Dan Barber Pens NYT Op-Ed on the Failures of the Farm-to-Table Movement

Blue Hill chef/owner and farm-econ scholar Dan Barber penned an op-ed in the Sunday Times about how, in spite of our collective societal boner for farm-to-table eating, sustainability is still failing as a movement.

Writes Barber:

Today, almost 80 percent of Americans say sustainability is a priority when purchasing food. The promise of this kind of majority is that eating local can reshape landscapes and drive lasting change.

Except it hasn’t. More than a decade into the movement, the promise has fallen short. For all its successes, farm-to-table has not, in any fundamental way, reworked the economic and political forces that dictate how our food is grown and raised. Big Food is getting bigger, not smaller.

He goes on to recount a recent trip to his grain dealer farmer, in which he learns about the importance of rotating crops to maintain healthy soil, and what to do with those less glamorous crops. Ultimately, he advocates towards a “nose-to-tail” style of farming, where we eat everything farmers grow. Not just the sexy spring vegetables.

“Investing in the right infrastructure means the difference between a farmer’s growing crops for cows or for cafeterias. It will take the shape of more local mills (for grains), canneries (for beans) and processors (for greens). As heretical as this may sound, farm-to-table needs to embrace a few more middlemen.

Perhaps the problem with the farm-to-table movement is implicit in its name. Imagining the food chain as a field on one end and a plate of food at the other is not only reductive, it also puts us in the position of end users. It’s a passive system — a grocery-aisle mentality — when really, as cooks and eaters, we need to engage in the nuts and bolts of true agricultural sustainability. Flavor can be our guide to reshaping our diets, and our landscapes, from the ground up.”

You can read the rest of Dan Barber’s piece here.

[New York Times]

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