Why Farm-to-Table is ‘Hot’ and How That Trend Translates to Seafood

Today’s top offering on the dinner menu at the hip, cozy Little Savannah Restaurant in Birmingham’s Forest Park neighborhood is simple: Gulf Red Snapper, steamed new potatoes, green beans, and fried capers with a brown butter vinaigrette.

The menu entices diners with a note that the potatoes and beans come from local farms within a half day’s drive of the restaurant. Same goes for the fish – which hails from the Alabama coast, just a few hours’ drive from the state’s largest city.

Little Savannah is one of dozens of restaurants in the state that cater to a crowd that has subscribed to the idea that fresh and local is the only way to eat, which is why in addition to sourcing vegetables and cheeses from area farmers, it is also serving “South Alabama Shrimp and Golden Grits” and Gulf Red Snapper from our state’s waterways.

The trend has become widely known as the farm-to-table movement, which simply means producing food locally and delivering that food to local consumers. So, instead of eating carrots shipped from Canada and chicken shipped from China, restaurants, consumers, and even some grocery stores source their meats, cheeses, and produce from the closest point of origin.

Why? Well, primarily, because it tastes better. The biggest benefit of eating local is a fresh taste that comes from the food product spending less time on a truck, train, or boat.

Over the last decade, there has been a tremendous increase in the popularity of local farmers’ markets and locally owned restaurants serving local foods.

But beyond flavor, the farm-to-table movement is supported by the idea that eating local foods is safer and healthier and supports local economics. Advocates say food that has gone through preserving methods for shipping often looses nutritional integrity. They also point to large farms using more chemicals and genetic modifiers in order to produce larger volumes.

But perhaps more influential in the movement is the idea that buying from local farmers, herders, and fisherman puts money back into local economies and supports the livelihood of small, local operators so that they can continue to produce fresh, delicious, local foods.

To learn more about the species of seafood coming out of local and Gulf waters, check out the Alabama Gulf Seafood field guide. To find out where to buy it or eat it, visit Alabama Gulf Seafood’s restaurant and retailers lists.