Monday, November 29, 2010

Report from Terra Madre (better late than never!)

Local Food Hub staffer Lisa Reeder took a few days off from the end-of-season hustle at our warehouse to fly to Torino, Italy for the biennial Terra Madre conference, an international meeting of Slow Food delegates from around the world. 

She was kind enough to write about her travels, so today we feature her report from Terra Madre!

Terra Madre is an international forum in which food producers, educators, activists and chefs meet to exchange ideas and to further the tenets of Slow Food - that food should be Good, Clean and Fair. As a new member of the new Albemarle Piedmont Slow Food Chapter, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference or from myself in that setting. Admittedly, I do enjoy a bit of a love affair with Italian food and food culture, dictated as it is by fierce devotion to regional specialties and a respect for seasonality...

There were 4000 delegates to Terra Madre, representing 150 countries and, perhaps more importantly, an impressive number of indigenous and native populations. To see people in their traditional dress, and hear their languages, and touch the seeds and taste the food that they brought to share, was to realize that this Earth is a vast and varied place, and that every culture has a living, vibrant relationship with the earth that is, in part, defined by food.

A highlight of the conference was the meeting of delegates from the United States, some 700 in number and representing all 50 states. Each speaker was more inspiring than the last, and as they gave brief overviews of the projects in their corners of the country, I felt a sense of inspiration, and hope. Carlo Petrini, Slow Food founder and president, issued the benediction that best sums up my feelings: to paraphrase, he said the revolution has already begun, and it happens through our work every day. While change might not be evident on a small scale, farmers are the world’s largest peaceful army, implacable as snails (the symbol of Slow Food) and working in accord with the Earth, and so this movement cannot go wrong.

I was filled with a fierce pride at his words. To consider our work here at the Local Food Hub, and at other community-minded projects around the country, as part of an international agrarian uprising on behalf of the Earth, is to set aside any personal agenda and instead devote my efforts to a larger purpose. Fortunately, that larger purpose happens to be delicious.

So I have returned from Terra Madre with tales of wild boar and polenta flavored with juniper, hand-dried golden plum jam from Sicily, and neat rows of cavolo nero, nebbiolo grapes, and hazelnut trees. I have returned with quinoa seeds from Ecuador, hoping to find someone or somewhere to cultivate them. But most importantly, I bring to you a message from Terra Madre: The work we do here is vitally important. Do not be discouraged, and do not be deterred. The revolution is happening.

Lisa Reeder also publishes her writing on her own blog: A Local Notion.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where's the Beef?!

The "We're thankful for..." posts continue today with a recap of Farm to School week and a shout-out to one of our supporters who really made the grade.

In case you missed it, November 8 - 12 marked the Virginia's second annual Farm to School.  More than 25 schools in our area participated, serving up local apples, potatoes, broccoli, winter squash, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, and grass-fed beef. By the end of the week, more than 11,000 students had the option of purchasing a school lunch made with local foods.  Impressive!

Local Food Hub visited a few of the participating schools that week, and had a blast talking to kids, checking out the menu, and of course sampling local apples and local apple cider. One of my favorite parts, though, was talking with the cafeteria managers about how we can make the Farm to School connection last all year, not just during a week in November.

Public schools face a real conundrum when it comes to lunch programs. With less than $2 per child to spend on lunch (including utensils, napkins, trays and milk), there's not a lot of flexibility; often the choice comes down to what's cheaper, not what's more nutritious. Local Food Hub does our best to work within the constraints of their budget, but it's a delicate dance -- while schools require very low prices, family farmers need to make a fair wage for their labor.

That's why we were so excited this summer to receive a grant from Sofia Case and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. Designated specifically to bridge the gap between what local food costs and what schools can afford, this gift allowed public schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle to feature fresh, locally-produced grass-fed beef (a far cry from this) on their menus all week.

In fact, this $1,000 grant helped feed more than 4,000 kids.  When you think about it, that's a small investment for a really big impact. And that's why we're thankful for Sofia's gift -- it's smart, out-of-the-box thinking that made a serious difference to school kids, parents, and farmers right here in our community.

So thank you, Sofia, and thanks to everyone who's working hard to make school lunches healthy, affordable, and local!

If you're interested in supporting our work with Farm to School, you can contact us at info (at) or donate online!

Monday, November 22, 2010

So Much to Say

After the nuttiness of last week, culminating in Friday night's awesome Dave Matthews Band concert to benefit Local Food Hub, we're feeling plenty thankful for a short work week and an excuse to stuff our faces with mom's mac n' cheese and pumpkin pie.

But before we head out for the holiday, we have a little thanks of our own to give. The next few posts are dedicated to Local Food Hub supporters that are thinking outside of the box to make an impact in their community.

First up, we want to thank Dave Matthews Band, the folks at Red Light Management and everyone else (you know who you are!) who made the concert, the VIP reception and the entire event possible, and go off without a hitch.  It was a lovely affair with a lot of really nice, generous people, and we were so proud and honored to have been a part of it.

We also want to thank every single ticket holder from Friday's concert. Whether you found yourself in the best seat in the house or the worst, splurged for a VIP ticket or decided on general admission, by choosing to attend that concert on that night, you also chose to show your support for Local Food Hub, for small family farms, and for good food grown close to home.

This, to me, is one of the best parts about working for a small, community-supported nonprofit: seeing the creative ways people come together to leverage their power and show their support.

Whether it's a famous band holding a benefit concert, fans choosing to buy tickets that support a cause, or individuals making donations, spreading the word, and buying local food, these are all examples of people using their power as consumers and community members to make big things possible. You have more superpowers than than you think!

Check back tomorrow to find out how a supporter is bridging the gap between farm and school.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Workshop Announcement: Getting Ready for 2011

Attention established and aspiring farmers! Join us for the last workshop of our 2010 season: Looking Back, Planning Ahead, and Getting Started.

Anthony Flaccavento will be on hand to review your past season, analyze what worked and what didn't, and help you determine how to best move forward in 2011!

Bring any and all records from the past season, including:
   -calendars with planting/picking dates
   -production records
   -sales records (for Local Food Hub and other markets)
   -farm plans, including crop layout

This class will be useful for longtime farmers as well as those just starting an operation, so come one, come all!

Date: November 11, 2011
Time: 4:30pm  - 7:00pm
Location: Maple Hill Farm, Scottsville VA
Cost: Free for partner producers, $35 general public
RSVP: please email kate (at)

image credit: Jay Paul

Friday, November 5, 2010

Can You Dig It? Farm to School Virginia 2010

It's been a while since I've ordered from a school cafeteria menu. But, if they're anything like they were when I was in school (and something tells me they are), then it goes like this: Monday: Pizza; Tuesday: Nuggets; Wednesday: Pizza; Thursday: Corn Dogs; Friday: Pizza.

But next week, that's all set to change for kids in Albemarle County, Charlottesville City and Greene County Schools thanks to Farm to School Week 2010. Started just last year, Farm to School is now an official annual occurrence, thanks to House Joint Resolution 95 passed in 2009.

And, like last year, Local Food Hub is excited to be a part of the action. The best part is that this year, lots of schools are participating, and they're doing so in a big way. More than 25 schools are purchasing local, fresh, healthy food for their lunch programs in and around Charlottesville. By my math, that means more than 11,000 public school children will have the option to purchase a healthy lunch next week.

The schools are buying great stuff, too: apples, potatoes, broccoli, winter squash, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, and grass-fed beef are just a few of the things Local Food Hub will be delivering over the next few days. Chef salads, soft tacos, steamed broccoli, shepherds pie, baked sweet potatoes and lasagna -- all made from local, fresh ingredients -- will grace menus across the city and county, thanks to great effort by school staff and parents. All are a far cry from the corn dogs and frozen pizza from my school days.

In addition to making the purchase and delivery of this food possible, Local Food Hub will also be providing informational materials about the farms where the food was produced, and a few of us (myself and Steve!) will be attending schools during lunch hours to talk with kids and sample some apples. Fun!

“Virginia schools spend more than $6 million annually on fresh produce. Farm to School Week gives us a great opportunity to keep those dollars right here in our community, while also providing healthy, fresh foods for our kids.” says Local Food Hub Director Kate Collier. “Our dedicated community of individual supporters and foundations has been integral in making all of this possible. We hope the excitement around local food will encourage more people to get involved with Local Food Hub!”

One way you can make sure that Farm to School Week 2010 is a success is by participating!  Encourage your kids to buy lunch next week, and spread the word to parents and teachers, too.  If the response from the community is great, we know the schools will keep it up!

We're also really excited about some creative thinking by Sofia Case and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.  Check back next week to see how they helped to bridge the gap on pricing for a portion of the foods supplied during Farm to School Week!