What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, April 30, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by SFUSA Program Director Makalé Faber Cullen
Industrial farming, which selects for shipability, is the cause of the loss of 93% of our food diversity. In contrast, over 500 RAFT market farmers in over 40 states took on our Grow Out Challenge and returned endangered varieties to their fields, sharing their bounties with chefs and neighbors, and with us.
For three years, small-scale farmers have been the backbone of RAFT.
With our encouragement and without it, farmers across the US have taken on the task of preserving our country's agricultural biodiversity. We celebrate the delicious successes of our country's forward-thinking farmers and chefs.
Editor's note: Nice coverage of the RAFT book also found on Ethicurean. Also, make sure to check out the comments section of the NY Times online version, directly following the article. Good stuff!
Posted on Tue, April 29, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
While network television is rarely a topic of discussion here, Sunday night's episode of "The Simpsons" proves that awareness of industrial agriculture practices might be growing in the minds of Americans. When Bart joins 4-H (it's slogan on the show: "4-H: it's still a thing") in order to drive a combine, he finds himself caring for Lou, a runt calf, for a competition at the county fair. What Bart learns when Lou wins the blue ribbon, though, is that first prize means a first-class trip to the feedlot and the killing floor.
Of course, this being "The Simpsons," a plot to save Lou is hatched and hilarity ensues. In this case, Bart doesn't "have a cow, man," he saves a cow. But before the happy ending, we head to the feedlot where hundreds of cattle are literally stacked on top of one another and Lou is found bloated with growth hormones. That's not to say that the episode ends in serious reflection or comment (Lou is sent to India to escape slaughter, after all), but the fact that the writers took on the subject may serve as a small sign that some messages about big agriculture are beginning to take root in our culture.
And it's true, by the way, 4-H is still a thing. In fact, it's a thing that has—in Sonoma County at least—a connection to Slow Food. Slow Food Russian River has helped establish a 4-H heritage breeds club, one that is helping to reintroduce heritage turkey breeds into the marketplace. This past November the convivium and the 4-H members processed and distributed 200 turkeys in the Russian River area. So heads up, Bart! Sending the cow to India is one way to "save" it, but if you want to save the whole breed, you've got to (as Slow Food USA Ark of Taste Committee Chair Poppy Tooker would say) eat it to save it! Just ask the kids at 4-H in Sonoma….
Posted on Tue, April 29, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
It's happening all over the country, faster than we can keep track: farmland is being eradicated in favor of housing developments, malls, and highways. A week or so ago the Skagit Valley Herald, in Northern Washington state, reported that the city of Mount Vernon is eyeing the 1,500 acres of farmland in the riverbend area in order to accommodate its population growth.One person who's not taking this news quiely is Slow Food Skagit Valley convivium leader Carol Havens, who wrote in to the editor and pointed out thatAs agricultural land and oil resources diminish, our future will be very different from our immediate past. The most important aspects of a community will not be the size of its houses or the dollar value of its industry. Most valuable will be the quality and proximity of food-producing farmland.Read the whole letter here.
Posted on Mon, April 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The UN has scheduled a 2-day meeting in Bern, Switzerland, to discuss solutions to the escalating global food crisis. It will surely also be a hot topic of conversation when the Commission on Sustainable Development begins meeting at the UN next week; the main topics up for discussion include rural development, land, biodiversity, and desertification (more on this meeting in the coming weeks, since one of our staffers will be attending).
And over at The Nation, an interesting take on it all, with this sentiment from Wisconsin dairy farmer Jim Goodman:
"So,they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified [GM] seeds, that instead of feeding the world we've created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they'd listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would've known this was going to happen."
And, over at Grist, some interesting quotes and ensuing comments on the origins of the crisis–origins about which, at this point, we can only educatedly speculate.
Posted on Mon, April 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The New York Times has been running an excellent series of articles called "The Food Chain: A Moveable Feast," the latest of which ran this past Saturday. In the paper edition it was called "Would You Like Some Carbon with your Kiwi?" (um, no thank you), and it discusses the EU's plan to tax fuel for international freight. And so, the EU continues to be ahead of the curve (er, ahead of the US) in its commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.
Reading about the transfer of foodstuffs back and forth across the globe, we were reminded of a passage from Carlo Petrini's Slow Food Nation, called "Peppers and Tulips." He describes going to a favorite restaurant in Asti, in 1996, and being saddened to discover that his usual dish–peperonata made with the local peppers of Asti–no longer had its wonderful flavor. When he asked the chef about this difference, the chef reported that nobody in Asti was growing these peppers anymore because it was cheaper to import them from Holland.
Driving home, despondent, Carlo passed some greenhouses, the very greenhouses that likely used to grow peppers. Going inside to talk to the farmer, he asked what was now growing there. The answer?
"'Tulip bulbs! And after we've grown the bulbs, we send them to Holland where they bring them into bloom!'"
Posted on Wed, April 23, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
A few weeks ago, we began to explore the concept of a mobile slaughter unit as the solution to small scale farmers having no place within driving distance to process their sustainable, grass-fed meat.
The Lopez Community Land Trust, on Lopez Island (in the San Juan islands), started a project called the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative in 2000 and got the first ever mobile slaughter facility up and running back in 2003. In parts 1 and 2 we discussed what a mobile slaughter unit is, what it can accomplish, and the assessment phase for the creation of this unit.
The final piece to the puzzle, of course: who uses the facility? And does it make a positive difference for them? Farmer Nick Jones described to us how the unit made it possible for him and his wife to get into livestock farming, and how it has enabled them to take their business in a satisfying direction. As young farmers, the initial costs to starting up an operation can be intimidating; the combination of beginning on rented land with borrowed animals, as well as being able to sell their meat directly and locally, thanks to the unit, meant that farming was actually a viable choice for them.
The cost for slaughter, per head, is extremely expensive by American standards. This is because some portion goes towards equity and membership fees in the cooperative. Nick explained that people in the county are really proud of the unit, and everyone is affected by it. As a result of its success, restaurants and individual consumers are able to eat local meat, something they couldn't do before 2003. When the farmers sell their product, they make sure to emphasize that they use the unit and what it means in terms of treatment of the animals, how the collective treat their staff, etc. In fact, he says, it has to be part of the sales pitch because the meat is so expensive, comparatively.
And the taste? Well, Nick's biggest and best customer is the local bar and grill, and people call it the best burger on the island.
Posted on Tue, April 22, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Why should you plant a garden?
1. You'll have lunch and dinner in minutes. In the past week alone the NY Times has run two articles about the virtues of planting your own garden. First up was the article about Kitchen Gardeners International (whom we wrote about earlier this year), and a short history of the "victory garden." How good is this homegrown stuff ? "Like buried gold," says Barbara Damrosch, whose new gardening book just hit the shelves.
2. You can reduce your carbon footprint. Or, at the very least, do "one thing that is real and particular (as well as symbolic) and that, come what may, will offer its own rewards." This quote comes from the second article in the NY Times, from their "Low Carbon Catalog," in which Michael Pollan proposes a backyard garden as that "one thing."
3. All the cool kids are doing it. Slow Food Nation–Slow Food's large-scale food event being held this Labor Day in San Francisco–is planning a Victory Garden at the Civic Center. They'll be working with community gardening associations to plant a plethora of edible greenery, including seeds from the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. In mid-July, they'll have a public planting day when people who want to can come help get the shoots in the ground. More details to follow on their website.
Posted on Mon, April 21, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
For those of you who may have just received your copy of the latest Snail magazine, you may have read, with interest, about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers ("Would You Like Some Justice with That?," The Snail, Spring 2008). They were recently the focus of a Senate hearing on working conditions for tomato workers. Eric Schlosser continues to be an outspoken voice in the fight for a fair wage for these tomato workers, trying to highlight that this is a human rights issue (as well as a food/ag/business issue).
Posted on Fri, April 18, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Some of you who are quite familiar with Slow Food and its programs, both national and international, have heard of Terra Madre ("mother earth" in Italian), and perhaps you've wondered how to participate.
Terra Madre is a large sustainable food producers conference held in Turin, Italy every two years. The next edition will be held from October 23-27, 2008. It is an opportunity for small-scale food producers from around the world to gather together to discuss the issues they all face, despite the vast differences in their cultures, economies, and topographies. Joining the farmers, cheesemakers, meat producers, etc. are cooks, academics, and some students and educators. Terra Madre, then, is not just the event, but also the network created by this event, a global network—with information-sharing tools, the means to learn from each other, and opportunities for collaboration.
If you are a food producer cook, student or educator, and you are interested in attending this conference, you can find links to online applications here. They are due April 30th, which is just around the corner.
If you are not one of those things, but you love the idea of going to Turin and exploring the ideas behind Slow Food and tasting lots of slow food, you can attend the Salone del Gusto, a public event held concurrently with Terra Madre that contains a huge market of artisanal products from around Italy, and from around the world. Tickets are not yet available, but keep checking back at the site for more information as it becomes available.
Posted on Thu, April 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
A few recent stories got us thinking about this question of bedfellows. Can fast food be slow if it's sourced locally and made with quality ingredients? Can a small producer sell itself to a corporate food giant and maintain its integrity?
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the latest small food company to hop into bed with big business, and wonders if they are deluded in thinking that further distribution and a larger market share will be a good thing (and not a harbinger of doom). Honest Tea has given Coca Cola 40% of its shares, joining the ranks of Stonyfield Yogurt, Ben and Jerry's , etc.–small alternative companies, known for quality ingredients, who sold themselves to big business. We've shown graphics like this one before, but here's another one to throw into the mix: last month's NY Times offered this look at how small organic businesses get "gobbled up by big food."
And what about this question of fast food being slow? Possible? Last month came reports that the Chipotle burrito chain (which already uses Niman Ranch pork products) was going to source local Polyface farm products for its Virginia-area stores. Ode magazine's April issue has the following cover: "Eat a burger, SAVE THE WORLD. Why the "new" fast food is good for you (and the planet)." It covers chains such as Chipotle, Burgerville and Seller's Markets, and explores the notion of fast food that can be good for you. Is it still "fast?" Does it count as "slow " now…?