Farm-to-Table: A Community Banker’s View

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In a classic scene from the sitcom “Portlandia,” a young couple wants to order a chicken dish at a farm-to-table restaurant. But even after insisting on knowing the unfortunate chicken’s name (Colin, by the way), it’s not good enough. They excuse themselves and leave the restaurant to think things over.

The farm-to-table movement, despite its cameo on tv, is here to stay. Local economies benefit from farm-to-table as much as restaurant visitors do. And, in fact, the changes brought to both towns and cities are very interesting to examine, this time through the eyes of a community banker. After all, what does the farm-to-table movement look like to the local bank manager or executive?

First of all, the farm-to-table movement affects a lot more than just what’s on the menu at nearby restaurants. It actually brings new requirements to the local economy.

Take distribution, for example. One of the main goals of farm-to-table is to dramatically reduce the average distance food products need to travel. One study showed that the average trip for food and ingredients to go from farm to family table was a whopping 1,500 miles!

So, with markets and restaurants sourcing from much closer to their locations, the role of local distributors needs to morph quite a bit. The community banker might see distributors’ needs for vehicle loans or other storage equipment increase. At a certain point, the demand for gas at the local level might even create an opportunity for another gas station—and another loan.

Closer to Home

The farm-to-table movement has also contributed to bringing community bankers closer to local farmers and distributors. With the demand for local farm products increasing, the need to invest in equipment and supplies grows, too. So, the trend toward needing to access additional capital comes along with the uptick in farm-to-table as well.

The community banker might see other businesses pop up or grow that wouldn’t have seen such opportunities without the farm-to-table environment:  certain types of produce or meat markets, for instance. These are all businesses that require financing and ongoing accounts, so local bankers need to keep up with all sorts of new needs.

Keeping the Benefits Local

Farm-to-table increases the demand and consumption of products at restaurants, in markets, and eventually at home. This boosts the local economy in several ways. Jobs are created both in traditional farming roles and in the places where the local goods end up for sale.

Another area in which farm-to-table benefits local economies is tourism. Travelers seek out restaurants that offer dishes featuring local ingredients. In fact, many tourists will travel to specific towns or areas simply because they’re known for serving special dishes with locally sourced items.

Of course, when you add up all the increases in area businesses due to farm-to-table activities, it’s easy to see why local administrations like the movement, too. It increases tax revenues, which can lead to better roads, schools, and more.

The Takeaway

What started as a reaction to the extreme distances between food sources and the locations where the goods were eventually enjoyed has developed into a positive influence on local economies. Community bankers, often considered the hubs of local commercial needs, have become the go-to people for supporting the larger, ongoing needs of the farm-to-table economies.