Bustling processions of anxious travelers packed into security lines at an airport are a far cry from the quiet farm fields of crops arranged neatly in rows. However, at San Francisco International Airport, the renovation of Terminal 2 has taken a big step in showing how these two can bend closer together.
The initiative is the first of its kind in the United States, with the airport terminal exclusively seeking vendors who serve locally sourced, healthy food. To date, three quarters of the food offerings in Terminal 2 are comprised of local fare. Included in the local food corridor is Napa Farms Market, a 5,000-square-foot marketplace featuring products from Bay Area farms. The crisp and airy Napa Farms Market was designed by the same architects behind the renovation of the Ferry Building Marketplace, a tourist destination and home of the well-known San Francisco farmers market highlighting the wealth of agriculture in the region.
The premiere of a farm-to-flight travel experience is a natural fit in California, the nation’s biggest agricultural producer. Our San Francisco foodshed report, Think Globally, Eat Locally, found that agriculture within the Bay Area alone produces 20 million tons of food annually. It is enough to feed the city and surrounding region and, increasingly. the momentum of the local food movement is drawing attention from public and private institutions seeking to source food locally.
A similar farm-to-flight effort on a smaller scale was launched in February at the Silver Diner at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall airport. The retro exterior of the neon-lit restaurant has more of a 1950s look than a present-day farm feel, but its burgers and buns are purchased from sustainable, local sources. The shift has seasonal restrictions in the nation’s capital where fresh produce is difficult to find in the surrounding region during the winter months. Still, everything from local milk to bread to eggs fill the menu throughout the year.
These and other initiatives to bring local foods into hubs of international travel seek to offer alternative food choices. In return, they expose visitors—whether stopping in on a short layover or on an extended stay—to unique elements of local culture and history. The newly renovated Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport is planning to bring a version of the farmers market on Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles. Dairy farmer turned oil-tycoon Arthur Fremont Gilmore started the iconic market to help farmers during the Great Depression, and it has been serving the city every since, including such famous patrons as Walt Disney and Lucille Ball.
The budding interest in farm-to-flight options has yet to reach a scale where it truly impacts the economic viability of local farms. Nevertheless, these new opportunities are providing a way for travelers to slow down for a moment, take a bite, and use their purchases to support local farmers while savoring the cornucopia of flavors surrounding them.
About the author: Erica Goodman is the Communications Associate with American Farmland Trust.