Will urban and local farms help restaurants?

Yes…of course! The questions How!

The issues we are currently facing in the food industry are complex and geographically diverse.

If we zoom in on the food challenges we have in the world we can see the following:

Unbalanced. we have more than 1 billion hungry people and 1 billion over-weight. Why do folks in major cities get to eat fish the locals can hardly catch any more?

Crappy supply chain. We eat oranges from California, USA , kiwis from New Zealand, fish from the West African coast, etc, wrapping in packaging that was printed in China, etc. That goes against a lot of sustainability principles.

Waste. We waste about 40% of our food in North America.

So as a restaurant (and foodies / consumers) it is important to play a key role in helping to resolve these challenges.

The latter two are connected and can be tackled through local urban farming. Urban and local farms can improve the time from farm to fork, thereby significantly improving freshness, shelflife and quality. At the same time that means less waste and a smaller carbon footprint.

It will help to make the food industry more sustainable and contribute to your bottom line and communities.

But let’s be realistic, we will not grow kiwis or bananas in northern Canada or USA on a commercial scale for a while. So the other part of the solution is Choices. 

It is great to see a lot more restaurants are learning more about locally grown species and chosing a menu accordingly. And even better: what are native plants and vegetables and can I use that in preparing dishes. While this overall learning and transition is taking place there are definitely local challenges such cost of labor, lack of affordable distribution options.

I would suggest with starting to learn and understand what is locally available and give the local and urban farmers a try. From my experience they are very open to be contacted and work together to make a local food system happen!
Mark van Engelen is founder Nya Sustainability Consulting, a consulting firm helping organizations implement sustainability. Services include sustainability strategy development, zero waste planning, GHG emissions calculating and planning, energy/water management, employee engagement and guidance in B Corp and carbon neutral certification.

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