Is Farm to Table Worth the Price? Some Floridians Say No.

Categories: Musings
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From LA to Boston, farm to table has taken root. Even the White House is in on it. Shaped by books such as Michael Pollan's Ominvore's Dilemma on "why we consume what we consume" and films like Food Inc., many have embraced the mantra and spend dining dollars at farm to table restaurants over other choices. Even Cleveland's in on it, with restaurants such as The Greenhouse Tavern culling national attention.

Despite the climate -- and the state's role in growing produce for the rest of the country -- here in South Florida, the movement has barely taken hold. Even most farmers markets don't provide local, seasonal produce. 

Here's one reason. In today's blog post on Market 17, a commenter writes:
What surprises me is that they're sticking with the same concept. The farm to table gimmick isn't going to fly long term. Paying more for less food because it's sourced
locally has a limited appeal.
When I asked several people in my office and elsewhere, they agreed that the ideal of farm to table isn't worth it.

I'm surprised by that, actually. I thought back to the sweet flesh of heirloom tomatoes in-season, juice smattering down wrist and elbow. I thought of a chef I had worked for who plucked sugar snap peas off the vine so I could taste concentrated sweetness that's lost by the hours. I thought of how prolific the sources are that address the deleterious long and short-term effects of big agriculture.

Will farm to table take root in South Florida? Or do you think it's not worth the price? Sound off in the comments. 


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12 comments
Amorales1219
Amorales1219

Food costs much more than Americans pay for it, the labor that goes into growing organic foods is intense. Before wrongfully guestimate the worth of farm to table, go to a local farm and volunteer for a few hours, then think about what that should be worth. European countries spend 3 times as much as Americans on food and they eat out 3 times less.

@thewilmington
@thewilmington

living in SoVT and running a farm to plate restaurant, I can say that this strikes a chord. We get loads of FLA snowbirds in summer who eat here b/c our food is tasty and different but couldn't care less whether it is SYSCO or from farmer John. I did a back of the envelope on this when I started and found it costs about $5 per entree to serve clean local food. That's either getting picked up by the patron in higher prices OR is reducing house profit. Here, it is coming out of my pocket. For me that is worth it but that is why my area is full of SYSCO factories. The only way this changes is for patrons to support the few local stores and restaurants out there. We need to realize that eating clean food is not expensive rather contaminated tasteless food is subsidized.

Tim
Tim

As the Chef/Owner of Coolinary Cafe, I agree with everthing that is said here. I feel as though some restaurants are missing the idea of farm to table. Our mission is to not only buy as local as possible, but also utilize small family farms, farms using sustainable and humane practices as well as local companies producing fantastic artisinal goods. It may take a little extra work but it's well worth it. This should be available to everyone and the fact that it is not, is the reason the movement has not yet taken shape here in south florida. You have to be creative, resourceful and open to build a menu around what is available. Bottom line nobody wants to pay $40 for a porkchop!

freakerdude
freakerdude

I don't know jack about farm to table except that the head chef from Leftovers Cafe in Jupiter will be opening up his own joint which is a farm to table concept. This will be the first that I know of in the Jupiter/Juno/Palm Beach Gardens area. I will definitely give it a try.

Tim Lipman's Coolinary Cafehttp://www.coolinarycafe.com/

Laine Doss
Laine Doss

I can taste the difference between freshly grown produce and some genetically produced thing that's been sitting on a shelf for longer than it has a right to. Will I pay more? Absolutely!  I had the most divine heirloom tomato salad - flavorful and colorful - from a local burger joint. Made my day.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

One problem we have in Florida is the amount of hydroponically grown vegetables. Sure, it's local, but a tomato grown in water will never taste as good as one grown in soil. So just based on taste, a restaurant is better off buying a heirloom tomato from Chile than the same variety from a Florida hydroponic farm -- and that's a shame.

FQS9000
FQS9000

Fresher does taste better, but most people can't taste the difference and aren't willing to pay for it.  This means that locally sourced produce is never going to be a mass market, but a specialty for rich gourmets.

Duh. 

Lisa Rab
Lisa Rab

Some thoughts: Farm-to-table doesn't have to be pricey. In Cleveland, as you mentioned, sourcing locally is common, and a pizza made with local cheese won't break $13.Second, it's worth it when you really taste the difference, and I'm not sure many people here know what that difference taste like, because they've had so little exposure to it.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

That sounds awesome -- which burger joint?

FQS9000
FQS9000

Go up to Lantana.  They have tomatoes grown in real Florida sand by the mile.

MelissaMcCart
MelissaMcCart

I dont think Lisa is talking about rich gourmands in Cleveland.

MelissaMcCart
MelissaMcCart

I think Cleveland has a better infrastructure for distribution of goods from farms to restaurants. I went to a dinner in Miami with farmers from Homestead recently and they said they only hit Miami because they don't have the middlemen to come up to Fort Lauderdale.

I agree though: that quality food doesn't exist to the same degree unless you have access to someone's garden. Or cow, goat, or chicken (Marando Farms, for example). I miss it.

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