Local food systems revolve around the relationship between food producers and consumers. Because much of the population resides in urban or suburban locations without easy access to farm-fresh fare, food is typically cultivated in one area and transported to another. This impacts freshness, access, product diversity, and cost. In this article, food management expert Paul Bulau dives into the push to revitalize local food systems and the role of farm-to-table restaurants.
Benefits of Local Food Systems
Local food systems could generally be defined to encompass items grown and harvested within about 100 miles of a given location, as opposed to corporate food systems that outsource much of this chain. Local systems include food production, processing, distribution, and consumption within a community.
According to Paul Bulau, revitalization is about more than just increasing access to fresh and seasonal foods. “Revitalizing local food systems is not only a healthier option for community members, but it has the power to impact the local economy and environmental health.”
Food grown locally is fresher and sometimes more diverse. It may include desirable features like organic and sustainable growing practices or a commitment to avoiding GMOs. Says Bulau, “It’s not unusual for independent farms to tap into heirloom crops that offer varieties not typically found in grocery stores, from plants that haven’t been cross-pollinated or genetically altered.”
When food is purchased locally, it supports small, independent farms that put money back into the community, bolstering the local economy. Buying seasonal produce from local suppliers could cost less than in-store purchases. These foods are only transported short distances, cutting costs and curbing the pollution and waste common to corporate food systems.
How Farm-to-Table Restaurants Contribute to Revitalizing Local Food Systems
Farm-to-table restaurants are an important part of supporting local food systems and raising awareness about their many benefits. These establishments often deal directly with the farmers growing the food (or raising animals for meat or animal products). This means no middlemen like distributors or grocers impact cost and food quality.
Some farm-to-table operations are situated on actual farms, while others are simply located a short distance away. This allows access to a constant supply of fresh ingredients, possibly delivered daily. It’s no wonder, then, that these establishments generally have seasonal and sometimes daily menu changes.
According to Paul Bulau, “The symbiotic relationship between independent farms and farm-to-table restaurants is the cornerstone of revitalizing local food systems. Farms gain the security of regular purchasing patterns and growing awareness within the community that drives further sales, especially if they offer delivery boxes or frequent area farmers’ markets. At the same time, restaurants save time and money and gain access to the fresh, diverse ingredients customers want, perhaps delivered within hours of being harvested.”
Everyone Wins With Local Food Systems
When restaurants choose locally sourced produce, they support independent farms and give the community access to fresh, seasonal ingredients. This contributes to a healthy and sustainable society, economy, and environment.
About Paul Bulau
Paul Bulau is a culinary entrepreneur, business founder, and company owner/operator known for operational success, collaboration, and team development. After earning a degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Paul launched, grew, and sold his first business. For the past 25 years, Paul has served in several management roles with a premier, on-site restaurant company.