Friday, January 30, 2009

Renewing America's Food Traditions, the Local Food Forum, and information on nominating a food producer to receive $10,000.

Here at Slow Food Rhode Island, we're busy planning our events schedule for the early part of 2009, and will keep you updated on those details here and by email (be sure to sign up to be included in the Slow Food RI email by joining us at Slow Food USA!).

Meanwhile, there are a lot of exciting things going on. We want to remind you that the fifth annual Local Food Forum is next Wednesday, February 4 at Andrews Dining Hall on the Brown University Campus. You can still register for the event through Sunday, February 1, and admission is free. It's a great opportunity to listen to and discuss plans for our local food system.

Slow Food Rhode Island is very excited to help Slow Food USA and Chefs Collaborative promote the Foods at Risk/Renewing America's Food Traditions (RAFT) grow-out project. The RAFT grow-out project seeks to help reintroduce endangered foods to their native regions. Rhode Island chefs and farmers will be working together on this project, with chefs featuring the endangered foods from the grow-out on their menus this fall. We'll keep you posted about those events, and, in addition to selecting one or two foods to champion here in Rhode Island, we will also be posting the stories of Rhode Island's own endangered foods here on the Slow Food Rhode Island blog, and will be doing community outreach to promote the growing of these foods by individual gardeners in addition to farmers. We think this is a very important project to help restore these foods to our region, fostering biodiversity as it does, and we hope to one day see these foods available not solely at the Farmers Market, but also at grocery stores and other retail outlets.

If you would like to read more about the RAFT project, please take a look at the Slow Food USA website, or the Chefs Collaborative website. If you'd like to purchase seeds to grow some of the endangered RAFT, or Ark of Taste, varieties, the Seed Savers Exchange website is the place to go. In addition to featuring background on individual foods, we will be posting a list of RAFT foods so that it's easy for you to track them down on the Seed Savers Exchange site.

Finally, if you know a farmer, business leader, or thought leader who is working to promote local food systems, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has announced the first annual Growing Green awards to honor the work of a Food Producer, a Business Leader and a Thought Leader in the sustainable agriculture world. The organization will highlight extraordinary contributions that include innovation within an ecologically-integrated food system, advancement of sustainable food production, climate stewardship, water stewardship, the preservation of farmland, and social responsibility. We think this is a great opportunity to honor an individual who is making changes in our community in a unique area such as protecting biodiversity or leading a school garden program.

The following three categories are eligible to apply:

Food Producer: Farmers or other food producers, including aquaculture, who employ
innovative techniques to sustain agriculture, the natural environment, workers and
community; (this category includes a $10,000 award)

Business Leader: Entrepreneurs who effectively use the marketplace to promote sustainable food systems, develop infrastructure that enables producers to be more sustainable, or advance sustainable innovations anywhere along the supply chain from farm to fork;

Thought Leader: Visionaries who advance sustainability as it relates to food through creative research, public education, and outreach.

The deadline is next Friday, February 6, so you'll want to get on this quickly. For information on the nomination process, please visit NRDC's website at:

Please visit the blog again soon as we will be starting to post the stories of RAFT foods in the coming weeks.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Providence Wintertime Farmers Market

If you haven't yet been to the Providence Wintertime Farmers Market, you've been missing a fantastic event. Not to worry, though, it continues every Saturday from 11am until 2pm at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket from now through April 25, but you should make a habit of shopping there. Don't wait until it's too late, you'll regret it. It's an impressive market, and one for which the farmers and food artisans, and Farm Fresh Rhode Island deserve a lot of credit for keeping the local food system flourishing throughout the winter.

There is a fantastic selection of locally produced foods at the market, and the market itself is abuzz with activity and an upbeat vibe. Last Saturday, the market was jam-packed with shoppers and vendors alike. A line had formed at the Naragansett Creamery stand, shoppers eagerly awaiting their turn to select locally-crafted cheeses like Atwell's Gold, Renaissance Ricotta, and Queso Blanco, among others.

Grass-fed pork and beef is available from a few farms, as are eggs and whole pastured chickens. If you're looking for obscure cuts of meat, the market is a great resource. I picked up some leaf lard and guanciale from Pat's Pastured, and plan to buy pig's trotters and beef tongue in the coming weeks. Of course, the farmers do have all of your "normal" cuts of meat, so by no means do you have to be planning to experiment with eating "everything but the squeal," as farmer Pat McNiff put it to me as he handed me my package of lard.

There is plenty of locally grown produce available, including apples, apple cider, greens, squashes, and root vegetables, and this was clearly well-appreciated, as the produce stands had many customers lined up with goods in-hand.

This being the Ocean State, there is also shellfish and lobster on offer from Matunuck Oyster Farm. I'm thinking any time is a good time for oysters - especially oysters from the waters off of our state - but maybe you want to make a plan for oysters on Valentine's Day? Or for a birthday celebration? Or simply to break up the monotony the winter brings? Your choice. Any reason is a good one.

There are plenty of gift-type items at the market, including soaps and infused oils, as well as homemade dog treats at Jack's Snacks, of which my dog was the happy recipient. She seemed to like the Squirrel Nut treat quite a bit, in fact.

And there are treats for humans as well - chocolates, pies, chutneys, jams, and freshly baked breads. Not to mention the treat that is the space itself. The mill building is beautifully restored and has floor to ceiling windows on the interior walls, so along with the meat, produce, cheese, bread, dog treats, and shellfish, there are permanent shops as well, including a book store and children's store, among others. You'll be amazed. And you'll go back again and again, for the great local food as well as the ambiance.

Take it Slow, and get yourself down to the market!