Italy and Terra Madre

As many of you know we have been fortunate to have now attended all four of the Slow Food Terra Madre international conferences.  This gathering of world food communities, from now 162 nations, is an amazing spectacle of people, food and ideas.  Our first Terra Madre, in 2004, we were housed with a farm family just outside of the city of Torino and have since become good friends, we have been back to visit six times.

The Piovanno’s raise Piemontese veal under very specific guidelines, from raising the feed all the way through selling it in their own macellaria (butcher shop).  The macellaria is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only and by Saturday evening they are ready for some rest.  Because we know this, we try to time our visits to arrive on Sunday afternoon after they have had a chance to relax.

Because the conference started on Thursday we arrived in Italy the Friday before so we could get over the jet lag and be prepared for the whirl wind of activity that accompanies a visit to the Piovannos and the extended Novara family.  The last several trips we have flown into Milan, rented a car, and explored some corner of northern Italy before we get to Torino.

This time we started in the far northwest corner, the Valle d’Aosta.  The Alps form its mountainous rim and the borders with France and Switzerland, including Monte Bianco (the highest mountain in western Europe at 15,771 feet), Monte Rosa and Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn).

A two to three hour drive from the Malpensa airport put us in the heart of the valley, the town of Aosta.  We decided to stay for two nights in Cogne, located in a higher valley, 16 miles further south.  An old mining town and now the northern gateway to the Gran Paradiso National Park.

The perfect place to recover from jet lag, see some great scenery and eat the first of many fabulous meals.

a killer charcuterie plate the perfect way to start

risotto with fontina cheese and bread

carbonade with roasted polenta

This was the view from our balcony as the cows came in from pasture in the evening.

The next day we had hoped would be clear and we could take the cable cars up onto the  side of Monte Bianco and it’s glaciers but it wasn’t so instead we toured the old Roman walled town of Aosta, the nearby ski station of Pila and the Fenis castle.

One of the old Roman arch entries to the town of Aosta

The Matterhorn is in the clouds

Fenis castle

Sunday we made our way to Torino for three days of visits with the family, followed by three more days of Terra Madre and family combined.  Monday we had planned to drive down to the Ligurian coast to San Remo, which is the cut flower capital of Italy, to pick up some special Poppy flower seeds which Betsy had been arranging from this side of the Atlantic.  It was unclear if we could contact the dealer so we bailed on that plan.

Instead we drove down through the Langhe hills and viewed the wine country, grapes in all directions.

We then made our way back to the farm via Carmagnola, which is famous for its peppers.  We stopped in at one roadside stand and they allowed us to walk out into their production houses.

It is the end of their season too and while the plants look tired, the peppers they were picking were beautiful.

Tuesday we got up early and went mushroom hunting with family and friends.  It is porcini season and we were up in the foothills in a solid beech forest.  Not a lot to be found but it was beautiful.

After the morning of walking the hills we toured the nearby Sacra di San Michele.  An amazing monastery perched on top of a rock outcropping that juts out into the valley that leads up to Bardonecchia and one of the Olympic ski areas.  This is one of my favorite sites we have seen in Italy, stunning.

The view up towards Bardonecchia

Wednesday was a slower day with a late afternoon visit to yet another of the castles, of the Savoy family, that surround Torino.  Our family is concerned that they are running out of castles to show us but I’m not worried.  Rivoli castle is high on the western side of the city with a grand view over it.  Now turned into a modern art museum it is still an imposing structure.

Essentially every evening we all gather at one location for a huge family meal.  “We” being up to fourteen, or more, various family members including uncles, cousins, mothers, brothers, friends, you name it.  In many ways these meals are the highlight of our trips both for the food and the conversation.  Betsy of course does much better than I do in conversation but this is really how we have come to love and better understand these people and their daily lives.  Usually it is at Kati and Michele’s farm but we have convened in other great family homes too.  This is one of the rare meals out, at their favorite local pizzeria.

Thursday and it is finally Terra Madre time.  The first day is mostly about checking in, getting your badges and the opening ceremonies.  It is also the first day of the Salone del Gusto.  The Salone is Slow Food’s huge specialty food show showcasing both the world wide Slow Food Presidia projects but also the specialty foods and regions of Italy.  Over 150,000 people attend over five days and it is crazy crowded.  This first day is the day to see as much as you can before the weekend hordes arrive.

We brought back this new small sauce tomato, a Presidia from Puglia, similar to the fabulous one we have been growing from Campania.  We will try and grow it next year and compare the two.

This is a gallery of shots from the Salone including the requisite prosciutto and cheese shots, a copper pot set up for a cheese making class, a new red celery, the world’s largest sides of bacon and an olive harvesting demonstration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We managed to get about half way through before we had to take the 30 minute walk back to the opening ceremonies held at the Olympic Ice Hockey stadium.  A huge crowd with many speakers and a marching in of all the nations flags.

Friday and Saturday is a whirlwind at Terra Madre with workshops, the US delegation meeting, more forays into the Salone and other sights.  One of the things that happen is the impromptu world market that sets up in the Terra Madre hall, the people watching is mind boggling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each afternoon we shuttled several groups out to see our friend’s farm and macellaria.  Their farm is just south of Turin in the town of Stupinigi, famous for the hunting castle of the Savoy’s which is literally what they see when they drive out their gate!

This is the inside of the courtyard of the farm complex and the Piemontese breed that they raise.

This is Kati with our friend Mimo, from Missouri, in the macellaria.

The closing ceremonies are held on Sunday evening but we had to miss them because we had to catch a plane to Barcelona for the second leg of this adventure.  It was a sad good bye to all on Saturday night after another great meal that included Sarah, Sabrina and Anna, the rest of our Carrboro Farmers’ Market delegation.

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8/18/04 Vol. 1 #22

Betsy says if that was a vacation then don’t ask her to go again!  Mostly due to the potential of the incoming storms we worked our tails off!  Normally on August break we do a little farm work and then take it easy but between crops that had to be harvested and battening down the hatches we only really felt like we had one slack day.  Oh well only six weeks to go until the Big break.  Until Hurricane Fran in 1996 we didn’t even think about big storms.  It’s the wind that really has us jumping, with all of these greenhouses that are like big sails we have to be conservative when it comes to the forecasts for wind.  Now every two years or so we have a fire drill taking plastic off greenhouses and tying down all of the equipment that normally is just strewn around the farm like five gallon buckets and other light items.  This time the wind didn’t come but as you all know, as of early Saturday morning they were calling for up to 60 miles per hour winds.  Our “Big Tops” are supposed to take up to 70 mph but who wants to try it? So we uncovered them knowing that  the rain would then do such damage to the crops under them (the tomatoes for sure) that we would have a loss there.  This is not a drive the car into the garage kind of job, it takes hours and it can’t be windy so we have to make these calls a day or more in advance.  So we spent the better parts of Thursday and Friday securing things and then parts of Saturday and Sunday untying things.  Now believe me we are glad the storms did not come but it sure didn’t make for a relaxing break!

Other exciting news is that we are headed to Turin, Italy in late October for a first ever international small farmer congress being put on by the Slow Food organization.  We are honored to have been nominated by the local Slow Food group and then to have been accepted to attend along with 500 other producers from the US and a total of 5000 worldwide!  Slow Food is a group that originated in Italy, about 20 years ago, which is dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of local, handcrafted foods like you find at market.  Every two years they have a huge exposition in Turin displaying and tasting artisanal foods from around the world called the Salone de Gusto.  For the first time ever they are overlapping that event with this congress of small producers called Terra Madre where we will participate in workshops and discussions on sustainable ways of producing great foods.  Incredibly they are paying for all of our expenses except for our plane tickets!   We have asked that they pay for half of our airfare so the local group is having a fund raiser next Wednesday the 25th at Pop’s restaurant in Durham.

Pop’s will donate a portion of the evening’s profits to Slow Food, and the donations will be used to offset the travel costs of two local farmers so that they can attend the Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy in October. (For more info on Terra Madre, please go to http://slowfoodusa.org/events/terramadre )


We are excited about the possibilities of this trip and hope that we come back with lots of new ideas, maybe the next pepper roaster or something equally fabulous.  We will have more details in future newsletters.

Picture of the Week
Tomatoes, now uncovered, succumbing to foliar disease from too much damp weather.

9/1/04 Vol. 1 #24

Yahoo! we finally made it to September!  I thought August would never end, now we just have to get past this damned hurricane season!  I comment often on how, in the 23 years that we have been farming, we have seen every extreme weather record broken- the coldest ever, the hottest ever, the deepest snow, etc.  I have not researched the records but I don’t remember ever having four of the first seven storms come across North Carolina and now Frances will probably impact us in one way or another, it has to be some kind of record.  The 3.2 inches of rain we got from Gaston has things pretty well soaked.  We went down to harvest winter squash yesterday and just about got the tractor stuck in the field and what was left of the tomatoes is pretty ugly now.

We want to thank everyone who came out to (or tried to, as it was sold out) the Slow Food Dinner at Pop’s restaurant last Wednesday to raise money to help cover our part of our airfare to Italy in October.  It was good food even if it was louder than a rock concert in that room!  I have had several people ask how they can make direct donations and it can be done to the local Slow Food chapter.   Betsy and I are a little taken aback by this fund raising stuff, maybe farmer pride, as we are just so used to making our own way.  Thank you all again.

The turkeys have been totally integrated this week, moved to yet another field and now allowed to roam together.  Everyone is getting along fine and the heritage birds don’t seem to notice the new white intruders sidling up next to them on the roosts at night.  The reservation forms and deposits are beginning to come in and about a third have been reserved already.  Those of you who had birds last year I do need to have your information (that is if you want a turkey this year) so that I don’t screw up and not hold the right size turkey for you (my memory is not what it used to be).  I do have a record of what kind and size you had last year if that helps you any.  I also realized that those of you who have never had a locally produced pastured turkey might want a little more info on how they compare to each other to help in making the decision on which bird is the one for you.  Last years experience taught us that all of them were excellent and far superior tasting to any other turkey we had ever eaten.  That being said there are three major differences between the heritage birds and the whites.  First is size, the heritage turkeys will not be any larger than about 15 pounds and the whites will not be any smaller than 15 pounds.  Second, the heritage birds have a higher ratio of dark meat to white meat for those of you dark meat lovers, this is not to say there is not a lot of white meat just not the huge breasts of the whites.  Third, the meat is firmer and more full flavored on both types that what you may have had in the past, with the heritage birds having the chewier (not tough) dark meat and more flavor overall.  I hope this helps, in addition here is a link to three New York Times articles about the heritage birds with the third one a taste comparison of eight birds. http://www.slowfoodusa.org/nytarticle.html

Picture of the Week

Even on a drab day the celosia are incredibly vivid.

11/6/04 Vol. 1 #28

Well we’ve been back for ten days but a combination of too many things to deal with and not enough time or energy to overcome the pile until now.  Let’s talk Italy!   We had a great time!!!

The whole trip is still kind of a blur and we are still processing all that we saw and did.  In many ways it was what we expected and then there were the parts that completely overwhelmed us.  The actual Terra Madre event that was the catalyst for us going was amazing and also crazy.  It was like the Olympics and the United Nations all at once, almost 5000 food producers from 128 countries with seven languages being translated at once!  The logistics of such an endeavor are mind boggling and as one would expect a few crumbs fell between the cracks at times.  This lead to the workshops being somewhat challenging (read mostly not great) but the people watching and people meeting made up for that.  The delegates where encouraged to where their traditional dress (which made us North Americans look mighty pasty!).  The African women with their jewelry, the Peruvians with the hats and bright colors, the native Brazilians with the feather headdresses, the Kirghiztani herders with their tall felt hats and more.  Then the impromptu market place that sprung up on the floor heightened the sense that we were not in Kansas!

The Peruvians
The closing ceremonies with Prince Charles!

The most unexpected and by far the best part was where Betsy and I stayed.  We had been told that it might be a farm stay.  To us that most likely meant an organized agritourismo, used to housing foreigners.  After being in transit for 27 hours and mostly awake for 33 straight hours we were dropped off in the dark in front of a classic Italian brick and tile roofed facade.  Greeted by our farm family who spoke no English except for the uncle (Oscar) and we who spoke about six words in Italian.  For five nights we had the best time, learning and laughing and eating the most amazing meals we would have in the country.  With lots of patient help translating from Oscar and his son Diego, pictures we had brought with us, and a large Italian/English dictionary we managed to get the gist of what both sides were saying.  This fourth generation farm produces artisan meat from raising the grain, to feeding it to the special Piedmontese beef and hogs, all the way to selling it in their own butcher shop down stairs.  This was some fabulous meat and salami and we were treated to many great traditional dishes each night as we would sit down to six and seven course meals (molto bene!).  Michele and his wife and son, Kati and Lorenzo, worked long hard days (duro giorni) and had just opened their house and farm to us.  We became friends and hope to see each other again.

Oscar, Alex, Betsy, Diego, Kati, Michele our new Italian family

The inside of their beautiful courtyarded farm

Needless to say as we waved goodbye on the seventh day from home (with not much sleep and too much stimulation) and made our way to the train for the rest of our trip we looked forward to time alone to think about all that had transpired and some much needed rest.  Over the Maritime Alps to Sanremo on the Riviera de Fiori in search of the largest cut flower market outside of Holland.  It was not to be easily found but we managed to get the right bus and walk through it but long after the days business was over.  Next trip!  We did have a nice time walking the streets and climbing the rabbit warren alleys of the old town.  Finally another train ride back to Milan for the night and then the long trail home.  As we were on the shuttle bus back to our car at the airport in Raleigh it seemed hard to believe that we had been on the subway in Milan that same morning.

The Riviera from our hotel room

I would like to say that we came home with many great new things to produce for market but there was just nothing that jumped out at us, there are surely things that we will incorporate into what we do and maybe some of the seeds we brought back will be new treasures!  The experience was one we will never forget and we want to thank all of you who made it possible!

Things here on the farm looked great when we returned, Joann can run the place without us just fine.  The turkeys are all sold and are headed off on Monday to be processed.  Look for a newsletter in two weeks just before the special Thanksgiving market on Tuesday the 23rd from 2:00-6:00pm.  The rest of the vegetables and flowers for Thanksgiving are coming along nicely too.

3/29/06 Vol. 3 #3

A little stiff today, yesterday was tunnel sliding day.  Not quite an Olympic sport like luge, a bit more like dog sledding.  Our crack team has done this together so many times now that what used to take parts of two days to complete we did in four hours!  Now I will admit that we only moved four out of six tunnels but I am still quite amazed at our efficiency.  One person has to go around and un-bolt everything (twelve bolts per tunnel) while another takes the front walls off.  Then two people take the back walls off while others are attaching the pull straps and spraying linseed oil on the rails to “grease the skids”.  Finally on the count of three the five us us lean into the straps and the thing lurches forward (this it where it is dog sled like).  Tug, pull, tug down to the other end (only 50 feet away), a little fine tuning to align the bolt holes then the re-bolting and end wall re-installation begins.  Once its all done it appears as if they have always been in this position until you notice that the bright lettuces and other crops that had been protected under cover are now outside squinting in the strong sunlight.

Today the early tomatoes go in the ground inside the their newly moved homes.  With this warm forecast they should be really happy and just take off.  A harbinger of changing seasons.  When you plant the last big round of lettuce and the first round of tomatoes and sunflowers in the same week you know that really warm weather is now only 6-8 weeks away.  Betsy’s big planting of Lisianthus went in this week as well, 3600 tiny plants spaced “exactly” four inches apart in three rows on each bed.  It’s like a precision drill team.

We had an interesting experience last Sunday afternoon and again Monday night.  The Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) committee was meeting in Pittsboro.  RAFT is a collaboration between Slow Food, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Chefs Collaborative, Seed Savers Exchange and a few other groups.  The aim is to identify food plant varieties and breeds of animals that are indigenous to the US and in danger of being lost from lack of use in culinary traditions.  Once identified they can then be promoted and hopefully saved.  This is how the heritage turkeys where brought back from the edge of disappearing.  Sunday we participated in a blind tasting of four breeds of chickens.  The principle purpose of the exercise was to develop a tasting protocol that can be used for most poultry and then easily modified for other animals as well.  Once developed then good descriptors of the various breeds can be arrived at so when chefs and consumers want to know the qualities of a breed they can be given a fairly detailed description.  After carefully describing, both numerically and verbally, and tasting the white meat, dark meat and the skin of four different chickens and then the next night having a wonderful full meal prepared with the favored breed, Betsy and I are off chicken for a while!

Picture of the Week
Squinting lettuces next to the new warm home for tomatoes

6/14/06 Vol. 3 #14

Well I’ve been up since 4:00 a.m. trying to reserve plane tickets to Italy.  As these things go on the Internet sometimes, I have yet to successfully complete the transaction (it is now 6:30).  We have finally heard, quasi-officially, from the Slow Food people that we have been accepted to attend the second Terra Madre conference in Turin Italy!  Some of you may remember that we were very fortunate to have been nominated to attend the first ever world gathering of food producers two years ago.  That experience of convening with 5000 other farmers, ranchers, herders, gatherers, etc. and the on farm housing has colored many of the new things we do here on the farm.  The exposure to cultures steeped in artisanal foods and old breeds has made us explore new (to us) varieties and food production ideas.  The on going attempt to form a successful poultry and meat processing cooperative has partly sprung out of the knowledge that with out it, local farmers will not be able to move towards further sustainability of their operations.  So we are off again to Turin the end of October.  This time not only with 5000 food producers but also with 1000 chefs and over 150 academics from around the world.  Slow Food is correctly expanding their aim to include the professional people who cook with local foods and can most quickly affect peoples palates and minds.  Our local chapter (convivium in Slow Food parlance) put forth an ambitious slate of people to attend and it appears as if almost all were accepted to go.  This includes our good friends, chefs and customers Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill and Andrea Ruesing of Lantern Restaurant.  Our delegation will also consist of at least eight animal producers and eight representatives of the seven local producer-only farmers’ markets.  We see this as a great opportunity to help move our local food system to a new level of understanding and cooperation.

The Slow Food organization and it’s mission resounds closely with what Betsy and I have been trying to do for the past twenty five years.  In the words of it’s founder, Carlo Petrini, producing food that is “good, clean and fair”.  We have always tried to grow products with great flavor and eye appeal (good), in a way that is sustainable (clean) and treats us, our employees and our customers well (fair).  With over 80,000 members world wide there appears to be lots of folks who think similarly.

Otherwise it is a rain day as the remnants of Alberto pour down.  We now appear to be in the monsoon season.  In preparation for todays storms we did cover the last of the Big Tops under which the late tomatoes are to be planted.  The trellis is up and probably tomorrow the plants will be slipped into the ground.  We also got the first layer of trellis on the hot peppers.  Unfortunately the huge storms on Sunday had laid over many of the tall Poblano and Anaheim plants.  So we stood them back up and secured them with the trellis strings before any more damage occurs today.  In general the peppers look really good but need a little more heat to really get going.  The eggplant and tomatillos are now in as well.  The turkeys are wearing trench coats and rubber boots, it was hard to find some small enough for Shrimpy.

Picture of the Week
On a sunny day the birds are eyeing Betsy’s lush Zinnias

9/20/06 Vol. 3 #27

What a gloriously beautiful day!  It is these days that we live for, the reason we wanted to work outside for a living, the kinds of days that make farming easy.  Emotions are high these days on both sides of the good/bad divide.  It has been twenty eight weeks since we started market back in March and thirty four since we planted the first spring crops in the field, and more than a year since the first crops for this season were started.  Twenty five years ago last week we signed the papers and closed on this piece of land intent on turning it into a small farm, just months before that Betsy and I got married, what an interesting trip its been!  The night we closed on the farm we camped out here with some friends of ours and it was cool enough (like tonight will be) to have a small fire, plenty of toasting and talk of plans and dreams for the future.  Twenty five seasons now under the belt, it is hard to imagine.  It is almost done now for this year as this is our last week at market other than the special pre-Thanksgiving market.  Only a few crops left in the field which will go under the mower in a few days.  This week I will begin the process of turning under two and a half acres to seed to winter cover crops.  Monday the turkeys go in for processing and into the freezer, in two weeks the farm will be ready for the long winter sleep.

We’re happy that the season is about over.  It has been a fairly good year but challenging at the same time so we are ready for a rest and change of pace.  At the same time we are a little sad that it is over.  We do miss seeing everyone at market, visiting with our chefs and store buyers too.  When the turkeys go away it is a serious day as we have worked with them all year to get to this point but still know that the reason we have them is for eating too.  We will miss working with our staff and talking with them about farming and their futures.  But at fifty years old we are also ready for some quiet time on the farm too, as well as traveling to new places.  So this will be the last weekly newsletter of the season.  We have a full schedule up to Christmas and beyond so look for a monthly report on our off season adventures.  We will send one in October before we head to Italy for the Slow Food conference and traveling around to see Italian markets, farms and restaurants but after I come back from a much anticipated hiking trip to one of  southern Utah’s amazing canyons.  You will get a report before Thanksgiving on what we saw and learned in Italy and to prepare you for the Thanksgiving market.  Then more after that including Betsy’s trip to Kenya to visit some of the largest cut flower farms in the world.  We thank everyone for helping us to do what we do here on the farm, with out your support and business it would not be possible.

Picture of the Week
The long shadows of early fall on nearly empty fields

10/19/06 Vol. 3 #28

Wow, has it really been a month?  We have moved heaven and earth (literally) around here to get things mostly to bed for the winter.  We took the turkeys in for processing and it is always a long and exhausting day, up early catching them before daylight and then watching over things at the processing plant.  As a whole they looked really good, a bit lighter in weight than last years but the quality seems good.  They are now down at the freezer plant sleeping until Thanksgiving.  Our focus then turned to getting the soil and cover crops ready for the winter and next spring.  Miles of pepper trellis had to be deconstructed first and the landscape fabric that we use for mulch in the hot peppers had to come up.  Then the endless tractor driving.

I spend more time on the tractor during this time of year than all the rest of the year combined.  Days and days of going round and round.  First all the remaining crops have to be mowed down so they will more easily till into the soil.  Before the soil turning begins I have to spread what ever mineral amendments the soil tests (that I took last month) indicate we will need to grow next years crops.  Not too bad this fall, only a bit of lime and even less phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).   Then the heavy metal comes out in the shape of a heavy disk harrow that cuts the soil a few inches and throws some of it over the crop residue.  Then a pass with the spring tooth field cultivator which rips and lifts the soil about every foot and about a foot deep.  After this lifting another pass with the disk to really cut those crop residues into the top soil.  Now the heavy work is done, the soil is loose but the tractor driving is far from done.  Any crop that gets planted before late April next year goes onto a raised bed, this is primarily so the soil drains and warms up faster in the cool of spring.  Without a raised bed it is almost impossible to prepare the soil for planting when we need to in February, March and April.  So round and round I go again with a four disk hiller, throwing up the loose soil into rough ridges.  200 beds raised  (20,000 feet and two acres) and another three quarters of an acre in what I call flat fields,  thankfully we don’t have to plant and take care of that all at once!  As Betsy says “It would make it hard to get up in the morning to face it”.  Finally it is time to spread the cover crop seeds.  On the tractor once again to spin out the grain crops, rye and oats, depending what cash crop will follow it, 400 pounds total.  On foot now I follow the grains with the legumes, hairy vetch and crimson clover,  to fix the nitrogen to feed the cash crops, using a chest spreader to spin them over the rough ground.  The rains came beautifully the day after I finished and the cover crops look beautiful.

The last big project is to move one of the sets of “Big Tops”, the big four bay high tunnels that cover a quarter of an acre.  Need to get them out of the way so I can get that last bit of soil prepared for next spring.  We will reconstruct them in their new field sometime later this winter.  We did get all the parts down and moved out of the way, what remains is to unscrew the legs from the ground, today and tomorrow and it should all be done.  We have had a pretty good frost and the dahlias are blackened along with other scattered damage.  Betsy’s flowers for next year are going in, in small lots.  Larkspur, bachelors buttons, Gloriosa Daisy, the tulips are planted in their crates for the winter chill period.  The vegetables for Thanksgiving are really starting to grow, even the Brussels Sprouts that struggled in the late summer heat have come out of it and are putting on good new top growth.

My much anticipated hiking trip to Paria Canyon in southern Utah turned out radically different than we had expected to say the least.  Most of this walk is through very narrow slot canyons (some of the longest in the world).  It requires perfect weather because of the danger of flash flooding.  We new it had flooded two days before we headed in and that the forecast was for 50% chance of rain the next day but clear after that.  Eight of us started in down the muddy river bed only to be stopped after 4 miles by a rescue helicopter landing in front of us.  The forecast had changed and flash floods were a distinct possibility.  We were given no choice, we had to get out of the canyon.  At least several of us got a free helicopter ride over the incredible landscape.  That left us to come up with plan B for ten people.  We ended up in Zion National Park and had a great time in an equally incredible landscape, just not what we had planned so long for.  I guess I will just have to plan another trip!

So we are off Monday, to Italy, for the Slow Food Terra Madre conference.  We already have a full list of farmers’ markets we want to go see and people we want to talk to.  Our delegation will be blogging from Torino and Betsy and I are scheduled for Friday the 27th.  You can follow our groups experiences at the Slow Food Triangle website.  Also while we are gone you can eat some of our heritage turkeys and support our friends at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy in Pittsboro by having dinner at Panzanella restaurant.  For the fourth year they are having a Heritage Turkey Dinner (with our turkeys again this year) and 10% of the proceeds go to ALBC.  Unfortunately we will miss it but you all can enjoy it for us.  Look for another newsletter from us just before Thanksgiving with news from Italy and updates on the pre-Thanksgiving market.  Until then remember the Carrboro Market is open until Christmas, so keep on shopping with the rest of the market vendors.

11/17/06 Vol. 3 #29

Well we’ve been back from Italy about ten days now and finally are thinking about eating full meals again.  We ate so much great food during our stay that it was almost too much, almost.  Just like the first Terra Madre the second time around was a whirlwind experience but very different.  Our first trip to Torino for the inaugural Terra Madre was a leap of faith.  Slow Food and its mission were unknown to us. The details of the event were non-existent but the potential seemed large.  After six days of travel, jet lag, and short nights we came away aware that not only were the Italians great people but they had started something huge.  For two years we have been trying to become more familiar with Slow Food and its’ drive to preserve artisanal food production, small farms, bio diversity and more.  Food that is good, clean and fair.

The opportunity to participate in the second Terra Madre was a goal that we worked for.  Now we knew the lay of the land and wanted to take full advantage of it in a way we could not understand in 2004.  Then Slow Food increased the level of difficulty and potential by adding 1000 chefs from around the world to the nearly 5000 producers from 148 countries.  Slow Food’s goal was to increase and improve the networks between producers and chefs, the ingredient providers with the people who turn those ingredients into even more marvelous creations for the “eaters”.  What better way to introduce a wider audience to the ideals of Slow Food.  We knew immediately what we wanted to do.  Our long time customers and friends Ben and Karen Barker from Magnolia Grill in Durham had to go.  If we could attend with them, not only could they experience what we had two years prior but we could also hopefully see it through their eyes too.  We hoped to walk through the Salone del Gusto and local farmers markets with them.  We wanted to introduce them to our host family from 2004 and now good friends.  The most incredible part of the first Terra Madre, for us, was the farm and family where we were housed.  Not only were we amazed by their production of Piemontese beef and the artisanal meat products they turned it into but fell in love with their family and how they all worked together.

Karen and Ben did attend Terra Madre and our dreams came true but always in the Italian way.  We flew in a day early to make sure we were over the jet lag so we could be ready for what was surely to be a busy time.  Our 2004 host family offered for us to stay with them and we accepted.  The opening ceremonies were once again inspiring even though long, a mix of the United Nations meets the Olympics, lots of fanfare and speeches.

We dove right into the Salone del Gusto intent on exploring it much more thoroughly than we did the last time.  Held every two years since 1996 it is inspiring in its size, the quality of its products and its diversity.  Part trade show, part educational event.  It is Slow Food’s showcase for the work they are doing to save small producers of rare and indigenous foods.  If you can get people to eat these foods then the rest of the work is all down hill.  Most interesting are the Presidia.  Groups of producers of a kind of food (cheese from Castelmagno from mountain pastures to papaccella from Naples) or an endangered variety or breed (white Monreale plums to the white cow of Modena) are working together with Slow Food to have uniform production standards and a marketing strategy.  The heritage turkeys we raise are recognized as a Presidia here in the US.  We ate an incredible amount of interesting foodstuffs and came away with some new ideas.  One of the ideas that we have had from 2004 is to work with Slow Food USA, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Growers’ Choice poultry cooperative to establish a heritage chicken presidia and have our local growers raise, sell and preserve these breeds.

In the Terra Madre spirit of building relationships and networks we spent Friday introducing the Barkers to our Italian friends, Michele and Kati Piovano who have a macellaria and farm, where they sell beef and pork they raise, from the grain through the final cuts.  What was to be a quick tour of their farm and shop turned into a six hour full immersion experience.  Ben and Karen had aprons on and hands in, making sausages and other products.

Ben making sausages Michele instructing, Karen studying

It continued on to a full scale Italian lunch with many courses which Ben and Karen helped Michele’s mother cook!  This family experience continued on Sunday when we all participated in an extended family meal.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and friends all convened.  One uncle made the tonnato sauce for the veal that Michele and Kati raised, a cousin made a mushroom dish from mushrooms she collected the day before, Ben made a salad from ingredients he had bought the day before in a local market, Betsy and I did the best we could to eat and visit.  Another uncle was a retired market farmer and pepper grower; despite language difficulties he and I were able to share pictures and experiences.

The rest of the conference went the same crazy way, we attended some workshops but spent most of our time connecting with other producers and exposing our Italian friends to the Salone del Gusto.  Here just minutes away from Torino are these incredible artisanal food producers and they had never been to the best artisanal food show in the world!  We were able to get them into the Salone and experience, through their eyes and taste buds, new and interesting foods.  We ended our trip by traveling around the Piedmonte region going to farmers’ markets and sampling the incredible foods of the region and seeing how they were produced.  We accomplished most of our objectives and feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in the second edition of Terra Madre!

Ben, Betsy and Karen at farmers’ market

4/26/07 Vol. 4 #6

Farm tour weekend, wow, always enjoyable and always long days.  We had our usual modest sized crowds which makes it much easier for us to visit with everyone and answer their specific questions.  Some of the farms, especially those with animals, have told me that they had more than 1000 visitors!  There is no way we could deal with numbers like that and enjoy it as much as we do.  It was great to see everybody especially our customers from market, we also get quite a few people who are farming or are seriously looking into it and they ask really good questions about why we do things in certain ways.  One of the highlights was the three van loads of farmers and extension agents who drove all the way up form Louisiana for the tour!

With the hubbub of the farm tour behind us we now turn to the next big projects on the list.  Yesterday we covered the four bays of the Big Tops, over the flowers, moving quickly before the winds came up.  We can now begin the last cultivation and weeding in those crops before we have to start trellising them in the next few weeks.  There are only a few big “hurdles” we must clear each year so we can move on with certain crops and this is one of them.  They punctuate the season which is dominated by little steps each day on the way to the end of the year.  Sliding the tunnels, preparing for planting tomatoes, covering the Big Tops, preparing for planting peppers; those are the ones that always loom large in my mind, three down, one to go.  The big planting of tomatoes went in Monday and they are very happy with this warm weather.  “Only” seventeen varieties in this planting including some new large sauce types from Italy and a cherry from Italy which is one of the Slow Food Presidia, special crops or foods that have been designated as such to help save them.  Here is a link to more information about Slow Food’s efforts to save endangered foods.  Pea trellis went up yesterday, the sugar snap peas have grown out of the freeze damage of a few weeks ago and are wanting to climb.  More flowers and vegetables have been planted and now we settle in on the chores of cultivating, trellising and keeping them watered.

Well many of you have been asking about the turkeys and if we will be raising them this year.  We normally would have the little poults here by now but have been waiting to receive word about the status of the new processing plant.  I finally talked with them on Tuesday and while they are making good progress on building it they could not assure me that it would be ready for Thanksgiving.  So the decision has been made for us.  No turkeys this year.  After two years of the stress of not knowing if there would be a place to have them processed we feel it is best to wait until we know for sure there will be a facility.  This is one of the big differences with turkeys as the heritage types, like the Bourbon Reds that we raise, take a full six months to grow so we need to be assured of the outcome far in advance.  With chickens they only take a little over two months to raise and are easier to get the chicks for, so those farmers producing them can still wait and have several flocks this year when the plant is ready to go.  Sadly no excellent turkey for Thanksgiving or stories of Mr. Tasty as the season unfolds.

Picture of the Week
Just covered Big Tops and newly trellised Sugar Snap Peas