Thursday, March 11, 2010

Slow Foods at Heritage Lane Farm

Slow food was introduced in Italy in the 1980’s as a reaction to the trend toward fast food. The thought was that food has important societal values and the trend to fast food was negating the benefits, as well as being unhealthy. Here at Heritage Lane Farm we consider the slow food principles to be an important part of our efforts to educate people on the changes that have come to the food system over the last few decades. One of the important things the U.S. Slow Food organization has done is to establish an Ark of Taste that identifies important food that is being lost with the commercialization of the food system. The Ark of Taste includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, livestock, poultry, and prepared foods like bread, cheese and drinks. The items on the Ark of Taste have important historical significance in the U.S. food system and it is just as important to protect as historical buildings and sites.

Heritage Lane Farm uses the Ark of Taste as one of the determinations as to whether we have a vegetable or livestock on our farm. Although not everything that we have is on the Ark of Taste, we intentionally have a number of animals and vegetables on the list. From a livestock standpoint, our Navajo-Churro sheep and Mulefoot Pigs are both part of the Ark of Taste. This year we will also have Buckeye and Delaware chickens, as well as Narragansett turkeys, all of which are part of the Ark of Taste. We also have a number of vegetables on the Ark of Taste list including Amish Deer Tongue lettuce, Lima Cisco Bird Egg and Hidatsa Shield dried beans, Green Mountain potatoes, and Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

Our long term strategy of having an outdoor kitchen and commercial kitchen where we can host local chefs and events is also part of the slow food strategy. By being able to experience food within a few feet of where it was raised provides a wonderful opportunity to experience food the way it was meant to be.

To us slow food means more than just eating a local meal. The commercialization of many livestock breeds has meant that many breeds have intentional been genetically bred to grow as quickly as possible on the least amount of high protein food. This has had adverse impact on the temperament of the animals, as well as the taste. Our breeds of livestock grew more slowly and have not been genetically bred for certain traits. Our sheep and pigs will take almost year to reach maturity, instead of 5-7 months like most commercial breeds. Our chickens take 10-12 weeks before we butcher them, instead of 8 weeks for the commercial breeds. To us, slow food is more about how an animal is raised then it is just about the preparation of a meal. We would rather have livestock with a personality then genetics to pack on weight as fast as possible. By the way, if you ever doubt the benefits of slow food, just give our food a try and you will be able to taste the difference.

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