Keeping Farm-to-Table on the Table

Earlier this week, I came across an article called Is it Time to Table Farm-to-Table? by Corby Kummer, published in Vanity Fair. This article captures part of an unfortunate trend that questions the integrity of the local food movement.  Kummer went so far as to say that no one cares about where their food is from anymore: “That’s where the future of farm-to-table should be: food that speaks for itself without having to tell you where it comes from.” I read the article, starting writing about it, but couldn’t get beyond saying that it was just plain wrong.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was reading the article at the right time.  I was heading into a week of learning from people who would have some thoughts on this topic – and fairly opinionated thoughts at that.  On Wednesday at a local food campaign meeting put on by the Vermont Farm to Plate network, Megan Sheridan of the Vermont Fresh Network, measured up “that Vanity Fair article” as a case of the counter-local food movement missing the mark.

Yesterday, at the New England Food Summit in Boston, I was catching up with Scott Sawyer of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.  I couldn’t help but seek out his opinion on the article, and in the way I was secretly hoping he would, he brought it full circle.  Kummer offers a shallow review of what could be best categorized as a first world problem – tiring of too much of a good thing.  In Vermont, it has been just over five years since the launch of Vermont Farm to Plate, our state’s strategic plan.  We have made it through the first sprint, but now is the critical time to test our endurance and commitment to not be a trend but a fundamental shift.

Scott encouraged me to move my focus from Kummer to focus instead on some of the larger indicators of the real impact of our work in building a resilient food system.  He referenced evidence of large companies who are adapting to target a customer who is demanding fresh, sustainable, and local products.
“Like Sodexo?” I offered.

The purpose of our work in Vermont First is to keep the integrity in the words we use to describe our local and sustainable purchasing, building trust with and between our partners in the food system. We are part of the growing indicator that the local food movement is not just a short-lived trend.