The Challenges of Farm-to-Table Restaurants

Of course, local sourcing poses challenges for both farmers and chefs. Crops are seasonal, so you can only get what's ready to harvest. Sönmez said that the biggest problems are in transport. Consumers are likely to see further increases in food prices, due to rising freight prices and other problems.

Moving raw materials, as well as fresh produce, has become significantly more expensive. Deliveries by rail and truck have also slowed down due to labor shortages affecting almost every economic sector. Solving potential farm-to-table problems can be an everyday adventure, but Kelly and Musinski say it's worth it. The number of food-to-table establishments has increased considerably during the 2000s, and the American farm-to-table restaurant guide includes restaurants in more than 30 states and in Washington, DC.

Claiming that they specialize in the freshest fish and premium seafood from the waters of the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, it may seem that getting fresh seafood from the lake to the table can be nearly impossible, but it's not. Both restaurants say they keep in touch with a restaurant distribution company to make sure they have basic products for cooking in bulk, such as flour, spices and other dry products. So is it worth offering farm-to-table food? If you want to be satisfied with the idea of providing local, healthy food that is environmentally sustainable, that supports local farmers and communities, that improves animal welfare and that meets the demand of a health-conscious public, then yes, it's worth it. In addition, farmers are increasingly concerned that they will not be able to repair their equipment in the middle of the harvest season due to the significant shortage of spare parts, which has intensified due to continuing labor strikes.

Although both restaurants try to adapt to the true meaning of “from farm to table”, it can be difficult to include the freshest ingredients in their customers' dishes. Tom Bivins, former chef and owner of Cleveland's Crop Bistro, points out: “The same people who are willing to pay a higher price for local food at a farmer's market aren't always as willing to pay that higher price when the restaurant acts as an intermediary. The restaurant needs to have the necessary capital to invest more than a thousand dollars in anticipation of future sales. For example, a limited menu of high-quality dishes, an exclusive salad and some desserts, all with local, regional and organic ingredients, is a possible option for finding a moderately priced farm-to-table restaurant.

This can range from large establishments that supply much of their needs, from their own farms to smaller restaurants that have orchards or some animals to supplement their regular suppliers. Keeping track of the availability of agricultural products can be difficult, but a good start is to check with a local Chefs Collaborative or Farm to School affiliate, or with the local university extension service to see the availability tables by season. Several restaurants in New York and Boston, for example, offer Vermont products, from cheeses to lamb and fiddle-head ferns. Restaurant Insider is an influential website visited by more than 400,000 restaurant owners, operators and managers.

Supporting local farmers is something that many farm-to-table restaurants aspire to do, especially if the product offering is strong, as is the case of the head chef of the Real Seafood Company in Bay City, Aaron Musinski. However, there are several challenges that these restaurants face when trying to source locally grown ingredients. One challenge is finding reliable suppliers who can provide quality ingredients on a consistent basis. Many farmers may not have enough resources or manpower to meet large orders from restaurants on a regular basis.

Additionally, there may be limited availability of certain ingredients due to seasonal variations or other factors such as weather conditions or crop diseases. This means that chefs must be creative when planning menus and must be prepared for sudden changes in availability or pricing of certain ingredients. Another challenge is finding ways to keep costs down while still providing high quality ingredients. Many farm-to-table restaurants strive for sustainability by sourcing locally grown produce whenever possible; however this can often lead to higher costs due to transportation expenses or limited availability of certain items.

Additionally, some restaurants may struggle with finding ways to keep prices competitive while still offering fresh ingredients from local farms. Finally, there is also a challenge associated with educating customers about farm-to-table cuisine and its benefits. Many customers may not understand why certain dishes cost more than others or why certain ingredients are only available seasonally; therefore it is important for restaurants to provide information about their sourcing practices so customers can make informed decisions about their meals.