Farm-to-table dining has been around as a concept since the 1960s and 1970s, but in recent years it has seen a significant resurgence around the world. It emphasizes sourcing local and seasonal ingredients directly from nearby farms, and it not only changed the restaurant industry but has found popularity in senior living communities. For senior living, it not only offers residents fresh and nutritious food but also provides benefits beyond the table and to the local economy. To explore the many benefits that embracing farm-to-table dining in senior living can provide to communities, we hear from a Morrison Living chef, a CCL Hospitality Group operating company, who shares his experience visiting a local farm.
Farm-to-table dining in senior living is more than just a trend—it’s a commitment to providing the freshest, most nutritious ingredients while supporting local farmers and reducing environmental impact that benefit all aspects of the supply chain.
Senior living communities that embrace these principles help prioritize locally sourced and seasonally appropriate ingredients. This ensures fresh and flavorful dishes that are in harmony with the season, not what can be shipped long-distance.
By collaborating closely with local farmers and food producers, senior living communities contribute to the growth of the local economy. These partnerships that benefit both the community and the residents. The American Farmland Trust states that for every dollar spent on local food, up to $2.60 circulates in the local economy.
Farm-to-table dining significantly reduces the distance food travels before reaching the plate. This minimizes the carbon footprint associated with long transportation and storage of ingredients. Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are also typically richer in nutrients and flavor compared to their counterparts that have been transported long distances and stored for extended periods.
To highlight the value this dining approach provides to senior living, hear directly from executive chef Tom McGuigan, on his experience visiting Vierra Farms in Sacramento, California to seek out local farmers that put the same commitment and care into their produce that our culinary professionals put into crafting great food that builds community:
“On our visit to Vierra Farms, the owner, David, took us out into the fields of his family’s farm. His passion for his farm and his family’s business was evident. He shared the story of his grandfather starting the farm and his desire to continue it. Calling what we decide to eat every day “one of the most important economic and political decisions,” as locally produced food helps strengthen the local economy and allows the consumer to know exactly how your food is grown.
Highlighting that the available produce differs from week to week depending on what is in season, their produce is harvested for flavor and nutrition, not for long-distance shipping capabilities. Natural produce, picked when it is ready for the kitchen, is the very definition of farm-to-table.
We were able to see a rare harvest of bi-color corn specifically for the farm stand as they were out that day! This is usually harvested in the early morning hours prior to the heat of the day to preserve sweetness, but their local farm stand customers had requested it, and David was happy to oblige his customers.
When we were out in the fields, we stopped and saw the new squash they were growing, honeynut squash. This was very exciting, as we were able to go and harvest some right then and there. We were talking about uses and recipe creation and discussed collaborating on recipes. As it was the first season the farm had grown this type of squash, it was an exciting collaboration opportunity with a locally owned farm that cares for the land, the community, and the produce they farm.
After our experience with Dave and his team at Vierra Farms, I reflected on how much his team made us feel like part of their family when we visited. In between managing the popular hayrides, corn maze, and pumpkin patch, they exemplified exceptional hospitality.
With a shared desire to promote locally sourced produce, I was inspired to create this honeynut squash and risotto recipe to highlight this amazing produce and help make it accessible to our culinary team, but also to visitors of Vierra Farms. I hope you enjoy cooking it for special occasions or even just an everyday, weeknight dinner.”
1 honeynut squash
.5 lb cremini mushrooms
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
.5 bunch fresh sage
.5 bunch fresh kale, stemmed and chopped
.5 cups parmesan cheese
4 ounces butter
4 ounces olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel Honeynut Squash with a vegetable peeler, cut in half and seed. Dice into 1” pieces. Toss with 2 ounces of olive oil, salt and pepper, lay on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Roast at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until it is golden brown on the edges and set aside.
Wash the cremini mushrooms well and pat dry. Slice into ¼” slices. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and add olive oil. Once oil is hot, add mushrooms and sauté for 5-7 minutes until they start to brown. Add in chopped garlic and cook for 1 – 2 minutes. Add in chopped kale and cook for 2-3 minutes until kale is wilted, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a heavy bottom pot bring 2.5 cups of vegetable stock to a boil, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add in arborio rice, start a timer for 13 minutes, and gently stir until it returns to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cook until 5 minutes left, remove cover, gently stir twice, return cover and cook until timer rings.
Over low heat, add to rice the honeynut squash and mushroom mix and gently combine. Add in last .5 cup of vegetable stock. Stir in butter cut into pieces, parmesan cheese, and fresh chopped sage until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and serve. The risotto should be creamy and moist, and the rice should still be visible, try not to overmix as the all the texture of the rice will disappear.
Optional Garnish: Micro greens, hazelnuts, shaved parmesan