Some weeks are all nose to the grindstone and then there are periods when we raise our heads up and let the outside world in. This next week is one of those times. Yesterday day we are hosted 21 agricultural extension agents from Florida. Florida is a huge agricultural state but in the “old school”, large scale, let’s ship it around the world way. This group is up here for four days to see, feel and touch our thriving local food system. While all parts of the country are improving as to the numbers of small farms, farmers markets and the infrastructure that supports them, ours here in central North Carolina is really bustling. Not that we don’t have holes in the system that need to be addressed like the poultry processing problem, easier supply of some inputs, and other things; we do have large numbers of viable farms, great markets and strong groups working on making it all happen. This is the second group this spring to come to the area to see how we do it, you might remember the three van loads of agents and farmers from Louisiana that came for the Farm Tour. So if you see a large group moving through market on Saturday you all will know who it is and be proud of all the work we all have done and are doing for local food here in North Carolina.
The second round of events starts next Tuesday when Carlo Petrini the founder of the Slow Food movement arrives in the area for two days of farm tours, dinners and speeches. You all know of our involvement in Slow Food, having twice gone to Italy for the Terra Madre conference and subsequently working with the local chapter on various projects. Touring the country to promote his new book Slow Food Nation , Carlo is coming to launch the lecture series for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS). CEFS is the largest research farm in the country doing work on sustainable and organic farming systems and it is here in North Carolina! Betsy and I sit on the Friends of CEFS Board of Advisors and during a meeting last winter we suggested having Carlo Petrini come and speak, never thinking it would happen this quickly. Carlo Petrini is one of the most influential people in Italy and in the world of artisanal food production and local food systems their is no larger figure. Information about his visit can be viewed here . There are three public events that we are involved in. The first is a huge (sold out) picnic being held at Chapel Hill Creamery on Tuesday night where farmers and chefs have been paired to showcase local foods that are in season. We are working with our friend Sara Foster of Foster’s Market in Durham. Betsy is donating all the flowers for this event as well and for the second event on Wednesday evening in Raleigh. A reception for members of Friends of CEFS with Carlo Petrini will be held just before his lecture at 7:00 p.m. which is free and open to the public, this will culminate his visit to the area. Tuesday and Wednesday before these events Carlo and others from the national Slow Food office will be touring farms in the central NC, possibly including ours, just be assured that Betsy has been out on the mower!
Picture of the Week
Tender Baby Swiss Chard
Whew! Petrini week is over. Three days that felt like a week, but it all went beautifully. Monday was like a normal Friday for us as we harvested almost as many vegetables for the CEFS-Slow Food picnic as we would in getting ready for the Saturday market. The staff worked a full day (Mondays are generally half days) to make sure we could get everything done because we had lunch guests coming the next day. You may remember in last weeks newsletter that Carlo Petrini and his Slow Food compadres were going to tour some farms around the area, well we found out on Friday that not only was he going to come see us but also have lunch here on the farm! Lunch here? I wondered how the founder of a movement that “celebrates the pleasures of the table” would feel about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We had a plan, call some one else to help! It’s not that Betsy and I aren’t good cooks with plenty of great material to work with we just had a few more things going on like helping with all of the events including donating all the flowers for them, oh and we had a farm to run. We have several good friends who are excellent cooks that we could call on but our first call was to Anne Everitt who you may remember used to be the manager of the Farmer’s Market as well as pastry chef at Elaine’s and Lantern restaurants. Anne immediately swung into action designing a simple but refined menu using mostly Peregrine Farm ingredients along with other local and NC foods. With the help of Amy Eller, formerly communications director for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc., they took over our kitchen and chopped, sliced and washed there way to an extremely tasty meal. The next day, when asked by a reporter what was the best meal he had eaten on his three week tour of the US, he said he thought it might have been the lunch here at Peregrine Farm!
By 1:00, when they arrived, the table was set up under our former pick your own stand in the shade of the huge tulip poplar trees with views of the farm. We took a short walk around the farm and then retreated to the lunch, Italian style. We had good discussions with all the Slow Food folks about this area and how lucky we are to have great markets, customers, non-profits and lots of small farmers. More importantly we were able (Betsy in her hard earned Italian) to speak privately with Carlo about our Italian farm family and their struggle to keep there farm from being sold out from under them. Their situation is a long and complicated story but since last fall we have been trying to enlist Mr. Petrini’s help. He is a very influential figure in Italy especially the Piedmont region where our friends farm. If we could get him to say a few words to the right folks in the regional government it could save their farm of five generations. He said he had received our letter and had called the regional President but that it was messy situation. He then promised to contact our friends when he returned to Italy to get the whole story. At that point he pulled out his cell phone and dialed their number (which Betsy just happened to have in her pocket)…they did not answer. We feel sure that he will contact them and help when he gets back to Italy!
The rest has been a whirlwind. As soon as they left the farm we had to rush over to the picnic to get set up including all of the flowers that Betsy, with the great help of Jennifer Delaney, had arranged. A very enjoyable event with great food and everyone really seemed to enjoy it. It was hard to believe that there were almost 400 people in that field. Mr. Petrini and friends seemed to have a really good time and were (I think) further amazed at our local food community. Yesterday the drum beat continued. Get ready for the Wednesday Farmers’ Market, which the staff was to be dispatched to while Betsy and I headed to Raleigh for the final two Petrini events. We had to arrive to the reception early to set up the flowers there too. The Friends of CEFS reception was well attended which then flowed next door to the final event, Carlo’s presentation about the meaning and value of preserving food traditions, defending biodiversity, and protecting food that is good, clean and fair. Nearly 1000 people were in attendance, and even though he spoke with an interpreter, they all seemed to take away some important messages. With it all over we limped home. We didn’t mange to get any pictures but friends where taking lots so hopefully next week we can have a Carlo Petrini picture of the week.
Picture of the Week
An armload of radishes