Embrace Freshness, Support Local: Thornapple CSA's New Journey Begins!

From Field to Fork: Seasonal Delights from Your Community-Supported Agriculture

June 27, 2024

Table of Contents

From Field to Fork: Seasonal Delights from Your Community-Supported Agriculture

Unearthing the Roots of Farm-to-Fork Bliss

I’ve always loved the saying, “Keep your friends close and your farmers closer.” It’s a mighty fine one to keep in mind as the trend toward authenticity and transparency pervades every fiber of our lives’ fabric. “Farm-to-fork,” “field-to-fork,” “farm-to-table” – these like-minded phrases should guide our shopping and dining destinations.

At its heart, this grassroots social movement is about knowing from where your food comes. That means knowing more than that your chicken breast was purchased at the local supermarket. It’s about lineage at its most noble and traceability at its most basic. The farm-to-fork mindset focuses on freshness, seasonality, and mostly local community.

While embodying such principles today, the movement stemmed from more sobering realities, including food safety, poor food flavor, diminishing nutritional value, and dying family businesses – concerns that developed in the wake of World War II. Sometimes supporting local, farm-to-plate growers means spending a few more bucks. Sometimes it doesn’t. Like any ecosystem, living a farm-to-plate food life is all about balance. It should all work out in the wash.

The Roots of Transparency

Of course, there are black-and-white realities. No rain lately? Bad frost this spring? Got to the farmers market late? Your choice items may have sold out or may never have been available. Taking things a step further, farm-to-table is not only about where your food comes from but also the conditions under which it was cultivated. It is certainly not about hothouse tomatoes bought in December. Seriously, please stop buying those. You know they’re mealy and have zero flavor. Wait for the good ones in the summer.

Most foodies will point to California’s legendary restaurateur, Alice Waters. No doubt, Alice spearheaded the movement through the early years and into the ensuing decades. Alice and visionary chef Jeremiah Tower (see Anthony Bourdain’s documentary “The Last Magnificent”) started the local food, farm-to-fork drive with Jeremiah’s Northern California-focused dinners back in a time when fancy foods tended to be named by their European origins. Tower’s also spawned another idea that promoted transparency: the open kitchen. Suddenly, everything about your food was – to use a pun – “on the table,” the sources were shared, and the preparations were watched.

Uncovering the Bounty

I prefer the restaurants and menus that specifically list their purveyors, be they farms, gardens, fisheries, creameries, coffee roasters, apiaries, wineries, distilleries, or any other food or beverage business. I’m a “farm-to-fan.” Additionally, at any great farm-to-fork table, do engage your servers or the establishment owners. They can unfold a wealth of details as to why they use their chosen purveyors, and unlike most of your chain grocery stores, the decisive factors won’t be sheerly price-based.

While restaurants are a great place to experience the farm-to-fork mentality first-hand, you can certainly explore it at home too. If you’re lucky enough to have a local farmers market, you have an obvious place to start. Alternatively, you can usually visit local farms on your own. Pressed for time? Check for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in your area, like Thorn Apple CSA. You can also always ask your local grocer if there is a possibility of sourcing seasonal fruit, vegetables, and other food products grown, raised, or crafted nearby.

Elevating Seasonal Eats

Shopping completed, are you finding that you have no idea what to do with some of your local, fresh produce? Feeling you should leave the cardoons, kohlrabi, and lambs quarters (it’s a vegetable, not a cut of meat) for the pros? Check out sites like Seasonal Food Guide and Eat Farm to Fork for inspiration.

Wine pairings for farm-to-fork and farm-to-table meals clearly favor local choices. If you live in wine country, you’re spoiled for choice. But even if you’re not near a vineyard, all 50 U.S. states make wine, and they’ve done so for over a decade. Keep in mind that some producers buy grapes from other places – the cold northern states, for example, are very tough places to grow Vitis vinifera grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. At least the winemaking know-how will be local, even if the grapes aren’t. Don’t forget local breweries and distilleries to round out your beverage offerings.

Here are a few very, very basic wine pairing guides:

Food Pairing Wine Recommendation
Winter root veggies (parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, potatoes) Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay – the touch of oak sweetness pairs well with baked dishes
Game meats Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Zinfandel – packed with berry punches and earthy, briary notes that complement game flavors
Spring salads Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Sauvignon Blanc – the lashing refreshment pairs well with the vivid flavors of tender spring greens
Summer barbecues Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon Stature – a bold red wine that can stand up to the bold flavors of grilled meats
Light, refreshing desserts Kendall-Jackson Muscat Canelli – a lower-alcohol, aromatic wine that complements fruity desserts

Please remember that food preparation can trump ingredient. Roasted fennel, for instance, pairs better with Sauvignon Blanc than Chardonnay.

Cultivating Community Connections

Now you may be thinking of concocting your own farm-to-table experience chez toi – yes, fabulous! In addition to the wine and food ideas, consider local florists and even tableware fashionistas. You can also filter local water or look for a spring water source near you to really seam in the farm-to-fork idea from A to Z.

Once all of your ideas to feed folks are gelled, consider your meal’s service. The essence of farm-to-table is community, so how can you extend that right through your dining experience? How about a self-serve bar or family-style food service? Also, though it is less efficient, think lots of dish gloves, hand-washing, and hand cream – it is utterly charming to use old service and tableware if you don’t have anything local. This inserts the idea of “reuse/relive” into your theme of local vibrancy.

This post from The Everygirl suggests fall color schemes for a farm-to-table dinner, and this post offers options for decorating with those herbs you don’t polish off or vegetables you don’t dare dissect – fall gourds and squashes come to mind in my kitchen.

Another possibility for full-throttle farm-to-table is via entertainment. You could ask a local band to play or a school choir to sing at your shindig. And, of course, make good use of options for local rides home for everyone.

Experiencing the Farm-to-Fork Ethos

If you aren’t up to hosting your own farm-to-fork experience, you can enjoy a stunning Farm-to-Table dinner hosted throughout the fair weather seasons at the beautiful Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens located in Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, California. The mid-fall Harvest Celebration is a primo event.

While the culinary staff, gardening grounds, and hospitality staff at Kendall-Jackson are urbane and world-class, the Jackson family members consider themselves farmers first. And what you eat – as well as drink – at their table is homegrown on their four-acre garden or brought in from local purveyors.

However you do it, be a food activist this year. Farm-to-fork tables and field-to-fork menus are the best way to support local food culture, keep small family farms alive, encourage heirloom fruits and veggies, and shun foods grown with hormones, pesticides, and chemicals. The faster your farm-to-plate food is delivered, the more epic its flavor will be.

So, let’s raise a glass to the bounty of the land and the passionate people who nurture it. Here’s to a season of sensational, locally-sourced delights – from field to fork!

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

Follow On

Subscrive Our Newsletter
To Get More Updates

© 2023 Thornapplecsa.com. All Rights Reserved