Farm to Table is such a lovely concept and conjures up all kinds of white picket fence and red barn images. Along the way to the table, however, the food has to stop at some sort of market to get there and that’s where things get complicated. Organic food is out there – and more of it could be out there – but getting it to market is not always easy. The farmers are busy growing the food and the outlets (restaurants, grocery stores, etc…) are busy running a profitable business. Farms want the highest price for their food and outlets are looking for the lowest price. Farmer’s Markets, Road Stands and CSA’s offer farmers a direct way to sell their food to consumers fetching a fair price. But to really get the local, organic food out there, we need more grocery stores, restaurants, schools and employer-owned cafeterias ordering up this fresh flavor. In the Boulder area alone there are 300,000 people but only a couple thousand of those probably attend farmer’s markets and have a CSA. Instead of farmers competing for those limited number of eaters, we need to get more conscious eaters. And the different food outlets need to make sourcing locally grown food a priority. And those outlets need to tell the stories of these local producers to ensure demand meets supply. The outlet may pay a slightly higher price for local organic but the margin is small because there are little transportation costs and local farmers have faster response times on orders and customer service.
Progress is being made however…the other day, the owner of a large natural food store in Boulder came out to the farm to speak to Rich (farm owner). At the time, we were out in the fields when we heard this hoot from the far end of the row where we were planting. Rich went down to meet the man. The wind muffled most of the conversation but over some hoeing later on, I asked Rich about the meeting…the food store has a vision to source most of its food locally but few farmers have stepped up to the plate because of how little they will make at market – it’s almost not worth their time to produce if they can’t get a good price. In order to get more farmers involved, however, the food store is willing to up front capitol for a year-round greenhouse where food can be produced for the store. Now that’s taking initiative. We need more progressive and forward collaboration like this. If you go into most Whole Foods, the organic produce usually comes from large national suppliers. Meanwhile, organic producers are shlepping their goods around the corner at the farmer’s market when they should be available at Whole Foods.
Perhaps my role in all of this will be to bridge this gap and help more farmers get their food to market creating a network of farmers and food outlets.
Not the most flattering picture of me but those babycakes sure look good! Across from our stand at the farmer’s market tonight was a cupcake shop whose proceeds benefit the local homeless shelter. They package their mini cakes in egg crates. These were seriously some of the best, and cutest, cupcakes I have ever had rivaling my other favorites from Dish in Reno, NV. Today’s flavors were Americana favs like blueberry chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. But I guess they are known for some interesting alternative ones like maple syrup and bacon or salsa with avacado cupcakes.