Down at Swallowtail Farm in Alachua, Florida, Crane Ramen, a Gainesville craft noodle shop, prepared a custom farm-to-table platter for guests from locally sourced shrimp and vegetables picked feet away.
The “farm to table” movement is based on building the community between local restaurants and farmers. The average produce travels 1,500 miles, about the distance from New York to Cuba, before reaching its destination, according to a study from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.
“You’ve got two days, three days [to cook mass-produced produce] because it’s already one week to 10 days since it’s come from the other side of the country,” said Steve Grimes, Crane Ramen’s head chef.
Noah Shitama, the co-founder of Swallowtail Farm, invited chefs from local restaurants to cook on the farm as a way of bringing customers to see their food made manifest. The meals, part of a Swallowtail series called the 2015-2016 Farm to Table Dinner Series, features ingredients grown and raised at Swallowtail and other organic farms in the area.
“We’ve never had someone come out for the Farm to Table event and not want to do it again the next year,” he said.
For Crane Ramen, last year’s event marked when it had just established itself in town. The restaurant just celebrated its one-year anniversary on Dec. 2 and has sourced its food locally since it opened.
Farm-to-table practices challenge chefs to cook what’s in season and what’s available locally. Grimes cooked eggplant through the summer months to adhere to the season, but said even a heavy rain could mean an abundance of salad options on his menu.
“We profit as a best practices restaurant, the grower’s profit and the customer gets fresher food,” he said. “It’s all about community.”