Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Watch out for "farmwashing"

There's an interesting article in the Washington Post about restaurants that claim to be serving environmentally-protective, locally-grown food but aren't:

....with business models built on sustainable food, the hype can get ahead of the execution. Even when intentions are good, there are questions about whether it is possible for a high-volume restaurant to practice everything it preaches -- if it also wants to turn a profit and serve customers what they want. Small family farms don't have the quantity or consistency of huge national suppliers. They usually can't compete on price, even at the height of the growing season. And although diners say they want to "eat green," many would not be happy if they couldn't get tomatoes on their burgers in December.

The phrase "farm fresh was ruined in the American grocery store years ago. The American restaurant business is perfectly capable of ruining 'farm-to-table,' " said New York restaurant consultant Clark Wolf. "It's called 'farm wash.' And the other term is 'B.S.' "

We'll have to do our best to avoid farm-washing here. The role of the market in protecting the environment and promoting local agriculture is potentially huge, but this means avoiding pitfalls like the one discussed in the article.


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