Farm-to-Table 411
Back-to-Basics Events Bring Foodies to the Farm for the Freshest Local Flavors

By Joe Nolan

While some hipster foodies might be happy to take in their local flavors at the latest fine dining boutique, hardcore locavores are always trying to push the dinner table closer to the dirt their food comes out of and runs around in. Farm-to-table is a foodways philosophy, a nutritional truism and a catchall phrase for the kind of event that combines delicious, nutritious eats with the people and the places that are their primary producers.

If you've never been to a farm-to-table event, we've got your back. Middle Tennessee plays host to these eat-and-greet happenings all year long. A lot of autumn events are in the works, but calendars were still in flux when we went to press. Keep your eyes peeled once the leaves start to fall and study up with these notes on restaurants, organizations and locations that have hosted recent events spotlighting the farmers and artisans who literally grow our local food scene.

While cynical types might say that farm-to-table events, restaurants and workshops are just a passing fad, you'd get a different story from some of Nashville's best chefs, who understand that fresh ingredients are the cornerstone of even the most innovative preparations. Many Nashville restaurants maintain their own gardens and are thoroughly networked with local growers. The Hermitage Hotel even raises its own heritage beef on a 254-acre farm in White Bluff. These kinds of commitments to local sourcing are so involved and labor intensive that they're likely to make a lasting impact on the way Middle Tennessee produces, prepares and consumes its food.

Actually, farm-to-table isn't anything new. It's a reclamation of the more localized food systems and home gardening traditions that began to erode with the arrival of interstates, the rise of industrial farming and the invention of the T.V. dinner following World War II. Today's farm-to-table movement traces its particular roots back to the 1970s, when the cultural radicals of that time quit trying to change the system by marching in city streets and, instead, attempted to create another way of living by going back to the country and reviving sustainable agricultural and building practices, as well as traditional arts and crafts.

The exact definition of farm-to-table can be hard to pin-down but, generally, when we talk farm-to-table, we're talking about fresh meats and produce from nearby sources, grown and raised by farmers using sustainable, humane practices. Itâ€TMs all about natural food grown naturally within a self-supporting community economy.

Farm-to-table events highlight and celebrate these communities of producers, chefs and consumers in a variety of ways. One great recent example is the happening that Local Table hosted at Short Mountain Distillery's Stillhouse Restaurant this past June. The event not only kicked off the grand opening of the eatery, but also put folks in the middle of a 300-acre farm—where they came face-to-face with the place their food was grown.

“Since it was outside of Nashville, there were a lot of people who had never been to any kind of farm-to-table event,” says Local Table's Lisa Shively. “It was really fun to introduce folks to farm-to-table dining and see how excited they got learning about the farms and farmers.”

Guests listened to live music while touring the farm and the distillery, learning exactly how the daily goings-on across the site ended up in their cocktail glasses and on their plates. Chef Paulino Solorzano wowed the crowd with a four-course meal featuring a Wedge Oak Farms duck confit on homemade corn cake with savory slaw as a starter, and a Little Short Mountain Farm roasted leg of lamb over sweet potato puree, topped with tobacco onions, and micro greens drizzled with lamb demi-glace for the crescendo. The setting, the local menu and the opportunity to experience the entire life cycle of the stuff on the end of your fork is what farm-to-table is all about. Green Door Gourmet is another great spot for farm-to-table events, and their Spring Festival this April saw Executive Chef Jay Flatley and Executive Chef Richard Jones make use of produce from the Green Door Gourmet's fields, along with local and regional eggs, bacon, sausage, grits and dairy products, to offer up an amazing brunch event in the Green Door's Grand Barn. In addition to a blizzard of blinis and a maelstrom of mimosas, menu highlights included a Bloody Mary bar featuring Green Door pickles, a creole egg cocotte with tasso ham and crawfish, and a woodshed sweet potato hash with pecan and maple.

The Sumner County Convention & Visitors Bureau will hold its fourth annual Farm-to-Table Dinner on September 12. Black Eyed Pea will be serving up this year's farm-fresh foodstuffs at the Corner House in Gallatin.

“It's a very old, historic house,” says Regina Gammon, owner at Hendersonville Produce and one of the event's organizers. “It's in a great location with plenty of land—it's picturesque, really.” Like many farm-to-table celebrations in the fall, this Sumner County fete is for celebrating community and harvest time.

"The ticket price just covers costs. There isn't any profit being made," Gammon explains. "The reason why I do it is to celebrate the end of summer and we have a great night of music and food and fellowship." Find out more about the event at

For those of you who really prefer to eat your farm-fresh food within a swanky cityscape, there are plenty of local restaurants offering lots of local produce and products on their menus.

See you down on the farm this fall!

Other upcoming Farm To Table events:

October 9

Outstanding in the Field

Wedge Oak Farm, Lebanon, TN

Chef Josh Habiger, Pinewood Social

We look forward to setting the table once again at Wedge Oak Farm. Chef Josh Habiger of Pinewood Social, a 2015 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, will take to the kitchen. Wedge Oak Farm has tons of charm. Itâ€TMs a great place to explore.