Ask Eartha: A brief history of the farm-to-fork revolution (column) |

Ask Eartha: A brief history of the farm-to-fork revolution (column)

Dear Eartha,

The farm-to-fork eating movement seems to be popping up all over the country. Can you tell me more about the farm-to-fork movement, how it started and how one can take part here in Summit County? — Bryce, Blue River

The farm-to-table, or farm-to-fork, movement sure has come a long way since its humble beginnings at Alice Waters’ restaurant Chez Panisse. Currently, the farm-to-table movement has expanded beyond restaurants to farm markets in almost every town in the US, to grocery stores and even fast food restaurants. The movement has become so popular that it even has a term for those that eat only foods that were produced and grown locally: A locavore. But, it took a few decades for this healthy eating trend to take off. It has only gained its popularity through exposure of the food production systems that are based off generating profits and not about producing healthy, sustainable foods.

Many people believe the farm-to-table movement began in 1971 with the opening of Chez Panisse in Berkley, California. According to the Chez Panisse website, Chef Alice Waters and a group of close friends opened and ran the restaurant the way that they would throw a dinner party: with only the freshest, most local, organic ingredients and careful attention to detail. The group wanted to ensure that diners had an understanding of where their food came from and based their dishes off of what was available.

Although the movement began in the ’60s and ’70s, it really began to gain steam about 10 years ago in more progressive cities like Portland, Oregon; Boulder; and New York, New York. In addition, authors like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser began shedding light on the issues with our commercial agriculture system and the drawbacks to harvesting and shipping food hundreds and thousands of miles away.

The farm-to-table movement emphasizes local, seasonally-produced foods. At the turn of the 20th century, most farms produced food that was eaten only 50 miles away. Once Americans began moving away from more rural areas and the interstate system was developed, these local food sources all but disappeared. In addition, convenience caused processed foods to gain popularity, and the disconnection between farm and food became more established. The farm-to-table movement emphasizes quality over convenience, and, thus, the ingredients are only the freshest, organic, seasonal varieties available.

Local foods are more healthy and sustainable in many ways. The definition of local food requires shipment of less than 400 miles from the source. The fact that farm-to-table foods are not shipped as far means that there are less greenhouse-gas emissions emitted. In addition, foods that need to be shipped far from the source are often picked prior to ripening thereby not absorbing the full amount of nutrients from the soil. Local foods have a higher nutrient content and are more sustainable on many levels.

There are grocery stores and restaurants in Summit County that focus on local foods. City Market, Safeway, Natural Grocers, Whole Foods and Breckenridge Market and Liquor all feature foods that are produced in Colorado, including produce, canned goods and pre-packaged foods. In addition, there are quite a few restaurants that feature Colorado-sourced foods including Food Hedz, Relish, Hearthstone and Vinny’s Euro American Organic Cuisine.

Speaking of Vinny’s, next Wednesday, Sept. 9 the restaurant will be hosting High Country Conservation Center’s 7th Annual Harvest Dinner. This dinner gives the diner an opportunity to experience the ultimate farm-to-table experience. The meal celebrates local, seasonal food by offering four-courses created by Chef Vinny Monarcha and features food donated by local farms from Colorado. This year’s dinner will feature beef from Snow Creek Ranch and Vail Meat Company, sheep cheese from Anna Vail Cheese in Avon, salmon from Kaleb’s Katch and Eagle Smoked Salmon, chicken from local sources and donated by Whole Foods and greens and veggies grown right here in Summit County by community gardeners and Summit CSA just to name a few. The dinner serves as a fundraiser for High Country Conservation Center and will cost $55 per adult and $20 per child. To make reservations, call (970) 668-5703 or email

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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