Farm to Table: The Essential Guide to Sustainable Food Systems for Students, Professionals, and Consumers

Farm to Table: The Essential Guide to Sustainable Food Systems for Students, Professionals, and Consumers

by Darryl Benjamin, Lyndon Virkler


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With information on purchasing, marketing, and employing farm-to-table principles in restaurants, schools, hospitals, and other institutions

Nearly a century ago, the idea of “local food” would have seemed perplexing, since virtually all food was local. Food for daily consumption—fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and dairy products—was grown at home or sourced from local farms. Today, most of the food consumed in the United States and, increasingly, around the globe, is sourced from industrial farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which power a food system rife with environmental, economic, and health-related problems.

The tide, however, is slowly but steadily turning back in what has been broadly termed the “farm-to-table” movement. In Farm to Table, Darryl Benjamin and Chef Lyndon Virkler explore how the farm-to-table philosophy is pushing back modern, industrialized food production and moving beyond isolated “locavore” movements into a broad and far-reaching coalition of farmers, chefs, consumers, policy advocates, teachers, institutional buyers, and many more all working to restore healthful, sustainable, and affordable food for everyone.

Divided into two distinct but complementary halves, “Farm” and “Table,” Farm to Table first examines the roots of our contemporary industrial food system, from the technological advances that presaged the “Green Revolution” to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s infamous dictum to farmers to “Get big or get out” in the 1970s. Readers will explore the many threats to ecology and human health that our corporatized food system poses, but also the many alternatives—from permaculture to rotation-intensive grazing—that small farmers are now adopting to meet growing consumer demand. The second half of the book is dedicated to illuminating best practices and strategies for schools, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and other business and institutions to partner with local farmers and food producers, from purchasing to marketing.

No longer restricted to the elite segments of society, the farm-to-table movement now reaches a wide spectrum of Americans from all economic strata and in a number of settings, from hospital and office cafeterias, to elementary schools and fast-casual restaurants. Farm to Table is a one-of-a-kind resource on how to integrate sustainable principles into each of these settings and facilitate intelligent, healthful food choices at every juncture as our food system evolves. While borrowing from the best ideas of the past, the lessons herein are designed to help contribute to a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable tomorrow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781603586726
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date: 10/06/2016
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 7.80(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Darryl Benjamin is a passionate educator and advocate for sustainable food systems. He holds a Leadership for Sustainable Food Systems Professional Certificate from the University of Vermont, an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA in English Literature from McGill University. Benjamin is cofounder and president of The GMO Breakthrough Education Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to transforming global food systems through education. Benjamin has taught at over a dozen universities and colleges in Massachusetts and Vermont, including six years in food sustainability, writing, and marketing at New England Culinary Institute. He currently lectures and conducts seminars on sustainable food systems, GMOs, and farm-to-table principles.

Chef Lyndon Virkler is dean of faculty at New England Culinary Institute. He holds a Master’s Degree in Adult and Higher Education from Vermont College of Union Institute and University, a BA in American Literature from Middlebury College, and an Associates of Occupational Science from The Culinary Institute of America. Since joining New England Culinary Institute in 1988, Chef Virkler has been active in a number of issues related to food and agriculture. He is a founding member of the Vermont Fresh Network and the Vermont chapter of Chefs Collaborative. He currently serves as co-chair of the food education committee of the Central Vermont Food Systems Council, an organization focused on developing a sustainable food system within Washington County. He is an avid skier, home gardener, and composter and has been involved in incorporating the sustainable food systems component into New England Culinary Institute’s curriculum. He has also worked on a number of recipe development projects for food companies including Bruegger’s Bagels, Cabot Cheese, and the Vermont Apple Grower’s Association. Lyndon lives in Waitsfield, Vermont with his wife, Joanne, and has two daughters and two grandchildren.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Part 1 Farm

1 The Environmental Costs of Industrial Agriculture 1

The Green Revolution 2

The Farm Bill 5

Industrial Agriculture Operations Today 7

Monocultures: Crops and CAFOs 9

Climate Change 12

2 The Human Costs of Industrial Agriculture 17

Effects of Air Pollution on Workers and Communities 18

Water Security 19

Food Security 22

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) 26

Economic Impact on Farmers 27

The Plight of Food and Farm Workers 28

Who Benefits? 30

3 Beyond Monoculture: Crops 33

Threats to Biocultural Heritage 33

Responding to Monoculture's Threat to Food Security 34

Farming Alternatives to Monoculture 48

Putting It All Together 60

4 Beyond CAFOs: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Production 61

Alternatives to CAFOs 64

Technology That Works 68

Right-Sized Slaughterhouses and Food Production Facilities 69

5 The Future of Farming 77

Food Movements 77

Growing New Farmers 78

Locavore Movement 87

Farm Size and Specialization 88

Bringing Farmers and Chefs Together 89

Part 2 Table

6 Farm-to-Restaurant 93

What Is a Farm-to-Table Restaurant? 96

Challenges Facing Farm-to-Table Restaurants 97

7 Purchasing within a Farm-to-Table System 113

Defining Sustainable and Local Purchasing 115

Barriers to Sustainable and Local Purchasing 119

Options for Purchasing Farm-to-Table 126

Purchasing Guide by Category of Product 129

Transitioning to Farm-to-Table Purchasing 137

8 Green Restaurant Practices 139

Green Restaurant Certification 140

Water Efficiency 145

Waste Reduction and Recycling 147

Sustainable Durable Goods and Building Materials 152

Sustainable Food 152

Energy Efficiency 153

Chemical and Pollution Reduction 155

Greenwashing 156

9 Farm-to-School: Primary and Secondary School Foodservice Programs 159

Challenges Facing School Foodservice Programs 161

Farm-to-School: What It Is and What It Does 163

The Three Cs of Farm-to-School 166

Growth of Farm-to-School 173

Challenges Facing Farm-to-School 176

Marketing Farm-to-School 179

10 Farm-to-institution: Business and Industry, College, and Healthcare Food Service 183

Connecting Institutions to Sustainable Purchasing 184

Issues, Challenges, and Successes of Sectors in Farm-to-institution 189

11 Marketing Farm-to-Table to the Public and to Your Staff 199

Niche Marketing 199

The Seven Ps of Farm-to-Table Marketing 200

Acknowledgments 219

Resources 221

Notes 227

Index 243

Customer Reviews