Farm-to-Table Movement: An Economic Revolution or Fashionable Fad?

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Author – Alicia Honeycutt

Local ingredients, local flavors and local traditions are the key elements of food business. The farm-to-table movement is an innovative approach that focuses on sustainable development for helping local food businesses find their niche. In essence, this is a social movement that promotes serving foods made from local ingredients in restaurants and fast food chains. Restaurateurs will either work with local farmers or they grow produce on their own. While farm-to-table is a new concept, it does result in an innovative form of economic development. With consumers becoming increasingly focused on health and locally-grown ingredients, it opens up a completely new niche.

The farm-to-table movement is set to revolutionize the restaurant business in India. Take Delhi as an example. The city has many food businesses that practice farm-to-table food preparation. Caara Café is a good example since its creators believe that food should be “brought back to its origins”. The café is interested in making fast food healthy, giving Indians an opportunity to grab a quick bite and still enjoy delicious, locally-grown fruits and veggies.

The Problem

The farm-to-table movement is addressing a typical problem faced by the food service industry. It’s interesting to point out that ever since the Great Recession, many types of spending have been curbed. This isn’t the case in terms of dining out and visiting restaurants. It’s also interesting to point out that consumers are making a shift towards healthier, more sustainable restaurant concepts. This change in consumer attitude is making it difficult for some established restaurants and food chains to survive, which were successful in the past because they were capable of delivering a satisfactory product at a lower price.

How Farm-to-Table Offers a Solution

Source: CorefitInc

The farm-to-table movement focuses on two important factors that big chains neglect: sustainability and food quality. Very often, the quality and the freshness of ingredients in some of the biggest food chains is sacrificed for the purpose of keeping the price low. While a portion of the population is predominantly focused on affordability, more and more people are starting to pay attention to the quality of food that they consume. More and more people are interested in obtaining fresh ingredients that are grown locally. Because of this shift, restaurants that offer their clients fresh options made from local products have thrived, while the large chains that put emphasis on price and volume have gone down in terms of popularity.

Examples of Farm-to-Table Solutions in India

Organic A2 milk dairies are now flourishing throughout the country. Pride of Cows is a leading player in this field, which has become the biggest farm-to-table milk producers in the country and it focuses on fair-trade, organic food. Similarly, Amul Deshi, Desigo, Haritas, GoShrushti are some of the top brands selling A2 milk produced from local cows. As people are becoming more concerned about the ethical aspects of food production, companies like Pride of Cows are offering a better solution.

Green Theory and Forgotten Foods restaurants are the best examples of sourcing local food in Bengaluru, India. Similarly, The Real Green Café in Pune is an excellent example of sourcing local and vegan food.

What Makes Farm-to-Table Unique?

 

The farm-to-table movement has contributed to the economic development of local communities in a number of major ways. Environmental sustainability is obviously the biggest benefit that sets it apart from other restaurant business models. The local sourcing of foods or having a restaurant with its own garden reduces the environmental impact of food production significantly. Needless to say, it creates a closed cycle that gives restaurants full control over the sourcing of ingredients and their quality.

The positive impact on local farmers and small business is massive. Competing with the large food processing industry is often an impossible task for small, local farms. The reason is simple – the cost of production in large farms is much smaller. They can push out inexpensive produce that smaller and sustainable farms cannot compete with.

When restaurants create demand for locally produced and sustainable ingredients, they’re helping smaller producers thrive. They’re also putting emphasis on ethical practices – something that is largely missing in big, corporate food production facilities.

Finally, the farm-to-table movement creates better business for the restaurants themselves. Clients are changing their demands. The sourcing of local, fresh and seasonal ingredients is one of these new demands. When a restaurant makes it a priority to work with the best, environmentally-friendly and locally grown ingredients, it’s setting up the right reputation for long-term growth.

Limitations and Potential Disadvantages

As great as it may seem for the development of local communities, farm-to-table does have its limitations. Food production is being guided by the basic economic principles of supply and demand. So far, farm-to-table has failed in terms of widespread implementation or intrinsically changing the way in which products are grown. Big farms are still growing bigger because they can offer affordable prices and a fast turnaround.

Scholars also believe that the local sourcing of ingredients is a fad at best and it is dangerous at worst. Further, there are cases of restaurants that claim to source their ingredients locally or obtain from sustainable farms, but have been proven to have misled their clients. While genuine farm-to-table has its place, there’s still room for manipulation and inefficacy, particularly in terms of large-scale adoption.

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