Can the farm-to-table movement secure food needs of the future?

At its simplest, the farm-to-table movement is a system that aims to reduce the distance the food on a table travels to reach it.

The movement has beginnings in the rising awareness about the pitfalls of the processed food systems – where in order to increase longevity, food is processed, pumped heavily with preservatives to ensure a longer shelf-life, and enable it to be carried across huge distances to markets far, far away. The most obvious danger is that food that can stay this way, undamaged, is likely missing all the naturally occurring, organic nutrients that make it good for consumption and health. Devoid of it, highly processed food is low on nutrition and high on calories.

Farm-to-table quite literally implies a quick life cycle, more involved food preparation and therefore relies heavily on encouraging food hubs, restaurants and home cooks to either grow their own produce or depend on locally grown and sourced produce so as have a better connection with the food and where it comes from. This of course, calls for more engagement on the consumers part, in order to find a source for what is needed, bring about some amount of change in eating habits and lifestyle to keep within the framework is what is possible to grow locally. The emphasis is therefore on a lot of community action. And here’s what distinguishes it from a large-scale, economically-driven food plan.

According to this Rutgers research paper, “A community food system is a food system in which food production, processing, distribution and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place.” And for a system like this to thrive, sustainability – economic, environmental and social – is vital.

The paper also lists four major principles that guides a sustainable food system like this:

  • Food security: Conventionally, food security looks at the food requirements of individuals and households whereas community food security goes beyond, examining the requirements of a community at large, especially including low-income households
  • Proximity: The distance between various components in a community food system are shorter than in a global food system, increasing the possibility of sustainable relationships between producers and consumers
  • Self-reliance: The degree to which a community is able to meet its food needs decides the success or likelihood of sustainability of the system. A community food system aims for an increased self-sufficiency, where most food is produced, processed, marketed and consumed within a defined boundary
  • Sustainability: Ultimately, finding and adhering to agricultural and other practices that do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their food needs, will decide the sustainability, and therefore usefulness and success of a food system. A food system that does not take into consideration its impact on the environment, ethical treatment of the land, people who work on it and animals used within the system, for example, or one that is solely focused on profitability, at the cost of large scale development, will not sustain in the long run.

Logically, then, it would make sense to examine the current use of non-renewable inputs at every step in our food system, and reduce or entirely replace them with one that are renewable, sustainable and balanced.

The pros of a healthy, farm-to-table system are many. Aside from healthier produce for consumers, it also ensures a healthy agriculture system, the soil, the livestock and a healthier work environment for all the hands at work within it.

The truth is feeding a burgeoning global population is a an ongoing challenge we’re going to face. The good news is we have the answers to do it in a way that adopts agricultural strategies focused on health and sustainability without adversely impacting our already fragile ecosystems.

Our technologies and applications aim to enhance microbiomes to restore and nurture soil microbiology. This not only helps crops get a good start, secure nutrients and fend off pests, but also goes a long way in ensuring the health of the system in the long run. Our solutions emerge from the secrets of nature, and help farmers increase productivity in an ecological and sustainable way that protects scarce resources for future generations.

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