Farming at the moment is a numbers game if you have enough crops you can feed any number of players given that you replant before eating as you can eat while full with no downside apart from wasting the food item.
What im suggesting is making growth time be set at the time of planting aswell as have it configurable (min and max growth time)
It could be based on seed quallity (not a thing right now, but could be added) food coming out of the ground increases in quality if the seed is good, but not 100% quality making you farm multiple cycles before you have close to max quality food coming out of the ground and since most of the time it wont be full durability and bad seeds give worse quality food its forcing the player to find pills or use the bad food that can still give good seeds again to get better food the next farm cycle.
The other idea i have could be each time you farm a seed comes out with the food (sometimes you dont get one and have to use the crop giving the best quallity seed that grows the fastest) so the seed would be worse quallity and could take longer to grow if you have a lot of crops you can replace bad seeds or leave them to grow for longer as you already should have some better quallity crops that would grow faster. Worst quallity seeds as crops would not return a seed and become bad quallity food that if turned into seeds would already be bad quallity (death spiral if you neglect farming unless you live near spawn or have /home or something).
Special crafting recipes for low quality food getting turned into seeds could be nice to up the seed quality at the cost of some other items perhaps you put it in a pot and have to let it grow a small amount of time so it settles in giving you a better quality potted plant you can replant for better food.
Both of these additions do little to combat the high loot x servers basically handing you food for free, but if the vanilla game was more fleshed out i think more servers would host as vanilla (add multiple homes nelson wink wink)