Posted on Tue, December 15, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Events, Farms and Farming,
by intern Alaine Janosy
As we near the close of 2009, Slow Food Midcoast Maine is just completing its first full year of existence, and oh what a year it has been! The chapter founders decided that the chapters inaugural year would be spent both growing the chapter and growing out endangered varieties listed in the Place-Based Foods at Risk in New England booklet, created by the Renewing Americas Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance in order to raise community awareness about the loss of diversity in our food supply.
Midcoast Maines American Harvest Picnic was the chapters first organized event, other than chapter meetings and signature gathering at local farmers markets. Organizers brainstormed a list of local farmers that might be growing RAFT-listed or heirloom varieties and contacted them during the summer to see if they would be interested in donating any produce to the October 4th American Harvest Picnic. This resulted in ten farms committing to supplying 16 items, including four RAFT-listed varieties. The 2009 growing season in New England was wet and cold and some of the donations were lost due to crop failures, but in the end over 300 lbs of local produced ingredients were donated!
The picnic was held on Sunday October 4, 2009 at The Morris Farm in Wiscasset, Maine. In addition to enlisting local farmers and producers to supply the endangered foods, chapter members also recruited nine area culinary talents to prepare wonderful dishes using the foods provided. The event was attended by over 70 people including many children. Surplus food items were donated to the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program. This event was not only a great success, but also a great learning experience for chapter organizers. They will be applying all the lessons learned this coming year.
For 2010, organizers are getting started early and have already identified seed sources for 26 endangered varieties to consider for this years grow-out. This list will be discussed with the farmers that participated in the 2009 grow-out as well as with additional area producers during an American Harvest Picnic Thank You Dinner last Sunday. According to steering committee member, Kim Wisneski, the chapter is very focused on practical aspects of the 2010 grow-out, including securing funding to help interested farmers offset seed purchasing costs. Participating farmers can choose to grow a small amount of a selected variety just for use by Midcoast Maine or grow a larger amount of a particular crop to also market and sell. Sales of these varieties could help to further compensate farmers for their willingness to take a chance on an endangered crop.
The chapter is interested in involving local chefs in the project earlier in the season who would be willing to commit to buying from the farmers and featuring the endangered foods on their menus, as this will both increase community awareness and provide a more secure market for farmers experimenting with new varieties.
Going forward, Kim would like seed saving to be a central part of the projectencouraging both farmers and gardeners in their community to save the best of the varieties grown in order to increase seed availability of the varieties best suited to their area and reduce costs. Kim has even considered Slow Food Midcoast Maine building a chapter seed bank to encourage self-sufficiency, and setting up a regional seed swap with other New England chapters. Hes also curious to find ways for farmers to share information with each other about their experiences growing the various varieties.
The chapter is curious to know what other Slow Food chapters have learned from their past endangered food grow-out projects and other chapters plans for the coming year. Please share!