What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, November 26, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Dear Friends of Maveric [Heritage Ranch]:
It is with the deepest and most profound grief that I write this message. At 5:30am November 19th, 2008, we awoke to our beautiful 100 year old gambrel barn engulfed in flames. Trapped within the barn was my beloved stallion, several rare Mulefoot hog sows with their litters of piglets, an extremely rare Wessex saddleback boar, a favorite guinea hog boar and all of my dearly loved cats. Although we made attempts to rescue our animals, we were unable to save any from the barn.
We were able to run pigs from their pens near the barn to the pastures and get them away from the heat & flames. Many animals in these pens were burned and have suffered smoke inhalation. Though it is several days after the fire, we are still losing animals we have been nursing and trying to save.
The fire burned with such intensity that it caught a large tree and our new barn on fire as well. The firemen were able to save our new barn, but our gambrel was a complete loss. The fire marshal reported that the fire was burning in excess of 2000 degrees due to the way the metal items in the barn melted and puddled. The fire was apparently caused by a failure in the main power breaker. When the power transformer began to melt, we lost power to the whole farm. This also left us without water, as our well is pumped by electricity.
All of our feed (approximately 1000 bales of alfalfa), our tools, watering troughs & feeders, buckets, piglet pens, fencing supplies, power cords, winter heaters, saddles & horse gear, construction materials for our new barn and so much more were completely destroyed.
We cannot replace our rare breed pigs. They simply do not exist. Our work for nearly ten years has been to preserve and save these breeds of pigs. We cannot begin to express our sense of loss over these animals, not just from our lives, but from all future generations.
This tragedy has made it even more clear to us that these rare breeds are in a very precarious situation. At any moment, a disaster, accident or disease could take yet another species from this planet.
Our friends have already begun to rally around us and offer support. We have received many calls and emails from the folks at Slow Food USA, Animal Welfare Institute, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Dakota Rural Action. Because of this outpouring of encouragement, we feel compelled to persevere and insure that future generations are able to raise and enjoy these breeds, and that biodiversity amongst pigs is preserved.
Posted on Wed, November 26, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
No matter what city you live in, and no matter what newspaper you read, you have probably seen a headline that says something like “Local Food Bank Donations Down,” or “Shelves Empty at the Food Bank.”
This Thanksgiving, consider the possibility of making your dinner a food drive; you can ask your guests to bring canned goods, in lieu of house gifts. According to a recent thread on Chowhound, certain items are almost always a good bet:
What they’ve got too much of? Kidney beans. And, of course, money donations are always welcome as well.
To find the nearest food bank to you, check out Second Harvest’s Food Bank locator.
Posted on Mon, November 24, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
When it comes to food policy, Bloombergian New York City has already made a high profile name for itselfas the banner of transfats, as the litigious fighter for restaurants to list calories on the menu. In short, it has been known of late as the food police, bringing an end to all fat-inducing joys.
Last Wednesday morning, in front of a crowd of several hundred urban farmers, hunger fighters, nutritionists, sustainable food advocates, policy wonks, urban planners, city governmental types, and concerned citizens Mayor Bloomberg admitted he has a weakness for vices of Cheez-its and Coffee; his presence at and support for NYC’s first “Food Politics” conference was notable not just for his personal food preference revelations, but also for the statement it made about where food fits into NYC’s plans going forward. If Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has his way, food access, nutrition, and urban/rural food and farm partnerships will be the hallmark of NYC’s food policy, with transfat bans and sodium reduction plans just one piece of a more nuanced puzzle.
After additional opening statements by the President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel DiScoto, the Center for Social Inclusion’s Maya Wiley, and The New School’s Thomas Forster, the conference broke into 7 tracks. There were four of us SFUSA staff members there, and we each hit different sessions, trying to glean as much as we could.
For the complete program, including all 7 breakout sessions, please click here.
For more coverage of this event, check out CivilEats.com.
Posted on Sat, November 22, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
As weve mentioned here on the blog before, one of the main obstacles for sustainable small to mid scale meat producers in this country right now is a lack of infrastructure to help them get their meat to customers. Gone are the smaller, more localized meat processing facilities of old, meaning producers are having to travel extremely far (using costly gas and stressing their animals). Some, like Will Harris of White Oak Pastures Cattle Ranch, near Atlanta, actually have facilities nearby that are too small for them (mid-sized facilities are extremely hard to come by).
Harris, and some otherssuch as Stan Schutte (and his son Ryan, a Terra Madre 2008 delegate) in Central Illinois, are taking matters into their own hands by building facilities right on their own properties. Harris facility opened this past spring and last month Slow Food members in Atlanta went out to spend time at his farm and see the new facility.
Slow Food Regional Governor Julie Schaffer reports:
On Sat,. Oct. 4th, people from Georgia, Florida and Alabama gathered at White Oak Pastures Cattle Ranch in Bluffton, GA for a meat summit sponsored by Florida A&M University, Georgia Organics and Slow Food Atlanta. Jennifer Taylor, from FAMU’s Small Farm Program, organized the event for small meat farmers all over the southeast, as part of their outreach program. There were several speakers including Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures, Suzanne Welander from Georgia Organics, and myself (from Slow Food Atlanta and Emory University). Attendees discussed problems common to all small meat farmers, and shared success stories. It was a great opportunity for networking, and learning from one another. Processing issues seemed to be a stumbling block for many of the producers, and Will shared his story about how a dream to have an on-site processing facility became a reality. We toured the processing facility and enjoyed a delicious lunch of chili, stew and cornbread provided by Avalon Catering in Atlanta. I think people left the meeting with some great new ideas about how to grow their businesses, and grateful for the opportunity to share stories and discuss issues.
Posted on Fri, November 21, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
A year ago, investor Woody Taschs book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money
might have seemed way out there; slow money? Isnt that like a slow racecar or a slow rocket? An oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp? Suddenly, with Wall Street in shambles (the victim of too much too fast), Taschs vision for a more patient and holistic investment philosophy that values relationships (between people and other people, between people and the natural world) doesnt seem so strange after all.
I sat down with Tasch and asked him to explain a bit more about his book.
Q: In the book you say Slow Food gives us a way to engage that is proactive, even celebratory. What does celebratory investing look like?
Tasch: Lets just say that when that answer is clear to the world then…it will be a beautiful thing! Its funny you should ask that because I just shared a day dream with a bunch of investors in Vermont, that at the end of a Slow Money investors conference we would all be dancing together in the aisles like attendees were at the end of Terra Madre.
Right now there is no such thing as celebratory investing; theres no such thing as investors sharing the joy of building something together and celebrating community like Amish people building a barn. May of us are, in fact, building a new, restorative economy, one bit at a time but we dont know how to celebrate the process. No, celebratory investing is still a ways off in the distance.
Q: You discuss the economic terms internal and external accounting, with external accounting being that which takes into account multiple stakeholders and qualitative distinctions. Do you think that now, after the collapse of our financial system that investors are finally ready/willing to look at external accounting?
Tasch: The whole question of externalities, it is both aspirational and pragmatic, meaning there are a whole bunch of people right now who have been working on statistically relevant, defensible metrics that can add social and environmental metrics to financial metrics. I consider this very important incremental change, but its only incremental because where were trying to get to is an economy where investors are close enough to that which they are investing in that they can make qualitative judgments about it. If you were living down the street, in enough proximity to that which you were investing in, or even just knew enough about that which you were investing in, if you knew the managers of the business personally and trusted their values completely, you wouldnt need to rely solely on quantitative metrics.
Where we need to head is away from bigger and bigger and more and more complicated enterprises, to an economy that celebratestheres that word againenterprises that are smaller, less centralized, more comprehensible. We need to return to a world where people make qualitative judgments and arent afraid to.
Posted on Thu, November 20, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Cecilia Estreich
During the holidays, tradition tends to shine even in the most fast-food saturated kitchens. Despite Coca-Colas insistence that the stretch from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve is all about computer-animated polar bears and sugary, carbonated beverages, the real centerpiece of most holiday meals is a family recipe. Think about it. Whether its a cookie recipe brought over from Italy with your Sicilian grandma or the stuffing your mother learned to make in college, the holidays are a time when we celebrate our loved ones and our cultures through food.
This year, Slow Food would like you to add another element to your feasts: foods listed on the US Ark of Taste, an online catalog of more than 200 rare and regional foods in the U.S. If the holidays are a time when we celebrate and give thanks, it seems fitting to prepare foods that support people in our communities and reflect our local traditions.
Looking through the Ark list on the Slow Food website, there are so many endangered products that are perfect for a holiday table: heirloom apples for pies, Louisiana oysters for stuffing, heritage turkey breeds and regional cheeses from the American Raw Milk Cheese Presidium. There are also thirteen new products that were boarded on the list in August.
Posted on Fri, November 14, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Jerusha Klemperer
Following 7 months of visiting farms, talking to farmers, reading about production, and staying chained to my desk in Brooklyn, I finally did some harvesting in the days following Terra Madre, Slow Foods International biennial sustainable food producers conference in Torino.
I traveled with a group of delegates from the Hudson River Valley out to the region of Lazio, to the outskirts of a small old town called Tuscania. There I stayed on the Caponetti farm, enjoying the Caponetti familys hospitality, congeniality, and delicious regional cooking, in exchange for my help in hand-harvesting the ripe olives from their grove of over 500 trees.
I woke up at 6 am each day I was there, and although I was groggy, I was excited to work. It turns out my body is desperate for hard laboralthough to call olive harvesting hard labor may be a bit of an exaggeration. The work is so pleasant, it doesnt feel like work until you wake up the next day and your shoulders are sore and your thighs are tight from gripping the ladder. By the end of the first day, I was so exhilarated, I didnt even notice the horseshit caked all over me.
Lay nylon nets, prop your ladder up in the cradle of the branches, tie on, ascend, grab a branch and your rake, and begin. The pinging sound of olives hitting the aluminum ladder on the way down, and then hitting the ground sounds like a gentle glockenspiel, like rain. Fold the nets in order to gather the bounty, remove the sticks, load the cassette, and on to the next tree. When the sun goes down, load up, drive to Bagnoregio, the neighboring town that houses the mill. Help load the cargo onto the pulley system that brings it to the second floor, take in the sounds (and smells, oh lord that cloud of verdant olive will knock you down) of local men shooting the shit while they wait their olives turn. Watch them grind, then press the olives into a bright green waterfall of oil. Bring it home and dream of eating it at lunch the next day, with fresh bread and sea salt and a midday glass of wine.
When visiting Greece last summer I was told the soft statistic that one olive tree produces enough olive oil for one person for one year. But, see, what if that olive oil is ridiculously, off-the-charts delicious and fresh? Mightnt I up my yearly consumption? Mightnt I, in one short week on an olive farm in Lazio, completely throw a wrench in such statistical reckoning?
Each time I look closely at the way artisanal food is produced, I am moved by the effort involved, moved by the choice of such producers not to follow the path of least resistance, but to forge the old path (often alone), the one grown over with brier and brush. This experience is no exception.
I leave Tuscania loving the Caponettis, loving my new friends from the Hudson Valley (sometimes you have to travel very very far to meet your neighbors), and loving olive oilin the way you love someone once you really know them, once youve met their family, seen their childhood home, seen them break down or show fear, or cry with joy. And I leave extremely grateful for the opportunity to have followed up our big city conference with a visit to the farm, joining food producers on their land, throwing my carpal-tunneled office hands behind a rake.
Posted on Thu, November 13, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Cecily Upton
If we’re ever going to meet the rising demand for good, clean and fair food, we’re going to need new farmers. Lots of em. And these new farmers are going to have to do things a little bit differently from the generation before them.
With a sea change happening in the agricultural sector, and with many young farmers making a commitment to the land with little or no farming experience, how will they learn the skills necessary to produce enough food for growing demand?
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture has one answer. They’re organizing a Young Farmers Conference, where young and new farmers can learn the skills they need. From seed to market, workshops will cover the basics of getting started within the context of our global food system.
Young Farmers Conference, December 4 and 5, 2008
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
Check out the full list of conference workshops
Photo by Michael Moran
Posted on Wed, November 12, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Sam Levin
Sam Levin is one of three co-founders, along with Sarah Steadman and Natalie Akers, of Project Sprout, an organic, student-run garden on the grounds of Monument High School in Great Barrington, Mass. Now in its second year, Project Sprout supplies the school’s cafeteria with fresh fruits and vegetables, helps feed the hungry in the community and serves as a living laboratory for students of the Monument school system.
Sam, a Sophomore at Monument, gave a speech at the opening ceremony of Terra Madre ‘08 in Italy, and inspired thousands of delegates from around the world who traveled to Turin for the event. The Slow Food USA blog is thrilled to share his remarks with our readers.
Exactly one year ago Monday, I walked through the doors of my public high school in Massachusetts planning on presenting the idea of Project Sprout to my Guidance counselor. And thats all it was, an idea. I had not one detail worked out, only that I wanted the students of my school and the people of my community to begin paying more attention to their food, and in turn the natural world around them. I was already an avid naturalist, and when I wasnt in the woods or swamps, I was spending time on the farm down the road from my house, playing soccer with the pigs or riding the cows. So, after talking to my guidance counselor, Mr. Powell, I connected with two other students, Sarah a junior who loved gardening and children and Natalie a sophomore who was desperate for delicious vegetables in the cafeteria, and together we began refining the idea and figuring out the details of the project. Within weeks we had a plan.
The plan was simple. Create a student-run organic vegetable garden on school grounds, that would be used as an educational tool for students ages 2-18, provide delicious produce for the school lunches, and ultimately build connections with nature and food for the children of our district. And with that plan, along with some energy, excitement, and motivation, we began working towards our goal.
We met with local farmers and gardeners, landscapers and designers, teachers and groundskeepers. We worked with non-profit leaders and most importantly, we worked together. I couldnt walk by Mr. Powells office without stopping in to talk to him. Sarah and Natalie and I met in between classes and during lunch, after school and before school. Although we hadnt even known each other before October, as time went on, our relationship became unbreakable. As we know, food brings people together. But as I have learned, working to save food creates unbelievably powerful bonds between people.
Posted on Mon, November 10, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Ariane Lotti
At the closing ceremony of Terra Madre, a spontaneous protest broke out. As a pre-recorded message by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, played on-screen, delegates in the audience stood and turned their backs on him.
For four days, thousands of producers, cooks, students, activists and academics from 153 countries shared stories, exchanged information and compared notes on topics ranging from starting a school garden and producing quality honey to using agro-ecological principles to address climate change and finding ways to make food more affordable while paying farmers a fair price.
During those four days, it was impossible to meet someone not doing something really cool and unique. In line for lunch, I met a Kenyan woman who started an organization that educates street girls about organic farming and environmental conservation and connecting them with farmers in need of these services. At lunch another day, I sat across from a man who works with indigenous communities in North America and uses permaculture techniques to establish food security in those communities. On the bus, I sat next to two young farmers from Oregon who have run a Community-Supported Agriculture farm for three years and are beginning to experiment with ways to be completely energy self sufficient.
Apart from the informal and spontaneous conversations with people, there were workshops and regional meetings where delegates spoke about how they had started an urban community garden, gotten sustainably-grown food in schools and cafeterias, and achieved a wage raise for farmworkers against political, economic, and cultural odds. All these stories shared a narrative: there were problems in my community; I believed things could be different and better; and I worked to translate that belief into a reality.