Farm-to-table is an interesting concept for a place like the Yakima Valley.
As a trend, as a movement, as a marketing tool, it took much longer to take hold here than it did in major tastemaking metropolitan areas. Restaurants and residents here have long used locally grown ingredients. But they didn't do it with some grand philosophical purpose; it was an ingrained way of life.
So while there were farm-to-table restaurants in places like Los Angeles long before anyone here started touting the practice, people in the Yakima Valley were always eating farm-to-table. It just wasn't called that. It was called "getting a dozen eggs from my friend in West Valley who has chickens" or "buying a box of pears from the orchardist down the road."
That lifestyle is possible because of this region's remarkable bounty. And increasingly, the rest of the region and the country is noticing. These days when people visit the Yakima Valley, they expect to be able to walk through the vineyards where their wine is grown and hop fields that flavor their beer. They expect to find restaurants like the James Beard Award-winning Los Hernandez Tamales, which specializes in fresh asparagus tamales in the spring. And they expect the area's higher-end fine-dining restaurants to adhere to the farm-to-table ethos, too.
The freshness of food as well as its provenance - its story - are important to people these days. Diners in restaurants and shoppers at markets care where their food comes from more than ever before. In places like Yakima, built on a foundation of agriculture and supplying food for the rest of the country, the answer is frequently right down the road.
It's the Community Supported Agriculture produce grown by local gardening collectives, the chanterelles foraged by intrepid mushroom hunters, the beef from small family farms. It's the mint from the Lower Valley, the tomatoes and peppers at local farmers markets, the apples, the peaches, the nectarines, the plums.
This Yakima Herald-Republic special premium section is intended to celebrate that, to highlight the bounty people in the Yakima Valley have always enjoyed - long before farm-to-table became a social movement.