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Farm-to-table dining is more than a meal, it’s an experience

Gladheart Farms poudly displays their organic carrots, fresh from the ground that morning.
Gladheart Farms poudly displays their organic carrots, fresh from the ground that morning.Photo by-Jennifer L Markell

A recent trip to Asheville, N.C. brought a whole new dining experience to my palate that I had never known before, and throughout my various farm-to-table meals, my taste buds were awakened with every delicious bite of this affordable and healthy fare.

Farm-to-table dining has been around as long as farmers have been sowing the land. After all, the concept of farm-to-table or farm-to-fork, as some refer to it, is simply the process of producing food. From planting and growing, to harvesting, storage, packaging and ultimately, consumer consumption, it’s a process we as a civilization, have done for centuries.

In North Carolina and in every other state in the U.S, farm-to-table dining experiences are setting the bar for food lovers everywhere. In some cases, farmers and restaurant owners are one in the same, which speaks volumes that food quality is the most important factor for these business owners. Typically, if there are a ton of local farms in the area along with countless farmers markets, your chances of finding a delectable farm-to-table meal is pretty good.

As printed in the 2014 ASAP Local Food Guide, there are currently 156 N.C. restaurants purchasing locally grown food from Appalachian farms in the area, whereas in 2002, there were just 19 partnering restaurants. Fresh, local foods that are free from pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics and toxins are critical to the resulting meal, so in most cases you will find the quality of food beyond anything you would experience in any chain restaurant. A couple places to check out for a memorable meal if ever you are in Asheville, N.C. are, Tupelo Honey Café, Nine Mile, Corner Kitchen and the City Bakery.

For those of you not planning any trips out of state this summer, you still have local, tasty and healthy options to choose from in the Tampa Bay area. With organic farming and community supported agriculture (CSA) on the rise, along with urban farming processes and cognizant restaurateurs’, places like Boca, in Hyde Park, Élevage, at the Epicurean Hotel and Birch and Vine, located in the Birchwood Inn on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg, all offer fresh and local ingredients.

Supporting local farmers and growers by buying local, fresh food at restaurants or at farmers markets not only helps the farmer but it also promotes a healthy and sustainable personal lifestyle. In the past 60 plus years, our country has moved away from living organically off the land to being consumed by a convenient and fast paced, processed and genetically modified food movement. Big-Agra and food company giants care less and less what is in the food they are distributing and instead are finding more chemically enhanced ways to make a thousand different flavored cookies, just so consumers will buy more. As a result, the Center for Disease Control published a very scary statistic that one in three adults in this country is obese. Not just overweight but obese.

Shifting from a nutritionally deficient, processed convenience food mentality, to an awareness on growing, eating and preparing local, seasonal foods is one way to effectively impact the outrageous and unbelievable obesity statistic. People across the U.S., including those in Asheville, N.C. and in Tampa Bay, Fla, are becoming conscious of the importance of eating locally, as a matter of health.

Whether it is eating food from a homegrown garden, supporting the local CSA or Farmer’s market or, by ordering a delicious, meal at a farm-to-table conscious restaurant, the experience of tasting these fresh-from-the-ground delights, is sure to make anyone a believer in the ever-growing and highly sustainable, farm-to-table movement.