“The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming, whose hands reach into the ground and sprout, to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn. His thought passes along the row ends like a mole. What miraculous seed has he swallowed that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water descending in the dark.”
~ Wendell Berry
We as a species are uniquely tied to our existence; we are uniquely responsible for our existence; we are uniquely both a beneficiary of and a participant in our existence. Yet, in the past few decades, we have uniquely abandoned our connection to the very source of our existence – the act of growing, producing, and awareness of food on a local level. When our individual and collective experiences of agrarian life are fully removed from participation in the sustenance chain, our connectivity to our own bodies (and to the land on which our bodies live!) can be interrupted.
There are many wonderful ways to experience food – restaurants on the town, home-cooked meals around the dinner table, fast food while on the go. In recent years, many have begun to consider more closely the idea of local sustainability and the idea of “Farm To Fork”. As a chef who’s operated several restaurants of this kind, I wanted to share a little bit more with you about this concept.
“Farm to Fork” is a food system including everything from farm to table. It is a community-based food system in which food production, processing, distribution, and consumption are integrated, with the hopeful outcome of enhancing the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular location. You may have heard of “local” or “regional” food systems, which are often used interchangeably with Farm-to-Fork. In short, it is the direct relationship between a people and their food, and, in a broader sense, the relationship of a people to their existence.
The environmental health of the community is also affected by the sustainability of the local growing community. Local food and agriculture businesses directly affect the quality of the community, particularly by nurturing local job creation and recirculating financial resources into one’s own community. Family Farms often focus on the environmental sustainability of all farmland, sharing integrated production practices so that the overall health of the land (and its people!) is nourished. At once, it can be a way of caring for ourselves, our neighbors, and those who will live on this earth in decades or centuries to come.
The Culinary Program at Veritas Collaborative utilizes the freshest and most local ingredients we can procure for our food. We also believe that visits to local farms and farmers’ markets helps build a connection to—maybe even ownership of—the food we cook and consume with our patients and families at our specialty behavioral health hospital for young people with eating disorders.
Being an active participant in our food system—from the garden to the market to the kitchen to the dining room table—can create a uniquely sustaining relationship with food, with the potential to restore one’s ability to relate to food.
“Hands-on” is not just a buzz word phrase around here; from our Culinary Skills Groups, direct participation in meal preparation, family meals in one of our specialized family meal kitchens, to visits to surrounding local farms, we believe that connecting to the foods we eat (wherever we might be) can very well connect young people living with eating disorder mental illnesses to meaningful, sustained recovery.
I suppose you could say that sometimes, the work of recovery is very literally from the ‘ground up.’
— Christopher Skelly, Veritas Collaborative