We started seeing the phrase a few years ago on menus: We source locally whenever possible. The escalation was swift. Sustainable, natural, responsibly raised—the adjectives came fast and furious, along with chalkboards crowded with farm names. Where I live in Florida, there didn’t seem to be enough farms in the area to support all this locavore exuberance. I started calling restaurants on their farm-to-table claims. I asked distributors for invoices, drove out to farms, and tucked fish samples in my purse to be DNA-tested by scientists. What I found ranged from green-tinted embroidery to outright lies—and I wrote about it. My article for the Tampa Bay Times quickly went viral, and what started as a hyperlocal tale of restaurant chicanery ballooned into a coast-to-coast dialogue. The problem of restaurants lying about their sourcing is a national one. Are we doomed to be duped? I don’t think so, but we all need to make an effort if we want farm-to-table to stand for something real. The next steps of the movement start with us.
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