Friday, October 29, 2010

Video from Carlo Petrini Lecture now available

For those that weren't able to attend last month's lecture with Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, we are pleased to offer the lecture in its entirity online.

Please visit the following link to view the video:

And finally, we still have SIGNED copies available of Mr. Petrini's book, Terra Madre: Forging a New Global Network of Sustainable Food Communities. We will have them available for sale at our next Slow Food Tufts Meeting on November 18th. Books are $15 for students; $20 for non-students.

Stay tuned for an update from Ronit and Jesse about their recent trip to Italy to attend the biannual Terra Madre conference...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Slow Food Tufts members process pastured poultry

As much of society moves farther from knowing where food comes from, members of Slow Food Tufts are fearless: they spent a full day helping to slaughter and process chickens at the farm of Tufts’ very own Jennifer Hashley (of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project) and her husband Pete Lowy. Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds raises high-quality, humanely-grown chickens, pigs, some sheep, and even a few rabbits out in Concord, MA. On October 9, they graciously invited Slow Food Tufts to visit their farm and learn how to process chickens.

By Jacqueline Minichiello

Our nerves were a little shaky that morning as we embarked on an experience that for many of us was our first and for some would be our last. We signed the forms, suited up and then were employed at either the slaughtering and de-feathering or the eviscerating and cleaning station of the Mobile Poultry Processing Unit (MPPU). The MPPU is essentially a flatbed trailer decorated with countless hoses, tubes, ice chests, buckets, and bottles.

Jennifer demonstrated the process once and then a freshly slaughtered chicken was placed in front of each of us. The process was slow and interesting as we acclimated to our task. While some of us were less timid than others, everyone was taken back when we heard Juli’s bird clucking! And then the sound was duplicated by some of the other birds!

After overcoming the disturbing noises, we worked hard to follow the steps carefully and thoroughly: loosen crop, remove neck, circumvent backside, pull out innards….repeat. We remained in good spirits and asked plenty of questions. After processing over 400 chickens, we were nearly chicken processing experts, but we all decided that we had had enough (the process is exhausting!). Then, a few brave souls volunteered to do the actual slaughtering.

By then end of the day we were full of pride, worn-out, and very smelly (it took two showers to get my chicken smell off). But it was entirely worth it! The unique experience provided us with the opportunity to actually play a role in our food system, and one that is sustainable. Being part of Slow Food means being aware and knowledgeable about farm-to-fork issues, and for the group that took on this less-than-glamorous challenge, we can say that we now know how to slaughter our own chickens!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Carlo Petrini Comes to Tufts

On October 6, Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, visited the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy on the first day of his U.S. university tour. Mr. Petrini spoke in Italian with consecutive translation, which added to the romantic and captivating ideas of the Slow Food movement: good, clean, and fair food for all, as well as the preservation of food culture and traditions that make the pleasure of good food possible. Mr. Petrini was unapologetically honest, and urges all of humanity to change our ways of life to avoid a ecological and cultural disaster. “Slowness is a homeopathic medicine; just take a little every day,” Mr. Petrini advised.

Mr. Petrini gave an animated and thought-provoking lecture on the current food system. He explains his agenda for change through a project conceived by Slow Food, known as Terra Madre, which has become a powerful global network linking together, cooks, academics, and consumers (although Mr. Petrini urges us to think of ourselves as citizens, not merely consumers). He commended the Slow Food Tufts chapter, and other chapters across the U.S., for our commitment to the philosophies of the organization.

The Slow Food founder began his speech by addressing soil fertility and water quality issues. He also highlighted the tragedy of losing Mother Nature’s biodiversity. Mr. Petrini declared that we have lost 70% of the earth’s biodiversity. He addresses why this matters with an example from Italy: “In Italy we only have 5 breeds of milk cows now, and they are the ones that produce the most liters of milk. There once existed a variety that produced less milk, but that milk made the most delicious provolone in the world!" That breed no longer exists and neither does the best provolone, according to Mr. Petrini.

He also called attention to waste issues, explaining that we produce food for approximately 12 billion people, but we waste nearly half of this. “Respect the tradition of using leftovers,” he proposed. He also points out a phenomenon: at the same time nearly 1 billion people suffer from malnutrition and another 1.7 billion suffer from obesity. “The current food system is crazy: it is unfair, it destroys everything, and it is completely against nature,” said Mr. Petrini.

The speaker received a standing ovation and a long line of members of the Tufts community, eager to get a signed copy of his new book, Terra Madre. Mr. Petrini is putting forth his ideas to a variety of academic audiences on his U.S. visit as he attempts to overturn, step by step, a very stubborn and powerful food system.

Click here to see what the official Slow Food blog has to say about Mr. Petrini's visit to the Tufts Friedman school.

Cranberry Bog Visit

This fall, Slow Food Tufts members traveled south to visit the UMass Amherst Cranberry Experiment Station and a number of cranberry bogs. The station, located in East Wareham, serves as an outreach and research center and aims to support the economic viability of the region’s cranberry industry, with a focus on efficiency and sustainability. Most of us know and love cranberries during a specific time of the year, but the round, shiny red berries are a prevalent, year-round theme in Southeastern Massachusetts.

The origin of the Cranberry Station can be traced all the way back to 1905 when the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association (CCCGA) convened to discuss cranberry insect problems. At that time, cranberry farming has been growing strong for nearly 50 years, but not without some stumbling blocks presented by Mother Nature herself. By 1910 the Legislature made funds available to purchase land for both a building to house the station and a cranberry bog. Alas! The UMass Cranberry Experiment Station began its story, supporting the industry for the century to come.

It was pretty clear that the cranberry industry is critical to both the economy and character in Southeastern Massachusetts. Growing cranberries requires a surrounding network of support acres – the fields, forests, streams, and ponds that make up the cranberry wetlands system – so there are more than 60,00 acres of total land are used to cultivate cranberries. This helps to conserve open space, making for a beautiful contrast of woodlands surrounding sandy or flooded cranberry bogs, depending on the growing stage.

Cranberry is one of only three crops native to North America and holds a special place in New England agricultural and culinary traditions. Many people think of Massachusetts when they think of cranberries and deservedly so: the state ranks second in the nation in cranberry production. Fortunate for the many Bay Staters dependent on the industry, people across the nation and world are seeking out the health benefits and unique gastronomic properties of the berry and are equally fascinated by the natural beauty of the cranberry harvest.

The low-growing, woody cranberry plant is a perennial that produces stems or “runners” that are one to six feet long. This forms a thick mat over the surface of a cultivated bed. By September, the fruit begins to develop its characteristic red color through the production of a potent antioxidant pigment, anthocyanin.

Once the berries are firm and distinctively scarlet in color, the harvest begins. Wet harvesting involves flooding the bog and driving motorized “egg beaters” into the bog to loosen the berries from the vines. The floating tiny red balls are then corralled towards shore and are moved by pump into waiting trucks.

The folks from the UMass Cranberry Station did an excellent job of making sure we got to see every step of the cranberry growing process. The trip was brought to an end by a visit to a cranberry shop with everything from chocolate covered berries to cranberry salsa. The vist couldn’t have been more picturesque for a true autumn-in-New England experience.