• Editor's Note Winter 2011

    Editor's Note Winter 2011

    I’ve never fired a gun. The closest I ever came to one as a child was at my aunt’s house. She’s a cattle rancher in Arizona and often kept a pistol by her phone. I’d walk past it gingerly, as if getting too close meant it would suddenly go off like a stick of remote-controlled dynamite. Having grown up in a big city, I’d always associated guns with hot-headed maliciousness and revenge.

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  • Set the Table with Venison

    Set the Table with Venison

    LedgEnd Deer Farm doesn’t have a sign, but the special fencing and the deer give it away. Plus, after more than 15 years of venison farming, owner Hank DiMuzio doesn’t need to advertise. “I can’t raise enough animals to keep up with demand as it is,” he says. “It’s a good problem to have.” And at a time when dairy farmers and other farmers are struggling to stay afloat, this problem has become increasingly rare.

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  • The First Localvores

    The First Localvores

    I have always been fascinated by wild foods. When I was a kid growing up in Indiana we had a copy of Euell Gibbons’ book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and I remember how exciting it was to read about eating cattails, making acorn flour, and brewing sassafras tea. As I recall, the cattail stalks tasted a bit like mild turnips, the acorn flour was tannic and needed a lot of processing before being edible, and the tea tasted like something just this side of root beer. Little did I know as a kid that wild edibles such as cattails and acorns were just a couple of the foods historically gathered and consumed by the first people to inhabit the state I would one day call home.

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  • Good Walls Make  Good Gardens

    Good Walls Make Good Gardens

    The phrase “New England stone walls” conjures images of dilapidated boundary walls winding through our forests, half buried by leaves and by the sharp turns of our region’s economy. But stone, and stone walls in particular, are enjoying a renaissance, of sorts, as gardeners are discovering that the simplest stone work can lend structure, meaning, and a living complement to the seasonal and perennial plantings of an outdoor space. I first discovered my passion for stone work while helping a friend build a stone bread oven near Hardwick.

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  • Counting Their Chickens

    Counting Their Chickens

    Yes, there is a knoll—and it’s misty.

    At least it was on the day this past October when I visited Misty Knoll Farms, Vermont’s largest chicken producer. Standing on the small rise at the eastern edge of the farm in New Haven, facing a swath of Addison County dairy land below and the spine of the Green Mountains beyond, I spotted a light fog in the valley that looked misty enough.

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  • A Food and Farming Legacy

    A Food and Farming Legacy

    The spine of Vermont is made up of green, craggy mountainsides whose tops disappear into the clouds, and whose valleys wake up to a cloak of low mist that dissipates with the morning sun. Most accounts of the musical von Trapp family’s arrival in Vermont mention how they were instantly attracted to these views, which reminded them of their Austrian home. A lesser-known tale, however, is that they also fell in love with the land itself: generations of von Trapps, including the youngest generation today, have been working to feed and nourish themselves and their neighbors ever since the family put down roots here.

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  • Why I Hunt

    Why I Hunt

    It’s only been in recent years that I’ve come to realize I was pretty much raised as a localvore long before anyone had ever heard of the word. And it wasn’t due to any sort of middle-class shift in culinary consciousness. This was the early 1960s, and we were a large working-class family with a very rural home on three open acres in Westminster. We planted large vegetable gardens, had a big potato patch, and raised chickens, ducks, and on occasion, grass-fed beef. We also hunted, and venison was a year-round staple. More on that a little later, but all of this was really just a reflection of how my parents’ families had dealt with the Great Depression.

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  • Taking it Slow in Italy

    Taking it Slow in Italy

    Getting together, the listening to and exchanging of ideas— that is the miracle of Terra Madre.”

    With this, Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini welcomed us to the 2010 Terra Madre conference and set the tone for our four days in Turin, Italy. He addressed an audience of 5,000 representatives from 161 countries—small-scale farmers, producers, educators, and observers—who had traveled to Italy to meet with their peers and discuss global issues of food, culture, and justice. We came to take part in the conversation, too, along with two dozen other Vermonters. The experience renewed our appreciation for the value of gathering around a table to break bread and to exchange ideas.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—The Versatile Quince

    Farmers' Kitchen—The Versatile Quince

    When asked “Why quince?” Zeke Goodband, the orchard manager at Scott Farm in Dummerston, will answer, “Because they are a wonderful fruit.” So wonderful that he sips on quince nectar during the farm’s annual Heirloom Apple Day, when he leads three apple tastings and speaks at length about the many heritage apple varieties growing at Scott Farm.

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  • Last Morsel Baking Bread in the Firebox

    Last Morsel Baking Bread in the Firebox

    My 85-year-old friend, Gladys Thomas, used a wood cook stove all her life. After her children left the farm in Jericho and her husband died, she did her best to keep the place going by herself. As she grew older, members of her church tried to help.

    “Now you just let that wood pile be, Gladys,” a church member told her on the phone one day, “and we’ll have a bunch of men come and split it for you.”

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Taking it Slow in Italy

Two young Vermont food producers break bread at the Slow Food International conference

Slow Food gathering in Turin, Italy
Slow Food gathering in Turin, Italy

Written By

Marisa Mauro
Jen Rose Smith

Written on

December 01 , 2010

Getting together, the listening to and exchanging of ideas— that is the miracle of Terra Madre.”

With this, Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini welcomed us to the 2010 Terra Madre conference and set the tone for our four days in Turin, Italy. He addressed an audience of 5,000 representatives from 161 countries—small-scale farmers, producers, educators, and observers—who had traveled to Italy to meet with their peers and discuss global issues of food, culture, and justice. We came to take part in the conversation, too, along with two dozen other Vermonters. The experience renewed our appreciation for the value of gathering around a table to break bread and to exchange ideas.

Slow Food International is an organization that was formed in 1986 in response to the expansion of McDonald’s within Italy. Since then, chapters have formed in 132 countries. They offer an alternative to our increasingly hurried lifestyles and industrial food culture by celebrating thoughtful pleasure and community, and food that is good, clean, and fair. Lovers of Slow Food from around the world first met in Turin in 2004, and subsequently the four-day Terra Madre conference (the name means “mother earth”) has taken place biannually. It is necessary to apply to be delegates to the conference, and we were fortunate to be accepted this year. We were joined by Vermonters from a variety of farms, restaurants, and institutions, including Green Mountain College, the New England Culinary Institute, and the Intervale in Burlington.

As a cheese maker and a baker, we are both artisans and business owners. We work to balance these two roles while sharing our passion for food with our fellow Vermont communities. While at Terra Madre, we attended workshops and forums where we listened to speakers from around the world via interpreters who translated through wireless headsets. At the end of these long days, we returned to our hotel and seated ourselves gratefully at long tables lined with bottles of wine. It was here that we discussed the outcomes of the workshops with other conference participants, and how those outcomes were related to our own lives. Over plates of pasta, Piedmont beef, Sicilian cannoli, and glasses of artisanal grappa, we told stories about our homes and recounted highlights of the days’ events.

Despite the unfamiliar flavors and faces, those meals were immediately reminiscent of how Vermonters gather around the table to share the bounty of their labors and the fruits of their own farms and kitchens. The dinners we shared in Turin were very much like the hunters’ breakfasts, potluck weddings, harvest festivals, pie fundraisers, and farmers’ markets that have brought us together in Vermont for generations to celebrate and share food. Participating in these meals, we felt proud of Vermont’s progressive and innovative nature. Looking around the table and hearing stories from other countries reaffirmed our belief that, compared to other places, Vermont is already a strong provider of good, clean, and fair food.

In the midst of the busy conference, taking the time to eat with others engendered a spirit of openness and dialogue. Our neighbors around the table shared many of the same concerns that people in our Vermont communities have. Foremost was the desire to provide quality food to all people, since every country has residents who struggle with food insecurity. Another common need was to protect the biodiversity of our food systems and the cultural diversity of our societies.

Establishing this common ground was valuable, but we also saw that the Terra Madre network could find strength in its differences. Even in the United States, the concerns of delegates varied widely. An ethno-botanist from the Lakota tribe described her efforts to bring traditions of hunting and foraging back to her people in the Dakotas. A Slow Food member from Juneau, Alaska, spoke of the difficulty in finding any open space for growing food in her densely populated town. A fourth-generation farmer from Georgia recalled his neighbors’ skeptical reactions to his shift to organic practices and their ongoing surprise at his success. As we look for solutions to issues of sustainability and community, having a culturally diverse dialogue means that there are more worldviews and traditions from which to derive solutions from. For example, “hollow” farmers in the American South and Native American hunter-foragers have found very different ways to nourish their people in a sustainable way, yet each system holds wisdom relevant to the future of food.

These distinct experiences reminded us of how insular our own Vermont communities can be and inspired us to find ways to open our circles to unfamiliar voices. Diversity in Vermont may be less noticeable than at Terra Madre, but there is a wide spectrum of cultures, needs, and lifestyles that provide depth and resilience in every part of our state. At home, as at Terra Madre, eating together gives us opportunities to acknowledge our similarities but also to appreciate the insights that emerge from our differences. We have returned to Vermont with this in mind and have come home ready to celebrate with the intention of making more room around our tables.

Learn more about Slow Food Vermont at vermontslowfood.org.

Photo by Jen Smith

About the Author

Marisa Mauro

Marisa Mauro

Marisa Mauro is an artisanal cheese maker and the owner of Ploughgate Creamery in Albany.

Jennifer Rose Smith

Jen Rose Smith

Jen Rose Smith writes about food, drink, and travel, and is the author of the upcoming Moon Handbook to Vermont. She is a frequent contributor to Localvore Today and Best of Burlington, and likes her ice cider with a hunk of Shelburne Farms’ cloth-bound cheddar.

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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