SLT in the News

Slow Food promotes more than healthy eating

Author: By Amy Maginnis-Honey, Daily Republic
Date: Jan 24, 2011

SUISUN CITY - Alexis Koefoed chuckled as she talked about the idea of a chicken farm, and a woman running that chicken farm, catching people's imagination.

Koefoed and her husband, Eric Koefoed, are the owners of Soul Food Farm in rural Vacaville. The farm specializes in pastured chickens for both eggs and meat.

Alexis Koefoed also began the Slow Food Solano movement, which is part of an international movement. Launched in 1986, the Slow Food movement centers on preserving traditional and regional cuisine as well as promoting farming plants, seeds and livestock of the local ecosystem.

On Jan. 30, Slow Food Solano is partnering with the Solano Land Trust -- a nonprofit that preserves open space and farm land -- for an event centered on the book "Twain's Feast," written by Berkeley author Andrew Beahrs. When Twain was traveling across Europe in 1879, he wrote a fantasy menu of all his favorite American dishes, totaling 80. Many have since disappeared.

Beahrs tracked down eight of Twain's favorites and delved into what had become of some of them and if there are efforts under way to bring them back.

That is right in line with the goals of Slow Food.

"As the world becomes smaller, in a way, you find the same foods everywhere," said Ruth Begell, a Vacaville resident, who heads up Slow Food Solano.

That, in turn, eliminates smaller farms. And, when smaller farms fold, local cuisine is affected because crops unique to the area are not being planted.

More and more people are becoming concerned about what they are eating, Begell said. At the same time, more are aware of the benefits of eating local, so they know how food was raised. That supports local farmers.

Since it formed in 2003, Slow Food Solano has grown from a list of 10 e-mail addresses to more than 50. Begell has another 250 e-mail addresses of people who want to be notified of events or when food is ripe at the local orchards.

This marks the first time Slow Food Solano has partnered with the Solano Land Trust.

"We have similar interesting in supporting and preserving local agriculture," Begell said.

"We are both passionate about connecting the local community with local agriculture," said Nicole Byrd, executive director of Solano Land Trust.

Her interest in Slow Food surfaced before she became the group's executive director. Then, when she had her son three years ago, she found it the ideal time to take advantage of local produce her mother would make into baby food.

"I think it's important for us to reconnect and understand the closer you can to it (the food) right off the farm, the healthier it is and the more nutrients it has," Byrd said.

The potluck also gives Slow Food Solano the chance to introduce the movement to another audience. It's also a great place to dispel myths about Slow Food.

"The major misconception, which was more at the beginning, was that they were a bunch of snobby people getting together to eat gourmet foods," Begell said.

Slow Food USA is a big proponent of healthy school lunches and Slow Food Solano gives money to local schools to help them maintain their gardens.

These things, along with 60-plus people filling a room at the Vacaville Cultural Center Library for a program on eating healthy and eating locally, convinced Begell that people were getting the message.

She's still contemplating what food to take to the potluck. She's been over the list of foods Twain named and finds that there are lot missing.

"I may just bring an apple pie," Begell said.

It is one of the 80 items on the list.

When Koefoed discovered the Slow Food movement, she tried to join the Napa convivium. They told her to form her own. She credits a variety of things for the movement gaining momentum, among them YouTube.

"You can go on there and see everything from how animals are mistreated to things on big agriculture," she said.

Today, the 55-acre farm consumes most of her days. However, Koefoed always finds time to share ideas with Begell.

"I jump in when I have time," she said.

Koefoed said she was pleasantly surprised to find her farm mentioned by name in Beahrs' book. He mentioned Soul Food eggs, which are sold at the farm and in the Bay Area.

Watching the Slow Food idea evolve has been a joy for Koefoed.

"Now when you say 'Slow Food' people seem to know it," she said.

The program fits in nicely with efforts to get families to eat dinner together, as well as the do-it-yourself movement.

"It's about rebuilding culture and tradition," she said.

For more information, visit http://www.slowfoodsolano.org. The website also contains the 80 items on Twain's list.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or amaginnis@dailyrepublic.net.

Who: Slow Foods Solano, Solano Land Trust

What: Twain's Feast -- potluck and book signing by author Andrew Beahrs.

When: Noon to 3 p.m. Jan. 30

Where: Rush Ranch, Suisun City

Info: http://www.slowfoodsolano.org