For many years, a few restaurants, cafes, and accommodation places have offered some form of farm to table or paddock to plate style food. Of late, there has seemed to be a bit of an explosion in this field.
Pick up any travel-related magazine, and some luxury lodge is touting that some at least of the fare they offer is from their own gardens. In the Lap of Luxury television series, each episode of which features several New Zealand and high-end Australian lodges, some form of garden to plate is also often highlighted.
After watching a number of these programs, I feel sure that in some cases, there is a fair amount of greenwashing or hopping on the localism/organic/fresh/nutrient-dense bandwagon with these messages. However, that does not explain why these places, and many others, feel it is valuable to mention the source of some of their meal ingredients.
Over on YouTube, there are many channels dedicated to growing food. Several have a Permaculture slant, some a particular style of cultivation (or no cultivation), and some major on homesteading. Several are focused more on organic commercial production, while others major on the home garden. Some of these channels have up to 1 million subscribers, with views of individual videos often in the hundreds of thousands.
The Covid pandemic has only increased the popularity of these channels, as it has in the sales of micro vegetable growers and others selling produce of that type.
What I am highlighting in the examples above is the upsurge in interest in knowing more about the source of your food and, for some businesses, the marketing message opportunities this has brought.
So why is there this upsurge in interest in local/homegrown/organic food?
There is little doubt that the pandemic has in some countries exposed the fragility of the food system. There has been renewed interest in growing your own food as a form of food security in these cases. However, I don’t think this is the whole story.
An interesting statistic is that the single largest demographic watching YouTube gardening channels are viewers between 25 and 35 years old. At first, I found this surprising, but upon further thought, it made more sense.
Younger people are well educated and often have a broad knowledge of environmental, climate and social issues. They know there are severe problems, and they will inherit them.
Not least amongst those issues is food security and knowing where their food comes from.
We are not that many generations away from when it was widely understood that your food is your medicine. Hand in hand with this was that many more people still had some connection to a farm and saw first hand how food was grown.
Now the news is full of reports on the toxicity of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides used in food production and the effects on human health and the health of ecosystems. While manufacturers of these products, the growers using them, and government authorities endorsing them work hard at saying there is nothing to worry about, their messages are greeted with suspicion at best and open disbelief at worst. This disbelief is a trend I can only see increasing.
The regenerative vegetables gardens at River Valley Acres, where we source most of the produce for our Farm-To-Table meals.
So back to Farm to Table or Paddock to Plate offerings.
I believe the increase in interest in these offerings is directly tied to people wanting to have greater control over what they eat and how it is grown. There is a growing recognition that good food can help our immune systems, especially critical in these covid times.
While no doubt in some cases, there will only be empty rhetoric on that menu, the overall trend is a good one.
Good for your health and good for the planet.
Some of River Valley’s delicious Farm-To-Table meals, prepared by our chef Miranda