What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, May 29, 2012 by Slow Food USA
How Slow Food grew from a sparsely attended student group to the center of all things food-related on the University of Rhode Island campus.
Written by Deirdra Stockmann, formerly of Slow Food Huron Valley (MI)
What does it take to grow a small Slow Food on Campus chapter into the go-to organization for all things local food-related at the university? In the case of Slow Food University of Rhode Island, it takes dedicated, energetic student leaders who make the most of partnership opportunities, and who know the way to college students’ hearts: really good street food.
Alyssa Neill is passionate about food. As a teenager, she kept a garden and chickens in her backyard and worked at a health food store in her hometown. A rising college junior and nutrition and dietetics major, Neill hopes to put food at the center of her career. “I believe that food is medicine,” she said in a recent interview squeezed in between final exams and term papers. Through her work, she wants to help others celebrate the pleasure and healing powers of good food.
When Neill enrolled at the University of Rhode Island (URI) in 2010, she was thrilled to learn that the campus had a Slow Food chapter. She was familiar with Slow Food’s mission and eager to join the movement. But upon arriving at a Slow Food URI meeting, she was disappointed to find it a small organization with low visibility on campus. The few events they planned each semester were sparsely attended.
Neill continued to attend the meetings. Soon, she was planning them. Today, she is the president of the chapter. Over the last two years, Neill and a growing group of Slow Food URI leaders have worked to raise awareness and enthusiasm for local and sustainable food across campus. “This year has been really exciting as people start to recognize who Slow Food is, we’ve gotten a good response from the whole campus community. People email and ask about how they can get involved.” This spring, the faculty coordinators of a high profile honors colloquium on campus approached Slow Food URI about partnering on a weekly series of events in the coming fall.
How did this transformation come about in a couple of years? The student group started a garden on campus where they host occasional grilled pizza parties and they organize a food and sustainability film series. These events attract a few dozen participants each. But one event in the fall of 2011 catapulted Slow Food URI to a new level of campus visibility.
The big break came with the opportunity, and the responsibility, to organize a one-day local food fair as part of a “sustainability module” based on the book No Impact Man. The book, written by Colin Beavan, was selected as the “common reading” assignment for first year students. In conjunction with the book, an interdisciplinary committee of students, faculty and staff planned seven weeks of films, lectures, tours and fairs for students to further explore many dimensions of environmentally sustainable living. (The schedule of URI sustainability events is here.)
Slow Food URI organized the local food fair during Local Food and Agriculture Awareness week. Neill sent out dozens of emails and visited area farmers markets to recruit vendors to the local food fair. It took a lot of time and a lot of patience. Only a handful of vendors were willing to take the risk and time to do a one-day, first time event. Tallulah’s “farm to taco” mobile cart and Bravo Wood Fired Pizza anchored the food fair. Both vendors feature vegetables, meat and dairy from Rhode Island farmers and artisans. Their enthusiasm, willingness to work with students, and delicious food made the event a hit.
Word traveled fast around campus about the delicious tacos and baked-on-site pizza available on the Quad. In a few hours, the vendors sold out. “We saw food do exactly what it is supposed to do, create community and awareness,” Neill said, noting that the enthusiastic response of the students was her favorite part of the event. Bringing local food to campus in well-prepared, ready-to-eat form was just the way to lure students, many of whom don’t have cooking facilities or refrigerators in their dorm rooms.
The fair was such a success, that the Slow Food URI leaders were encouraged to establish a more regular local food market on campus. This past spring, they organized several events featuring the popular taco, pizza and coffee vendors, as well as a few farmers selling fresh microgreens and mushrooms. The produce offerings attracted more staff and faculty to the market. One professor requested that the event become weekly so he could do most of his produce shopping there. Through the market, Neill said, “we’re introducing students to the local food movement, whereas with the staff, we’re encouraging a behavior that they already do or would like to do.” The market has begun to attract the off-campus community as well. One day, a local elementary school made a field trip out of it; 100 kids enjoyed their picnic lunches on the URI Quad while college students lined up for tacos and pizza.
Many more farmers will sell a wider variety of fresh produce at Slow Food URI markets this fall. The group will coordinate the markets with the honors colloquium, a weekly public lecture series. This year’s colloquium theme is Health Care Change? Health, Politics and Money. “We wanted the Farmer’s Markets to be held on the same day as the Colloquium to extend the themes into the entire day. We are hoping that some of the vendors from the Market will supply us with healthy refreshments for the evening instead of the usual cookies,” nursing professor Mary Cloud said.
The partnership with the colloquium will help address one of the main challenges Slow Food URI faced this year: publicity. Organizing farmers markets is a lot of work, especially on top of full-time student responsibilities, and the small organization found it difficult to get the word out about the markets on campus let alone in the surrounding residential community. In exchange for the Slow Food chapter organizing markets on lecture nights, the honors colloquium will include the markets in their broad public promotion.
Working with the Slow Food URI farmers market has helped Alyssa Neill think about life after college:
“I have always been interested in nutrition, but I guess my idea of what nutrition is has definitely morphed as far as the time I have put into the markets and watching people eat and watching people react to different kinds of foods. … Watching people come together around local food has inspired me to want to study a holistic diet and food cultures.”
As a Slow Food USA chapter, Slow Food University of Rhode Island provides opportunities for neighbors and citizens to build community through enjoyment of and dialogue about our food system and culture. As a Slow Food on Campus chapter, the URI group goes beyond, it creates transformative opportunities for young leaders to shape their future, and ours.
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 Fri, May 11, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Thanks, in part to the efforts of Slow Food Western Slope, 22 parcels of land that was up for oil and gas sale in the North Fork Valley region has now been deferred.
Back in March, we told you about the efforts of the Slow Food Western Slope & Rocky Mountain region chapters to defend the North Fork Valley, an agricultural gem that embodies Slow Food’s principles of envisioning a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the planet, and good for those who produce it. The Valley, they said, was “under attack” due to an announcement that 22 parcels of land (over 30,000 acres) would be up for oil and gas sales. They went on to explain how this would directly affect over 70 winemakers, farmers, orchardists, ranchers and agricultural businesses in North Fork Valley who depend on good and clean water, air and soil for their businesses.
We are happy to report that the agency overseeing the sale, the Bureau of Land Management, thanks, in part, to the of comments submitted by Slow Food members across the Rocky Mountain region, has decided to defer all sales in the region. This is a major win for Slow Food Western Slope and the region at large, but this story is certainly not over. To learn more, see the BLM Press release below:
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 Wed, March 21, 2012 by Slow Food USA
In an effort to defend Colorado’s North Fork Valley from a “land attack”, Slow Food Western Slope organized the Rocky Mountain region to save the Slope.
Written by Jim Brett, Slow Food Western Slope (CO) Chapter Leader
On December 7, 2011 (a day that will live in infamy again) western Colorado’s North Fork Valley received an early holiday gift from the Bureau of Land Management’s Uncompaghre Field Office, which announced that 22 parcels of over 30,000 acres will be up for oil and gas lease sale set for August 2012. Looking at the BLM map, we could see that the North Fork Valley is completely surrounded by these parcels.
This Valley is an agricultural gem that embodies Slow Food’s principles of envisioning a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the planet, and good for those who produce it.
There are over 70 winemakers, farmers, orchardists, ranchers and agricultural businesses in North Fork Valley - all of which depend on good and clean water, air and soil. If oil and gas interests start production on these leases, the very lifeblood of the agricultural producers will be seriously threatened and probably ruined since the parcels include the watersheds of the entire Valley. And just as damaging, air pollution will engulf the Valley. These circumstances are totally unacceptable to us.
Posted on Thu, March 08, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food Yolo co-leaders Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans new book details their efforts to cook in California school system with California foods.
Written by Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans co-leaders of Slow Food Yolo and coauthors of the 2011 book, “Cooking with California Foods in K-12 Foods”
The birth of a book has multiple backstories, as does this one. It began in a small, college town across the Sacramento River from California’s state capital. Davis, a middle class, well-educated, progressive community with a unified school district of 8,500 students, had not given thought to school lunch until a small group of disgruntled moms got together, horrified by “lunchables” served as a treat. Ann, former Mayor of Davis, was one of those moms.
Seven years later, there was a central kitchen, salad bars, gardens in every school and a waste reduction program at the elementary level. The school food service director, along with the community, which by then had formed into a school lunch booster club commonly called farm to school, wanted more.
On a chef’s walk through the Davis Farmers Market, school food service staff joined regional restaurant chefs in their chef whites strolling through the market, marveling at the fresh fruits and vegetables. A new vision was born. Rafaelita “RC” Curva, Food Service Director, said, “I wish someone could come and show us how to cook with all of this.”
Georgeanne, an award winning cookbook author and cooking school proprietor, said, “I can.”
Posted on Tue, March 06, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Four of the youngest leaders in the Slow Food movement walk us through how they founded a Slow Food chapter at their high school in Iowa City.
Written by Bennett Thompson, Benjamin West, Elizabeth Vandenberg, and Joseph Malanson
We are students from Iowa City West High School, and Slow Food USA’s youngest members. Surrounded by the corn and soybean fields of southeast Iowa, we’ve all grown up in the spirit of agriculture, but with varying visions of what a farm should be. Over the past two years, our activities as a part of Slow Food have formed our understanding of sustainability and good food.
The first time I heard about Slow Food was September 2010, when I listened to chef Kurt Friese speak at his restaurant, Devotay. I asked him what high-schoolers like me could do to help the cause. He said it’s simple: start a Slow Food chapter at our school.
So, that’s what we did. We got in touch with Slow Food USA & through the Slow Food on Campus program, our fledgling club become a proper chapter—the first and only High School Chapter in the country. Just like that, the West High Slow Food Chapter was up and running—described to the rest of the student body as one part environmental, one part culinary club. At our first meeting we decided we wanted to do something big, something that would not only tell students, but show them how proper food should grow and taste. Naturally, the solution was to start a garden. To tell that story, I’ll pass it on to Benjamin, another West High Slow Food leader.
- Bennett Thompson, ‘12, West High School Slow Food (WHSF) Leader
Posted on Thu, March 01, 2012 by Slow Food USA
In Sonoma County, California, Slow Food Russian River has helped local growers bring a famed apple back into production.
Written by Deirdra Stockmann, formerly of Slow Food Huron Valley (MI)
Sonoma County, California, is known the world around for wine. But for over 100 years the region was praised for its tree fruit, and its apples in particular. Arguably the most hallowed of the apples grown in the region is the Gravenstein. As one of the first apples to ripen in late summer, a fresh Gravenstein signals the coming of fall and marks the beginning of the autumn harvest.
Russian settlers brought the Gravenstein to California in the mid-19th century. Its genetic roots run even deeper into the soils of northern Europe where it was likely developed a century earlier. In and around Sebastapol, California, in the heart of Sonoma County, schools, streets, even a highway bear the name of the crisp, sweet apple. These landmarks are evidence of the Gravenstein’s prominent place in the (agri)cultural and culinary history of the region. (Learn more about the history here.)
At the turn of the 21st century, however, the Gravenstein was disappearing. Grapes, which also grow well in Coastal California, have become far more profitable than apples and other tree fruit. As David Masumoto’s memoir, Epitaph for a Peach, recounts, many farmers have been all but forced to plow under their generations-old orchards home to scores of varieties of apples, peaches, and plums to grow grapes, primarily for large-scale wine production.
Unwilling to accept the destruction of the orchards, Paula Shatkin and fellow volunteers at Slow Food Russian River stood up to defend the Gravenstein. In so doing, they defined what it means to be a co-producer in our food system. They harnessed the power of eaters to support Gravenstein growers and encourage diversity in the landscape and on our plates.
Saving the Gravenstein
Shatkin felt compelled to speak up on behalf of the Gravenstein and its growers because, in her words, “they are iconic here. Because they are such a visible part of our identity and our cultural history. Because our economy has in the past revolved around them. Because they are SO beautiful. And because we have to fight to preserve biodiversity.”
Shortly after Shatkin moved to Sebastapol, she attended a Slow Food Russian River meeting and proposed that they take action to save the Gravenstein. In empowering Slow Food chapter leader fashion, the leaders replied, “Why don’t you?” And she did.
Posted on Thu, February 02, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Originally from South America, the Makah Ozette Potato has been a staple of Pacific Coast Native Americans for over 200 years and his now being preserved through a partnership with Slow Food Seattle.
Written by Gerry Warren, Slow Food USA Regional Governor for Washington & Alaska and the coordinator of the Makah Ozette Potato Presidium
In the 1980s an unknown fingerling potato was recognized as a staple in the diet of Pacific Coast Native Americans of the Makah Nation. The Makah occupy the region around Neah Bay, Washington, the most northwesterly point in the lower 48 states. According to tribal lore, the potato had been used by these people for about 200 years. The Makah had named it Ozette after one of their five villages located around Neah Bay. All potatoes originated in South America and it was thought that all potatoes now in the Americas were first taken to Europe by Spaniards before they came to North America. However, in 2004, phylogenetic analysis conducted at Washington State University provided evidence that this potato (Solanum Tu- berosum Group Tuberosum) had certainly been imported directly from South America. How did this happen?
After their conquests in South America, the Spanish began a mission to further establish their empire on the western shores of North America. In the spring of 1791, they established a fort at Neah Bay and, as was the custom, planted a garden that surely included potatoes they had brought directly from South America via Mexico. During the winter of 1791, the Spanish found the weather conditions in the harbor too severe to maintain their ships and they abandoned the fort. The Makah people, who were in need of a carbohydrate source, likely found volunteers of this rather weedy plant left in the garden of the abandoned fort. They quickly adopted the potato and became its stewards, growing it in their backyard gardens. Not until the late 1980s, nearly 200 years later, was the potato grown outside the Makah Nation. The Makah named the potato Ozette and we have named it Makah Ozette to honor their 200 years of stewardship. The firm flesh and creamy texture of this thin-skinned fingerling potato and its unique nutty, earthy flavor are appreciated by home cooks as well as chefs.
The Presidium was established by Slow Food Seattle in partnership with the Makah Nation, Full Circle Farm, Pure Potato (a laboratory and farm which develops and produces potato seed), the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Prosser, WA, and the Seattle chapter of Chefs Collaborative.
Posted on Thu, December 15, 2011 by Slow Food USA
2011: a Slow Food USA year in review by Josh Viertel.
by Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA
2011 started with a very important question.
In January, we asked President Obama what he was doing to make it easier to feed our kids fruit than Froot Loops. He said Walmart would fix it. You didn’t buy it, and neither did we. So together, we went about fixing it ourselves.
When industrial agribusiness tried to make it a felony to take pictures of farms (so they couldn’t be held accountable for animal abuse) we said, “A good farm has nothing to hide.” And we buried legislators in four states, not just with petition signatures, but with pictures of the incredible sustainable farms that make us proud. The Slow Food “Farmarazzi” saved the day—and the bills died in all four states.
When Fast Food said that it had value for everybody and Slow Food was just for the elite, we proved them wrong. On one day, at more than 5,500 shared meals all over the country, 30,000 of you sat at the table together and took the $5 Challenge, cooking Slow Food for less than fast food. People shared their tips, tricks, recipes, and what made it a challenge. Together, we are taking back the value meal.
And when a handful of congressional leaders tried to sneak past a “secret farm bill” cooked up for the corn and soy lobby, we brought Congress a Recipe for Change, written and signed by over 13,000. No “secret farm bill” was going to slip through on our watch.
We couldn’t have done any of it without your support. And in 2012 we’ve got even more work to do.
2012 is going to be about building change from the bottom up: community by community; farmers market by farmers market; garden by garden. Slow Food’s chapters are building grassroots solutions to a broken food system.
Already, Slow Food chapters have built over 300 school gardens. They reach over 33,000 kids. And they make it happen as volunteers. One inspiring example is Slow Food Miami, where chapter volunteers planted an astounding 63 school gardens in 44 days.
If we can support 650 more leaders like these to make this kind of change in their own communities, we can build more gardens in schools than McDonald’s has franchises!
But, really, we can’t do any of this without the support of the Slow Food community. We’re all in this together.
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.