What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, May 22, 2012 by Slow Food USA
The Slow Food USA community recently spent some quality time in Louisville, KY, a food-savvy city with many organizations, businesses, and advocates to highlight. Today we high light one such organization—Louisville Farm to Table.
Written by Sarah Fritschner, Coordinator of Louisville Farm to Table
When Slow Food USA chose Louisville as its 2012 National Congress location, ears perked and anxiety rose. We in Louisville consider ourselves a food-savvy city, with a high proportion of independently-owned restaurants, a culinary school, a variety food-oriented non-profits including Slow Food, and our own municipal Food Policy Advisor. We wanted everyone from Slow Food across the country to know our commitment to local, good and accessible food.
Time constraints make it impossible to know everything, of course, but I wanted to expand a bit on Slow Food member, Kim Bayer’s recent comments on AnnArbor.com about Louisville’s approach to food strategy.
Bayer mentioned the report that summarized Louisville’s $3 billion food market. One program that has come from that report is Louisville Farm to Table, which works to bring Kentucky food into the lucrative city marketplace while it works to raise the capacity of Kentucky farmers.
Posted on Wed, May 09, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Peggy Markel reflects on her years of connecting food, culture, people and travel with the principles of Slow Food.
I first encountered Slow Food in the small Village of Scansano, in southern Tuscany, on a crisp spring day in 1993 with the countryside painted pink in olive tree blossoms. My friend Janet Hansen, an American who had lived in Italy for 30 years, had just finished surveying her olive trees and harvesting a few artichokes for lunch when I pulled up. I knew my way around Tuscany well at this point, perfecting my Italian enough to ask questions and understand the answers. I’d witnessed my own culinary travel program in the hills outside of Florence flourish that year. I’d met farmers who made fresh pecorino (100% sheeps milk cheese) with an old stirring stick, forming it into straw basket molds. I’d seen firsthand the curious relationship between farmer and animal, and the affection with which a small enough farm treats the flock. Tillo could just call his sheep back to the barn in the evenings, no dog necessary. To fatten the pigs with something hearty, Signor Valentini fed them chestnuts.
Italy remains a place of preserved traditions, especially with Carlo Petrini and his friends bringing attention to the importance of protecting these old ways. In the last twenty years, I have noticed the terrible beauty of transition from the traditional to the contemporary. Cars now fill ancient piazzas with exhaust and noise. Urban sprawl has forced farmland to become scarce. We make room for commerce, shipping food from large agro farms and forfeiting the possibility of growing our own. We work too hard, eat on the run and complain to our doctors that we don’t feel well. Families break down. There is also this painful truth.
Posted on Thu, May 03, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Real Time Farms Food Warrior, Lauren, explores biodynamic farming in her community.
Written by Lauren Telfer, Real Time Farms Food Warrior
On my weekly trips to the grocery store I transform into an avid food inspector for a short period of time: I look for different certifications, growing practices, and any other pertinent information about my food. I am on a constant quest for food that is not only nourishing for my body but also for the earth. Until recently, I thought that organic farming practices was the be-all and end-all answer to this quest; on a recent enlightening (and very rainy) trip to the Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market in downtown Berkeley, I was informed that this is not the case. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about biodynamic farming – a practice that actually surpasses organic farming in sustainability and environmental awareness.
I was first introduced to biodynamic farming at this farmers market through a vendor from Flying Disc Ranch, a date and citrus farm located in Thermal, California. I inquired about their practices and was surprised when the usual response of “certified organic” didn’t come, instead his reply was, “We are a biodynamic farm.” Biodynamic? This sounded intriguing and innovative, I was immediately captivated and rightfully so.
Posted on Fri, April 27, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Looking for a more tangible connection to her food, Lizzy spent a summer Wwoofing in Sonoma County, CA and found a food system based on quality and community.
Written by Slow Food USA Intern Lizzy Ott
In this age of take out containers and fast food chains, the gap between food and consumer has become wider than ever. With hopes of establishing a more tangible connection to my food, I decided that I wanted to volunteer on an organic farm. But how? And where? I typed “volunteer on an organic farm” into Google and found my answer—World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (Wwoof for short). Wwoof serves as a platform for connecting organic farmers with volunteers just like me. For $30 members are given access to farms throughout the entire world, ranging from the far reaches of Asia to your next-door neighbor. With over 1,300 farms in the US alone, the possibilities seemed endless and I found the long farm lists insanely daunting. How to narrow down the choices?
Posted on Fri, April 06, 2012 by Slow Food USA
The Thousand Gardens in Africa project has already engaged 608 communities in developing sustainable food plots. Through funding from Slow Food’s international network, 561 gardens have been adopted so far.
Written by Slow Food International
In Africa, the local coordinators of the Thousand Gardens project have already engaged 608 communities in developing sustainable food plots. In the rest of the world, Slow Food’s international network has sprung into action to collect the funds and 561 gardens have been adopted so far.
In the lush green highlands of northern Malawi, the Slow Food network has been busy creating 10 sustainable food gardens with schools and communities, assisted by experienced horticulturalist Frederick Msiska. Around the town of Nchenachena, 500 kilometers north of the country’s capital, Msiska is known as “the plant doctor” for his vast knowledge of sustainable agriculture. Together with the Terra Madre learning community in Nchenachena, he’s organizing seminars to teach local farmers how to make bokash (a solid natural fertilizer made from soil, grass, eggshells and paper) and to build rainwater collection tanks for irrigation. Msiska moves tirelessly from one garden to the next, overseeing schoolchildren, teachers and farmers as they cultivate traditional varieties, like those known as ziku, malezi and kamughangi in the local chitumbuka language.
In South Africa, more and more emerging farmers are returning to land that was taken away from black people during apartheid. In a context in which big farms are benefiting from cheap labor, incentives for young people are lacking and access to land is still a burning issue, even a small garden plot can be of great importance. In the wide valleys of the Western and Northern Cape, the Surplus People Project, the organization coordinating the Thousand Gardens in Africa project on a national level, is working with emerging farmers to plant agroecological food gardens that can satisfy the food needs of their families and serve as educational showcases. Farmers in Porterville, a small town north of Cape Town, for example, are cultivating a site to inspire households and schools in the community to plant their own food gardens. “How can we fight poverty? How can we help people be independent of social welfare?” asks Anthony Cloete, the coordinator of the Porterville community garden. “Teach people how to produce seeds and to plant them each new season.”
Posted on Thu, March 29, 2012 by Slow Food USA
By any measure, the local food movement is booming with everyone from Wall Street execs to start up non-profits getting involved. But how can you tell if your food is truly local?
Written by Jeffrey Gangemi, Director of Partnerships and Communications at FarmPlate.com
The numbers clearly show that demand for local food is growing. According to the USDA, the market for local food “sales to intermediaries, such as local grocers and restaurants, as well as directly to consumers through farmers markets, roadside stands and the like” could reach $7 billion this year, up from about $5 billion in 2008.
There are lots of ways to support the local food movement. Of course, starting a farm, investing in sustainable food businesses – even buying organic – all require relatively significant financial resources.
Increasingly – and particularly through the use of technology – people from all sorts of backgrounds are able to do their part to support the small farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs that are remaking how we eat in this country. Their message is clear: we can all do something to help fix what’s broken about our food system.
At the top of this local food “hierarchy,” there is an growing group of transplants from traditional corporate cultures – Wall Street, for example – who have reinvented themselves through food production.
Posted on Tue, February 14, 2012 by Slow Food USA
A few bottom-of-the-barrel shallots and an act of kindness gives birth to a new sense of community.
Written by Jenny Best, Slow Food USA Chief of Staff
A couple weeks ago, I overslept and didn’t make it to my Saturday farmers market until well into the afternoon. And, as any regular market shopper will tell you, there’s slim pickins so late in the day. Which I knew. But if you are like me, not going to the market at all is akin to skipping coffee when you normally have it – you’ll be in a grumpy mood, and likely have a headache all day.
Many of the farmers were already packing up their trucks when I arrived at the market, getting ready for their trek back upstate. In fact, only a few stands remained. Stray root vegetables lingered, rejected from earlier buyers.
Feeling a bit silly with my big (and empty) woven basket bag, I walked up to the Bradley farmstand to see if anything was left. As I suspected, not much in sight. A few rutabegas, an onion or two. I approached Mr. Bradley – who had once jeered me out of his stand for wearing a t-shirt sporting the logo of a trendy pickle maker (Mr. Bradley sells his own pickles and swears they’re better) – and I asked him if he had any shallots left.
Posted on Fri, February 10, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Yoko Sudo, the Fukushima convivium leader, despite an earthquake and tsunami devastating her country, led the charge for “a new vision of agriculture” at Terra Madre Japan.
written by Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity
When the young Fukushima convivium leader finished speaking at the plenary dinner of Terra Madre Japan, held in Unzen last December 2-4, the attendees were visibly moved. Yoko Sudo, who comes from a farming family, has been living a nightmare since the earthquakes and subsequent tsunami hit last March. But she didn’t come to the Terra Madre meeting to ask for help. Her message was very clear: “We will keep fighting for good, clean and fair food and a new vision of agriculture, even though this will mean huge sacrifices and enormous effort for all of us from the devastated area.”
Her speech set the perfect seal on the Terra Madre event, highlighting the vitality of the Slow Food movement in Japan and its most critical issues. Over three days, producers from the slow network across the country came together to participate in meetings and present their products in a public fair, with the Japanese Ark of Taste products presented in a special display of wooden panels designed by the renowned designer Kosei Shirotani.
All the producers participated not only to sell their goods, but to collectively send a message to the media, authorities and consumers that environmental disasters do not come from bad luck or chance, but are a direct consequence of a flawed way of managing soil, agriculture, resources, energy and water. The second important part of their message was to show that another path is possible.
Among those showing the diversity of good, clean and fair food production were the remarkable local group of women from the Unzen Takana Vegetable Presidium, led by the legendary Setsue Baba and the Nagasaki convivium leader, Masatoshi Iwasaki, one of Japan’s organic agriculture pioneers.
The general assembly of Slow Food convivium leaders was held simultaneously with Terra Madre Japan and installed a new leadership, headed by the young new president Tsuyoshi Goto. Attendees included Yoko Kurokawa, long-time member and supporter of biodiversity projects; Akihiko Sugawara, convivium leader for Kesennuma, a town destroyed by the tsunami; Yujin Yusa, the general secretary for the Fukushima convivium, home of the damaged nuclear power plant; Katrine Klinken, Dutch convivium leader of Copenhagen Convivium; and Luigi Romani, the director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Osaka.
We hope that the new leaders will be able to give Slow Food’s ideas and projects the opening and public resonance that they deserve, so that the Japan’s consumers can begin to fully understand the positive implications of good, clean and fair production.
Terra Madre Japan was made possible with the support of the Unzen municipality, the biggest sponsor of the event, represented by Hidetomo Shibata at the event.
Designer Kosei Shirotan – who runs a ceramic school in Unzen that is creating innovative utensils for food and designs new forms of communication - is assisting the development of Slow Food in the Nagasaki area by providing his design services for free.
This blog was originally posted on the Slow Food International website, www.slowfood.com.
Immediately after the earthquake on March 11, 2011, Slow Food began collecting donations through its websites and international network. Visit www.slowfood.com/donate to find out more or make a contribution.
Posted on Wed, February 08, 2012 by Slow Food USA
2012 is the UN International Year of Cooperatives. To get the word out, the National Cooperative Grocers Association has teamed up with celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie to tell the story of co-op’s across the country in this 13-part video series.
written by Robynn Shrader, CEO of National Cooperative Grocers Association
Every day the food co-op members of National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) celebrate the farmers, the people and the communities that they support, and that, in turn, embrace and sustain the cooperative business model. Food co-ops play a unique role in building local foods systems and vibrant economies.
This year, the United Nations provided a global platform for all co-op enterprises to share their stories by designating 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. This year is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for food co-ops to raise awareness and celebrate the social and economic contributions of cooperative businesses, as well as help more people across the country discover what food co-ops are all about.
To get the word out, we teamed up with celebrity chef and passionate local foods advocate Kevin Gillespie. Together, we traveled around the country and captured food co-op stories on film to create a 13-part video series airing throughout this year. In the videos, Kevin treks through farm fields and grocery aisles, sharing stories about good food – everything from raising heritage breeds and five-star eggs to urban gardens, aluminum mulch and community-driven food sourcing.
I am excited to share these videos and the international celebration of cooperatives with Slow Food USA. Together, our shared passion for good food and desire to create vibrant and sustainable communities can go a long way toward building a better food system. We hope you will join us in celebrating the International Year of Cooperatives here!
Posted on Fri, December 02, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Food policy was front in center in November, we recap where we were and where we’re going with the Food and Farm bill.
Now that November has come to an end, it’s hard to forget the ruckus Congress stirred up in the food and farming world—some of it good and some of it bad. Organizations and lawmakers from all ends of the spectrum made sure to voice opinions about how the government should be involved in food and farming. From introducing legislation to help local food economies, to attempting to cut food stamps as part of the Super Committee process, November saw a lot of folks weighing on the future of our food system. Many of you weighed in too, by endorsing our Recipe for Change.
November began with the release of Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown’s Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. Two days later, the National Sustainable Agriculture Committee (NSAC) hosted a farmer fly-in, bringing over 50 farmers, advocates, and scientists from across the country to Washington DC to show support for the bill.
Alex Loud, a fly-in participant and Slow Food Boston chapter leader, describes why the Act is an important step for rebuilding the economy:
Small farms are a growing and increasingly important part of the American economy and the American food system. The Federal government is not doing enough to support them—and indeed in some cases is even hindering their growth. The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act will, if enacted, start to change this.
The legislation addresses issues from across the board – including rural development, reforms to nutrition assistance programs that will allow food purchase at farmers markets, and boosts to programs that support farmers struggling to obtain a USDA certified organic status.
What more could we ask for than the introduction of a bill like the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act? How about 13,000 supporters of Slow Food USA’s Recipe for Change! Introduced at the end of October on Food Day, the Recipe for Change continued to accumulate signatures in the two weeks leading up to November 17th when names were hand delivered by us to each of the Super Committee member’s DC offices.
In the end, the Super Committee failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan by their November 23rd deadline. This does not mean, however, that your voices were not heard or that the message of the Recipe for Change will not be important for the next big obstacle to come – the 2012 Food and Farm Bill.
November may be over but the fight for better food and farming policy is just beginning. Follow the developing Food and Farm Bill campaigns of these organizations to stay in touch with what is going on and learn how you can get involved:
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.