Farm-to-Fork Dining: Improving Lives, One Bite at a Time

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While Chip and Joanna Gaines have put shiplap on the residential map, the farmhouse trend hasn’t stopped with home interiors. Culinary buzzwords trumpeting the “farm-to-(fill in the blank)” term are ubiquitous across menus today.

You’ll find farm-to-table, field-to-fork, farm-to-plate, and farm-to-fork catchphrases being marketed from quaint cafés and bustling bistros to high-end dining establishments. Even the personal care industry has hopped on the tractor using terms like farm-to-face.

But, what’s all this farm talk about anyway? If our produce is harvested from farms, what’s is the big forking deal?

What Is Farm-to-Fork Dining?

farm-to-fork meal at the Farmhouse

Image courtesy of Farmhouse at Roger’s Garden

Regardless of the term, the meanings are essentially the same. Farm-to-fork means that the ingredients used in the product — be it your afternoon salad or facial mask — were sourced from local farms using the freshest, and often organic, ingredients.

Unlike the globalization of food that takes a socioeconomic and environmental toll, regional or community food systems harness the economic, environmental, and social elements of the food supply chain while enhancing the health and well-being of its community members. Farm-to-fork takes a comprehensive approach to the food system as a whole from the farm right to your table.

According to Rutgers, the farm-to-fork community food system is different from a globalized food system by focusing on these in four distinct aspects of food production:

  • Food security: Allows food access to the community, including low-income households
  • Proximity: Reduces the distance of acquiring food in all aspects of food production, while building local relationships
  • Self-reliance: Increases the proximity of food to create more independence and affordability via sourcing from community supported agriculture (CSA), local farmer’s markets, or community gardens
  • Sustainability: Considers the environmental aspect of the food production, the fair treatment of farmworkers, reduction in pesticides and non-renewable resources, while being cognizant of the welfare of future generations

In most urban cites across the U.S. today, you don’t have to look far to find a restaurant that embraces the rural by incorporating locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. The connection between our health and the planet in relation to how and where our food comes from can no longer be ignored. And this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Farmhouse at Roger’s Garden

exterior of Farmhouse at Roger's Garden

Image courtesy of Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens

Here in Southern California, we’re usually a stone’s throw from a farm-fresh restaurant that incorporates locally sourced ingredients. One such spot sits perched above the six acres of a vibrant floral and lush green backdrop that is Roger’s Gardens. If you’ve frequented this sprawling garden center, you know it’s an outdoor oasis whose management takes their environmental commitments very seriously.

Roger’s Gardens now offers a farm-to-fork, al fresco dining room. Donned with rich wood, sexy stone, and gorgeous chandeliers, the ambiance has a rustic-coastal vibe that’s true to its name, Farmhouse. At the helm is owner and executive chef, Rich Mead.

bar at Farmhouse at Roger's Garden

Image courtesy of Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mead a few times and one thing stands out: his passion for not just menu creation, but integrating locally sourced ingredients, supporting the community, and feeding the soul. In addition to Mead’s weekly trips — spanning the course of 20 years — to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, his restaurant has partnered with the nearby Ecology Center for a bi-weekly pick-up location for their Farm Share program.

Culinary cornucopias aside, Chef Rich Mead is no stranger to giving back. His philanthropic contributions include creating food for Outstanding in the Field for several of their farm-to-table dinners. Mead has offered his services as a guest chef to honor customer appreciation days at several local farms and raised money for nonprofit organizations, including Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. In addition, Chef Mead works with the Culinary Liberation Front to educate the public and local chefs on the importance of supporting local and sustainable agriculture.

Mead’s artisanal creations aren’t just beautiful, they’re healthy. Case in point, a recent plant-based tasting I attended where Mead left no flavor or color behind. From chilled corn soup with chili sauce and grilled herb roasted eggplant to grilled cauliflower steak, a veggie-grain-curry broth and strawberry rhubarb crisp, the food was as spectacular as it was sumptuous.

We savored a green juice drink from their Counterfeit Cocktails (aka mocktails) menu, and a margarita creation that was adorned with marigold flower petals, concocted by Anthony, the Farmhouse bartender. There’s nothing like the fresh flavor of locally sourced produce that’s prepared with love.

collage farm-to-fork dining at Farmhouse at Roger's Garden

Image courtesy of Lisa Beres

Find a Farm-to-Table Restaurant Near You

If you don’t reside in Southern California or have no plans to visit, there are a plethora of amazing restaurants across the nation ready to serve you local cuisine. In fact, Eat This, Not That compiled their list of the 51 Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants in America.

This week, I had the absolute pleasure of dining at two additional farm-to-fork restaurants including Malibu Farm and True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach. Don’t worry Chef Mead, I’ll be back (hopefully sooner than later)!

Feature image courtesy of Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens

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