seed till fork
Savannah College of Art and Design
seed till fork
An interesting alternative model of organizing restaurant food supplying chain, an improved platform that could help local economy and small producers.
seed till fork
The project, seed till fork examines relationships between restaurants and farms. It is an online marketplace that connects chefs and small farms with added educational tools to engage all parties active within the system. The goal of seed till fork is to get more local food to more local chefs, saving chefs time and saving farmers money and time spent managing logistics. The system enhances education about local and sustainable food supplies, creates a sense of investment in these supplies and in sources from all actors involved and stimulates the local food community in Savannah, Georgia.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The way that we produce, purchase and consume food has become wholly unsustainable. The food that we consume is no longer the result of a hard day’s work. We rarely enjoy handcrafted items made with pride and care. We have little idea about the origins of our food, or who produces it. Our food has no history, thus no sense of place. As a result, significant levels of confusion and powerlessness arise concerning definitions of sustainable practices. There are many individuals actively working to alter the current systems of production and consumption. They grow produce and herbs, raise cattle, hogs and fowl, naturally and locally; they cultivate this supply with care; they preserve the environment and human health with the production and supply of food. These individuals are citizens, farmers, companies, activists and restaurants. This project establishes a framework for the sustainable consumption of food that empowers actors within the system through its use. The project works with Local 11ten, a restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, with an established commitment to source locally, to overcome logistical, cost, and feasibility barriers to obtaining a more sustainable food supply. It looks to better serve customers, enable staff to understand and feature an ecological philosophy in a more informed and enticing way, and propel the local food scene by facilitating connections and building community through the growth and sharing of food. The result of the project is replicable and scalable.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
For eleven years, I have worked in the restaurant industry. I have held several different positions: host, cashier, dishwasher, bartender and server. This work has taught me patience, the ability to multi-task, the importance of open and honest communication, teamwork, how to cook, and most importantly, has instilled in me a true passion for local and sustainable food. I am able to pursue this passion as a server at Local 11ten, a restaurant dedicated to local product. I am also a recent graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design with an M.A. in Design for Sustainability. Most importantly, the graduate program taught me an appreciation for systems thinking. To me, this type of thinking is to do work in a way that considers every point of a system, while ensuring that the environment, the economy and the social impact are kept in balance. These three elements must succeed independently while working in concert with one another. When it came time to choose the topic for my final project for SCAD, it seemed natural to combine my love of local food and the restaurant world with my dedication to sustainability. A restaurant is a complex system whose success is ultimately determined by the food that it serves. I conducted this project by utilizing systems thinking and by bringing an understanding of the restaurant industry and of design for sustainability.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
The work that informed my final design was conducted in three stages: secondary research, case study research and contextual ethnographic research. First, in an effort to understand the greater systems at play, secondary research was conducted. This research consisted of a literature and policy review and a case study investigation. The literature that informed research includes: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimall, Food Rules by Micheal Pollan, Deep Economy by Bill McKibben, System Innovation for Sustainability by Ursula Tischner and Bringing it to the Table by Wendell Berry. The policy research that I conducted includes: The Farm Bill, Proposition 37, and initiatives local to Savannah, such as the revised animal control ordinance that will allow Savannah residents to keep chickens and bees in their backyards. Many examples exist of local grass-roots initiatives and businesses that are working to expand local, organic and sustainable food systems. In order to design efficient, effective and captivating solutions for the further expansion of these food systems, an in-depth investigation of the actors in this field has been undertaken. Case study research includes examples of food hubs, marketplaces, tools for farmers and for the local food scene and examples of small businesses focused on growing local communities through sustainable food. This research was conducted to build a base understanding of the dominant forces within the food industry and to begin to understand the barriers, limitations and opportunities to expanding the local, organic and sustainable food scene. Within the next phase, I conducted on-the-ground contextual research. Greater understanding and insight can be taken from in-depth interviews, questionnaires and face-to-face encounters. These interactions lead to rich dialogue, help to identify barriers to the sustainable growth of local and organic food sectors and identify areas for intervention and collaboration that will lead to positive change. Interviews were conducted with local actors. An effort was made to choose individuals to represent all parts of the system under investigation. Interviews were loosely structured. Research was done in advance and questions were written. However, the interviews were informal and followed the natural line of conversation, enabling the comfort of each interviewee and the interjection of spontaneous topics. Throughout the project, I considered the interests of small farms, restaurateurs, chefs, restaurant and farm employees, local actors, such as farmer’s market workers and the press, and customer interests. This consideration is demonstrated through the great number of in-depth interviews that I conducted and through a survey that was given to farmers, chefs, customers and employees respectively. I conducted in-depth interviews with Brandy Williamson (Local 11ten), Tommy Morstad (Local 11ten), Relinda Walker (Walker Organic Farms), Teri Schell (Forsyth Farmer’s Market), Cat Compton and Shabnam Giddeon (Revival Foods), Michael Maddox (Green Bridge Farms), Del Ferguson (Hunter Cattle Company), Shirley Daughtry (Heritage Farms), Rene Teran (Well Fed Magazine), Todd Jones (Every Last Morsel), Alice Rolls (Georgia Organics), Steve Howard and Erik Lyons (Local Farm Bag), Wendy Armstrong (Thrive Cafe, Daron Joffe (Farmer D Organics), Sherry DiSimone (Georgia Buffalo) and Karen and Mike Smith (Longwood Plantation).5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
seed till fork helps small farms and local business succeed and grow. This has an economic benefit to the community in which it operates. Many small farms struggle to succeed. seed till fork will increase their revenue and encourage them to grow sustainably. A restaurant’s revenue also stands to increase with the sourcing of high quality ingredients and with educating the public about these sourcing relationships. In addition to monetary benefits to the growth of small farms, there is significant paradigm-shifting possibility that comes with this expansion. The more support that small farms receive and the more that they grow, the more money that is taken away from industrial monocultures that produce unhealthy food at a high cost to human and animal health and to the environment. A streamlined distribution system also benefits the environment by limiting emissions and energy use. seed till fork has significant social impact. When more local food reaches more people, the health of these people increases. By participating in additional educational activities such as farm tours, workdays, cooking classes and training sessions, hosted by seed till fork, the participating actors are made a part of the food production system. They become invested in this system and will be led to continually make healthy choices. Participation in seed till fork should be enjoyable. It is meant to be an experience that increases member’s sense of place, of pride, health and well-being.6. Did the context of your project change throughout its development? If so, how did your understanding of the project change?
seed till fork will accept any and all small, local farms and restaurants that would like to participate in the system. This openness naturally provides for a blending of cultures and product offerings. Participants will have the opportunity to rate one another and choose which producers they patronize. This will keep the marketplace competitive, diverse and fair.span class="question">7. Does your project have nutritional elements? If so, are these elements available and affordable on a global or local level?
This project seeks to get more local and sustainable food to more people. While any local farm could be a part of the system, once established, a ranking system will be devised where consumers can review and give praise to producers that they love. When making these rankings, the sustainability, health, affordability and quality of offerings will be considered. This encourages producers to create healthier and more sustainable products. Transparency will also be stressed throughout the system. Nutritional information and farm practices will be made clear for consumers. The end-consumer will also have access to this information through educational information in participating restaurants and online. Additional educational tours, training sessions, events and workdays will serve to convey nutritional information to all actors involved. The products offered through seed till fork are made affordable through bulk ordering and the sole addition of a membership fee. There will be no price mark-up on individual items. The items are available on a local level only, but any location could implement and adapt this system.