs for the benefit of their clientele, has grown to include the growing availability of fresh food at local farmer’s markets, local direct farm sales, and community supported agriculture shares.
Spending grocery money on fresh vegetables instead of packaged foods can feel challenging for busy parents and young adults, because the food must be cooked soon after purchase, and we have all experienced twinges of guilt as pristine carrots wilt uneaten in our vegetable bins. However, there is also the pleasure of being inspired to create a new dish to use the tangy daikon that was purchased on whim at the farmer’s market.
Hydroponics vs Soil-grown Food
Many Americans live on salad purchased from corporations that depend on hydroponic grown lettuce grown in factory farms using hydroponic technology. These indoor farms use liquid minerals and growth promoters in water, along with UV lights to grow large and consistent crops of lettuce and salad greens. Contrast this with the soil grown salad greens available at local farms and farmer’s markets. Soil has a living layer of humus at the surface, where minerals and micronutrients are made biologically available as opposed to the synthetic minerals preferred in hydroponic farming methods. Eating food grown in soil nourished with natural compost allows for more biologically available nutrients, as well as better taste.
Supporting Local Growers
Food security is an issue that most Americans have never had to face, but dependence on factory farming using seeds with little diversity and grown with commercial herbicides and pesticides puts in question food availability in the advent of the failure of these technologies, or in a situation where transport is disrupted. Supporting local farmers insures local food security in the case of national or regional crisis.
Six Reasons to Join the Local and Farm to Table Food Movement
- Diversify your Food
Buying local food is a good way to introduce new foods and recipes. A farmers’ market offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to help you expand your taste buds and your nutritional intake.
- Help the Environment
Buying your food from farm to table is exceptionally environmentally friendly. Some produce you find in stores and restaurants come long distances to get to your plate. Forget the planes, trains, trucks, and boats! The produce at your local farmers’ market only traveled a short distance to get to you.
- Ditch Processed Foods
Farm to table food is healthier than processed and packaged foods. In addition to being fresher, locally grown food probably contains fewer calories, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates than the pre-packaged food you find at the store.
- More Nutrients
Food that travels from long distances doesn’t have as many nutrients as locally grown food. Produce that has to make a long trek to your grocery store is often picked before it’s ripe and fully ready to eat, which can reduce its nutritional value.
- Better Taste
Locally grown food tastes better. Farm to table food is grown to taste as good as possible while mass-produced foods are grown in quantity. Both taste and nutritional content are retained when produce ripens naturally.
- Educate your Kids
Farm to table can be educational. If you live in the city or the suburbs, kids might not even realize how much farmland is in their state. Taking them to a farmers’ market can open their eyes to the amazing things that farms produce.
Hannah Gale, N.D., LAc practices at the Center for Natural Medicine in Watertown, CT. Dr. Gale specializes in Naturopathic family medicine, as well as, pediatric care. For more information or to schedule an appointment please call 860-945-1004 or go to: www.centerfornaturalmedicine.net.