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The creation of the Bodega Red Potato Presidium in Sonoma County, the 6th presidium in the US and the 2nd in California presents us with an ideal opportunity for reflection.  And reflect we did:

  • Lisa Hunter introduces us to the new Bodega Red Potato Presidium.

  • Paula Shatkin brings us up to date on the Gravenstein Apple Presidium, now 14 years young.

  • Constanza Aranda travels to Italy with a new lens on food and explores two presidia in Venice.

  • And Michelle Greenwood makes the case for Slow Food and Slow Money working together to build more presidia and so step up access to Good, Clean and Fair Food for All.

Peter Ruddock
Chair, Slow Food California Ark of Taste Committee 

Bodega Red Potato Presidium
Slow Food Sonoma County North

By Lisa Hunter

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The Bodega Red Potato has become our farm’s go-to potato for growing. Our buyers, both restaurants and Farmers Market customers have come to love this potato for its flavor, texture and local historical significance. The plants are high yielding and spuds can be harvested young and tender or fully mature for storage. Zureal Bernier, Bernier Farms, Founding Member of the Bodega Red Presidium.

In the fall of 2017, Slow Food launched the sixth Presidium in the USA: the Bodega Red Potato. Before Slow Food Sonoma County North intervened, the Bodega Red was on the brink of extinction. Now there are 15 local farms growing the potato. The Presidium aims to continue to raise awareness of this potato variety and its cultural and social connection with the local area, and encourage more farmers to grow it.

Bodega Reds are one of only a handful of potato varieties introduced to the United States in the 1840’s directly from the potato motherland: South America. Most potato varieties enjoyed in the US are the offspring of European varieties that originated in South America, and were later brought back across the Atlantic during European colonization. Bodega Reds didn’t make that extra boat ride. They are part of a small group of potatoes, which includes the Makah Ozzette, which made their way all the way up the West Coast into Southeastern Alaska.

The potato not only has history and local significance on its side; it is also delicious. The Bodega Red potato is slightly flattened and oblong in shape with pink-red skin. It has a rich potato flavor that is both creamy and nutty, and a texture that balances waxy and starchy. The skin is delicately thin with no bitter flavor.

Unfortunately, the potato was extremely susceptible to blight and struggled in production until it disappeared during the 1970s. Over the years, inquiries regarding the potato, by farmers and consumers alike, met with silence from the original families who farmed this potato. The Bodega Land Trust and Slow Food Sonoma County North educated the Bodega community about the potato and its historical significance, and the combined efforts of these organizations resulted in an anonymous donation of a few tiny tubers. These donated tubers were grown out by the Bodega Land Trust to produce tubers, flowers and leaves needed for identification.

Since 2013, Sonoma County North has worked with Pure Potato in Lynden, Washington to produce virus-free seed potatoes. Genetic material is also being held by Seed Savers Exchange of Decorah, Iowa. Each year, more farms have ordered Bodega Red seed potatoes from the chapter, and the potatoes are being sold at local farmers markets and one local supermarket. Now the task is to return the potato to prominence in the region by encouraging more farmers to grow it, especially along the potato’s historic coastal area.

Potato farming is “an ancient, simple, elegant technology” (Sonoma County farmer). Seeds are planted in the early spring in well-drained, fertile soil, 2-3 inches deep. When plants are 6 inches high, “hilling” begins by mounding soil around the plant to protect it from direct sun and promote tuber development. There is no need to irrigate until “emergence,” when the first leaves show. Once the foliage dies back, some farmers leave the crop in the ground to set the skin. Although the main crop is harvested in late summer and fall, some growers harvest small “new” potatoes in June. The “new” potatoes sell at a premium price.

The Bodega Red Presidium will increase sales to restaurants and direct-to-consumer, raise consumer awareness of the potato and its story, promote consumer appreciation for the agriculture history of our area, and obtain premium pricing for it.

For information about the Bodega Red Potato, contact slowfoodsonomacountynorth@gmail.com.

The Gravenstein Apple Presidium
Slow Food Russian River

Established 2004, Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity

By Paula Shatkin

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 “Thanks to Slow Food, there is now a home for every Gravenstein we grow.”  Lee Walker, Walker Apples, Sebastopol, California

For 14 years, a committed and lively group of Presidia volunteers known as the Apple Corps has worked on many fronts to promote local apples, especially the iconic and endangered Gravenstein. Our goals include increasing the demand for local and seasonal apples, developing and enhancing new marketing channels, and helping to generate new profit centers for growers and processors so that they can maintain and expand their orchards.

In the past 5 years our efforts have widened to include promotion of local cider makers that use Sonoma County apples for their artisan product. We develop literature and social media products to help keep local and innovative cider makers competitive amid the growing national love affair with hard cider.

In 2014, with the support of the Sebastopol City Council and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Slow Food Russian River established what a Google search reveals to be the country’s one and only community apple press. We first borrowed, then purchased, a motorized apple press. We obtained regulatory clearance and secured the right to operate the press on the City-owned Luther Burbank Experiment Farm in Sebastopol, where residents and visitors can bring their apples and, without charge, use our press to make fresh, delicious and healthful apple juice or make their own cider.

The press operates throughout apple season each weekend in August, September and October, staffed only by volunteers. In 2014 local and Bay Area families pressed over 15,000 pounds of apples. In 2015 we pressed about 22,500 pounds – an increase of about 50%. In 2016 we pressed 37,360 pounds of apples – an increase of about 67% over the prior year. Last year, 2017, we knew the press was well established in the consciousness of the community so, instead of focusing on growth of throughput we decided to focus on the quality of the experience. We pressed about 30,000 pounds of apples while offering each patron more time to enjoy the experience.

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The Gravenstein Apple Presidium is a project supported by the community because it supports a product with a long history in the hearts of the people. It has stayed the course for 14 years, giving us credence and respect from farmers.

Agritourism and Presidia In Veneto (Venice)

By Constanza Aranda, Slow Money Intern
Orange County

A few months ago, I had the incredible opportunity to go to Europe for two weeks. When I was planning my trip I remembered the words of my Food Coach telling me histories about Presidia and the Ark of Taste. I have always been into food but not that much into sustainability, that’s why my food coach and I decided that a little field research would help both of us figure out what’s happening in the cradle of Slow Food.  

Sant’Erasmo Artichokes

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The Violet Artichoke (Sant’Erasmo) and the Canarini (Canaries) Artichoke are produced in Sant’Erasmo, and the Torcello Islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Sant’Erasmo, the main area of production, is a little island situated to the north of Venice. It is known by the citizens of Venice as the Vegetable Garden of Venice or “Orto di Venezia”.

Sant’Erasmo has been a farming region for many years because of its very fertile soil. The island is famous for its violet artichokes, a variety which is characterized by its purple color. The carciofo violetto, as the Italians call them, is tender, tasty and has a very delicious light-bitter aftertaste. In addition, the first buds, called ‘castraure,’ are highly recommended by locals and food connoisseurs.

Artichoke season begins at the end of April and runs into May.  People can get these delicious artichokes during the season at various farmers markets in Venice:  Mercato Biologico Solidale Aeres, Rialto Market, Campo San Barnaba, Piazza Barche Mestre, Mercato del Contadino (Calle Loghi), or at the Sant’Erasmo Purple-Artichoke Festival, an Eno-gastronomic event dedicated to the local artichoke at the beginning of May.

How to get to Sant’Erasmo and the Artichoke Festival

You can reach Sant’Erasmo from Venice by public transportation taking the vaporettos (vessels), a service of ACTV, linea 13, which leaves from Fondamente Nove Station in Venice, near the Basilica San Marco y San Pablo.

Dorona Grapes (Mazzorbo)

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Dorona is a type of grape cultivated in the island of Mazzorbo, a neighboring island of Burano, one of the most visited islands in the Venetian Lagoon.

Known as the Golden Grape during the age of the Venetian Doges, this native grape variety almost became extinct in 1966 when the water level reached the highest level ever seen. The tide rose over 6 feet, causing the destruction of almost all the vineyards on the islands, only a few plants being left hidden away in vegetable gardens and convents.

Re-plantation started in 2007 when 4000 Dorona vine cuttings were planted in a 2- acre area.  In 2010 the first bottles of wine were made from Dorona grapes, the wine being stored in glass for a two year fermentation process, bringing to life Venissa wine.

Additionally, Dorona grapes have been recognized by being included in the list of the Top Hundred Italian Wines by Paolo Massobrio and Marco Gatti in in the 2010.

Venissa flavor appreciation

Venissa fits in the white wine category, though its hue matches the golden color of the grapes.   The wine has a smooth and mineraly feel in the mouth, with flavors of peaches, apricots and flowers.

How to get to Mazzorbo

You can reach Mazzorbo from Venice by taking the vaporetto service of ACTV, linea 12, which leaves from Fondamente Nove Station in Venice, near the Basilica San Marco y San Pablo. This Vaporetto goes to Punta Sabbioni, and make stops stopping at Murano, Mazzorbo, Torcello, Burano, and Treporti.

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Presidia: Common Ground for Slow Food and Slow Money Members

Michelle Greenwood, Slow Money SoCal 
Slow Food Orange County

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Understanding Presidia. A place for Slow Money support in local food infrastructure projects.

Heritage foods and cultural traditions are vital to both Slow Food and Slow Money members. But, commerce and advocacy are never far from mind. The Presidia Project develops commerce with tradition and food at its center. Buying locally and eating locally are fundamental to sustaining Slow Food businesses. Slow Money introduces investing locally. At its heart, Slow Money works to create structural change at the intersection of food and finance through thoughtful local food investment.

As part of the zeitgeist that gave rise to the Slow Food movement, early-impact investor, Woody Tasch, sensed a deep disconnect in our financial markets. While gripped with a growing sense of unease, Tasch embarked on a tour of farmers’ markets with Slow Food leader, Cinzia Scaffidi. This led to a serendipitous meeting with an Italian cheese monger. The meeting became the catalyst for Slow Money.

Slow Money-minded folks need to focus on the infrastructure necessary for a larger local food movement. Investing as if food, farms and fertility (health of the soil) matter is a core value. Infrastructure is fundamental to actualizing the Slow Money mandate.

We also need to get the word out.

 Consider a growing interest in heritage wheat varietals like Sonora and Red Fife. Wheat, without milling, is little more than hot cereal and a limited marketplace. To support the farmers, food artisans, bakers and chefs working with these important varietals, we need not just wheat, but a mill and a robust marketing plan. While not a presidium, the California Grains project brings together small and mid-sized family farms, bakers, and millers to create presidia-style worthy commerce.

California Grains’ Grist & Toll, established in 2014, is the first flour mill to operate in the Los Angeles area in over 100 years. Mill owner, Nan Kohler, relied on a business funding plan limited to a small investment from savings and a liberal use of credit cards. A robust Slow Money network could ensure a better start beyond unwieldy bootstrapping for these important businesses serving as cornerstones for new local food commerce.

When farmers and artisans come together to spread the word, they can make the case for infrastructure support and great marketing. California Milk Council’s, ‘Got Milk?’ is an effective campaign designed by mainstream marketers for a well-funded food council. Slow Money-minded community members can make investments to support equally dynamic marketing for collaborative groups and cooperatives. Organic Valley is one such success story for sustainable food. There’s no reason California Grains can’t be the next.

Slow Food answers fast food and a fast food economySimilarly, Slow Money answers fastmoney. Our work aligns community members with locally-grown food and a wisely-developed marketplace. Presidium and collaborative artisan groups are perfect opportunities for Slow Food and Slow Money community members to meet in support of shared values centered on Good, Clean and Fair food and a sane pace.

We can, in the words of the Presidia Project, identify and encourage unique, traditional and endangered food products. We can, give these food products economic impact. And, through our concerted effort, we just might be able to save them from extinction. Let’s make it happen.

Michelle Greenwood serves as Director of Investment Programs for Slow Money SoCal and served as a Small Business Advisor for microlender, Kiva in 2016.  She resides in Huntington Beach, California and can be reached for questions about Slow Money, LINC and Kiva at michelle.greenwood@slowmoneysocal.org. Michelle is also available for comment on the ideas and community developing around local investing.