“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
Farm-to-Table: A Healthier Alternative to Traditional Dining
Healthy food is in, and it's not as pricey as it used to be.
Farm-to-table is a growing food trend that emphasizes the use of locally grown produce in restaurants and school cafeterias. Whether accomplished via a direct sales partnership, restaurateurs shopping at local farmers markets, or some sort of community-based program, farm-to-table has become an important staple in the broader societal push towards healthier food. This movement isn't just about paying local farms however. It's real purpose is to give consumers firsthand knowledge of how the produce and livestock that end up in their food are raised, and there's often an implied (but not guaranteed) commitment to keeping these products pesticide and hormone free. Essentially, the farm-to-table movement is designed to provide healthier food options by cutting out commercial vendors.
Farm-to-table dining, unlike grocery store items labeled "organic," has a pretty good track record with regard to authenticity. There have been some issues with fraud, but for the most part, restaurants that claim to be farm-to-table are pretty reputable. When it does happen, fraud typically occurs when new owners change their supply chain without updating their menus. In certain cases, restaurants brazenly claim that they're buying from a supplier that they've never even made contact with. This however, is rare and can often result in lawsuits. In order to verify restaurants' farm-to-table claims, Slow Food USA has created a set of standards surrounding freshness, quality of ingredients, and overall taste. Restaurants that qualify, get stamped with what Slow Food USA calls the Snail of Approval. Any restaurant that has a snail sticker is considered certified. It needs to be said that, even with certification, the precise definition of farm-to-table is still elusive. It's not as if Slow Food USA has a monopoly on the term. As it is, farm-to-table functions as a catch-all for sustainability and a commitment to providing fresh, locally-sourced food.
The coveted Snail of Approval
Understandably, relying on local vendors can put strain on well-meaning restaurateurs who want to provide healthy meals for their guests. For example, a restaurant owner doesn't have to put much effort into the relationship they have with large commercial vendors. They simply pay a predetermined price for whatever goods they want and that's that. In order to find a good local farmer, chefs have to seek them out, build relationships with them, and negotiate prices. On top of this, chefs who are really committed will probably have to inspect the farms they buy from to ensure the produce their buying is being grown in a method that comports to their restaurant's mission. The opportunity cost of building these important relationships invariably gets passed down to the consumer, making farm-to-table dining much more expensive. It's so expensive in fact, that many have questioned whether or not farm-to-table restaurants are viable business models, as some restaurants shell out millions of dollars for their food every year.
Sweet green combines fast-casual with farm-to-table
In response to this, some enthusiasts have taken to buying up farms of their own, simultaneously cooking the food and tilling the soil its grown in. Blenheim Hills, a 2016 Michelin-rated restaurant in the West Village is doing just that, but there are obvious difficulties associated with running a farm on top of running a restaurant. While initial purchase of the farm, as well as training cost Blenheim Hills a decent chunk of change, buying a farm has allowed them to keep their prices competitive. Outside of the world of fine dining, popular fast-casual restaurants like the wildly popular Sweetgreen are embracing the farm-to-table model as well. On top of this, New York-based fast-casual chain Dig Inn is planning to purchase its own farm just like Blenheim Hills, as a means of cutting costs also.Whether or not the farm-to-table model is economically viable remains to be seen, but there isn't much doubt that American diners are gravitating towards healthier eating habits. There have been some hiccups–and as with all food crazes consumers should be skeptical and do their research before buying into this growing trend–but the fact that fast casual restaurants are adopting this style of food prep is definitely a net positive. As more and more companies get involved and as warehouse cultivation and other urban farming techniques improve, the price of farm-to-table dining should drop significantly. Even the most cynical foodies have to look at America's shifting culture and smile a bit.
- Home - Farm to Table Western PA ›
- Here's What Actually Happens at a Farm-to-Table Restaurant - Health ›
- The Health And Community Benefits Of Farm To Table Dining ... ›
- How the Farm to Table Trend Can Create a Healthier Lifestyle ›
- Here are five benefits of farm-to-table eating - The San Diego Union ... ›