Sitting at a restaurant, enjoying a juicy kofta or a fresh fattoush salad, one would not think of the journey each ingredient took before arriving on one’s plate. When it comes to the world of sustainability, it’s a whole other ball game wherein that journey takes on newfound importance; giving rise to Farm to Table concepts. The main idea behind any farm-to-table initiative is that any food served in a restaurant or cafe would come directly from a local farm rather than a market or store selling imported ingredients.
The movement wants to promote the idea that the food we eat should come from our own land and with good reason. Not only is it healthier and more inclusive of the region’s local biodiversity but as local food will travel a shorter distance to get to the restaurant or even the customer’s home, that means less fuel and emissions are released in the process. Across the region, the initiative has been garnering a lot of popularity as more farm-to-table restaurants and cafes have been popping up.
With COP27 fast approaching, it’s time to continue the narrative behind climate change and sustainability by looking into how the unique farm-to-table Arab initiatives are pushing for a better, healthier planet.
Sara’s Organic Food
The story behind Egypt’s organic local farm is named after its founder Sara-K. Hannig Nour is one that stems from a passion for tapping into and reviving the rich potential of the country’s fertile land and soil. Hannig Nour wanted to do farming right so after the 2011 revolution, she took a small piece of land that belonged to her husband’s family and began her journey of organic agriculture.
With a team of farmers and engineers, over the years, Hannig Nour was able to plant and harvest everything from organic mangoes, grapes, and peaches to a wide variety of vegetables in her 972-acre farm, all pesticide and chemical free. The entire enterprise grew from there wherein they initially started off by selling their produce in small markets and today the Hannig Nour’s passion project has become a full-fledged company.
Its local ingredients are not only delivered to restaurants but also to some of Egypt’s best hotels as well as customers’ homes. Taking their farm-to-table approach a step further, they now have their very own well-loved product, their weekly box which gets delivered to each customer’s home. Each box would be filled with hand-picked seasonal vegetables, fruits, and herbs and also include recipes and tips on how to use each fresh ingredient.
To further spread and push for sustainable farming, every now and then, customers would be invited to the farm to take part in a wide range of activities like picnics and seasonal harvests.
Founded in 2021 by Humaid Saeed Khalifa Humaid Alremethi and Chef Jessica Queitsch, Farm2Table is the UAE-based food-to-table concept where each of its food items is sourced from the couple’s family-owned organic farm. With Farm2Table all its produce isn’t just locally sourced but also falls under the strict guidelines of what makes a food item organic including them being free from vaccinations, chemicals, and injectable hormones. The initiative came into formation during Dubai’s Expo 2020 wherein some of its locally sourced produce was showcased at Alif Cafe which was part of the Mobility Pavilion at Expo 2020.
As the cafe will serve organic food items sourced from local farms, the founders of Farm2Table decided to go for a menu that would alternate or be changed based on what’s in season. Every dish is developed and made by Chef Jessica in an effort to entice a conversation about sustainability and to teach people about the journey each ingredient takes before arriving on their plate.
Beyond Expo 2020, Farm2Table also conducts several educational workshops about everything related to sustainability, food security, and organic farming as well as offering consulting services that extend to helping customers with their own gardens and how to promote soil and plant health.
From The Villages
Taking the concept of farm to table and giving it an entirely new fresh twist is Lebanon’s From the Villages, a passion project stemming from several young Lebanese graduates including Sari Hawa that started in 2020. Along the outskirts of Lebanon are a few fertile villages including Deir Mimas that produce a lot of rich food products. The issue is that they do not have access to a market in order to sell their harvested goods. To turn this hurdle into an opportunity, the graduates tapped into their ingenuity and innovation and created an online platform that will be used to sell all the fresh produce that is sourced from these villages.
Starting off, they created the website and added a few items to the platform. The project only grew from there as today it expanded to become a platform that offers customers access to twenty-five product categories including dairies, jams, and olives. Considered an environmentally friendly project, From The Villages is continuing to make locally produced food that is made by farmers and artisans in several villages scattered in the South of Lebanon.
With a country like Lebanon that imports most of its food items, such an initiative is a great way to instead shift the focus towards alternative methods of food sourcing by promoting local agriculture and sustainability at large.