It’s a term most of us have heard, but few understand.
Yet by most accounts, anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of what we eat is processed which means that the food in question has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on the food to either change it in some way, or preserve it.
But in the heart of Frisco, there are a couple of places that strive to eliminate the processing of food.
The Heritage Table, as well as the Frisco Fresh Market both located in downtown Frisco, offer food from local farmers directly to customers. This allows for a farm to table environment that gives people a way to eat healthy and avoid processed foods.
For The Heritage Table owner Rich Vana, this means extra work in finding the best products.
“We looked everywhere, everywhere within 150 miles, we have a lot of farms and a lot of producers that are outside of that, [but] many of them still in Texas, and some bordering states,” Vana said. “It was going to visit farms that’s fun for me, I like it. You don’t start a restaurant if you don’t love food. Most of these farmers are truly passionate about what they do, they have to be, it’s not easy money. It’s hard work, but seeing them, talking to them, you learn about the food. They love to see what you do with their food and really you connect with all of them. They care about the food they’re raising, so we picked them based on personal connection, which is cool we are picking who is raising our food based on connections.”
These connections allows Vana to pick the best local products and food for his restaurant.
“We asked other chefs [and] I went to restaurant owners,” Vana said. “I’m fortunate enough to know a lot of them in Dallas. I went up to them and said ‘Who are some of the farms you buy from?’ [and] ‘Who needs money, who should I be giving my money to for a great product?’ Most of the chefs in Dallas who truly care about their food will tell you because they want those farms to grow to”
However, it doesn’t take a trip to The Heritage Table to cut out processed foods, as the Frisco Fresh Market, less than a mile away from the restaurant, provides local residents the chance to buy straight from the farm.
And for Honey Badger Crossing Organic Farm owner Sony Puzikas places like farmers markets provide support to local businesses.
“The importance of buying from local vendors [is], for one, it supports businesses that are local to the area so that way they can bring more quality product that is fresh, that is grown locally,” Puzikas said. “We are meant to be seasonal. The big box stores, they kind of systemically have destroyed nature’s law of us eating seasonally, so people are used to eating tomatoes in January. Human bodies are designed to receive certain nutrients at certain times of the year [so] supporting local farmers [and] local growers definitely assess in that endeavor, besides, it tastes good.”
Processed foods are more likely to include added sugars, artificial ingredients, refined carbohydrates, or dangerous chemicals used to ward off insects and other things that might harm a crop.
And Puzikas makes sure his farm is strictly organic, no added preservatives or chemicals.
“We are a strictly organic farm, we don’t use any pesticides, any chemicals,” he said. “Myself and my wife have been eating organically for quite some time now. We refuse to compromise to sell the same product big box stores sell. Some people say it costs more, it really doesn’t because for one, the nutritional value that we have as an organic food is significantly higher than then other foods then when you add 10, 15, 20 years for the possibility of medical bills. that result from eating GMO foods and other stuff that you will get at your local grocery stores. Not only are you saving money, but you’re making your life better [and] it does taste better.”
Shopping for food straight from the farm can also be an interactive family experience, allowing children a “buy in” to eat healthier foods.
Teens should fill half of their plate with fruits and vegetables as dark green, red, and orange vegetables providing high levels of the nutrients: vitamin C, calcium, and fiber.
All of these natural resources are grown and sold around Texas with places such Frisco Fresh Market making it easy for local residents to find food straight from the farm.
“Farmers markets [are] an interesting concept that is more common in Europe than it is here in the United States, I think it’s an interesting thing,” Puzikas said. “We see more families coming out with kids showing them this is what the problem is, this is what this vegetable is. Adults, as well, also see what organic natural produce is and how different it tastes, but also how it looks; it’s not perfect duplicated product. People are in the open-air, people get to interact with people in this town that grow food and provide it for the table, versus buy it from the store where kids work for minimum-wage just checking people out at the counter. They ask questions; people ask why this flavor is different from the product by the store. They start to understand the difference of soil makes the difference, the difference good water makes.”
The taste and health benefits of farm to table food extends well beyond vegetables according to Vana.
“The pork from Chubby Dog Farms, we get whole pigs and butcher them here, and the meat is red, it’s not like pork that has been commodity raised sitting in a little pin and can’t move at all,” Vana said. “The muscles have been used, it looks a little bit more like beef than white meat and it eats like a steak. It’s beautiful, the difference is night and day, almost two different animals.”
For people that don’t want to cook farm to table style, restaurants such as the heritage table do all the work in what they say is a responsible, sustainable way.
“Our tagline is ‘real food, good times old tradition.’ It’s something that’s easy to say, flows easily, but it also means being close to our food. It’s not just baking our bread, things like that, but it goes back to the farms. It goes back to taking every step you can from day one making sure it’s the very best we find in our kitchen. Once the food gets here we practice the very best practices and start from scratch controlling every step of the process that we can, starting with our farmers.”