It’s no secret that at the Social Food Project we put a lot of importance on sourcing ingredients from local farmers and producers. But there’s a little more to it than simply sourcing local, fresh ingredients. And that’s why we started our pop up events - Farmer to Table Dinners.
The Farmer to Table dinner series is based on a very simple theory; by bringing together producers and diners to share a meal, we can build relationships, understand each other’s needs, and solve problems together.
As my skills as a chef have developed over the years, it has become clear to me that in order to serve the most delicious food, it also needed to be produced well. One of my roles as a chef is to deliver great tasting food, and that means sourcing fresh ingredients that are being produced for flavour.
I find that food produced organically, in complex biodiverse systems, generally tastes better. Once I started reaching out to local farmers who cared for their soils, animals, and lands, I also discovered food I was proud to serve to my diners.
Getting to know one local Victorian producer, Paul from Day’s Walk Farm, (literally a day’s walk from Melbourne), has really developed my understanding of what it means to be a farmer. One early example that piqued my interest was that Day’s Walk often makes delivery at around 12pm, as opposed to 7-8am like many other fruit and veg suppliers.
As a chef that can present some challenges in the kitchen, as we need to be able to prep food for lunch service that day. It wasn’t until I spoke to Paul on the phone one day about this that he gave me the reason: they were harvesting the produce that very morning! Once I knew the reason, I was more than happy to adjust my behavior so it worked well for everyone.
But how many of us have actually met someone like Paul, someone who grows our food and strives to make a living from it. How many of us think about where and how an apple was grown before we buy it?
We have seen a deterioration of relationships between people who produce food and people who eat it. This connection between producers and consumers is essentially broken and has resulted in poor communication, misunderstandings of seasonalities and a net loss of people farming the land.
It is through actually meeting farmers, asking them questions and building empathy together, that we will be able to tackle some of the complex challenges we face in the food system, such as biodiversity loss, soil degradation and farmer isolation to name a few.
Our Farmer to Table Dinners are simply an elaborate introduction.
If you haven’t been to one of our pop up dinners, they are a great opportunity to share delicious food and connect with where it came from, how it was raised/grown and put a face to the people who produced it.
Written by: Ben McMenamin