“How about a round of applause for beets?!” Kim Bayer asked the group gathered for dinner on Thursday night.
When a room of people cheers for root vegetables – and later, for pie – there’s probably a theme at hand. On Thursday, the theme was locally grown food, fêted at a potluck hosted by Slow Food Huron Valley. The 30 or so people at Hathaway’s Hideaway on South Ashley heard an update on the nonprofit’s activities over the past year, and got a preview of what’s to come in 2010.
There was also plenty to eat and drink: Derby sandwiches (with pickles, bacon and mayo), parmigiano pumpkin soup with prosciutto, spinach walnut pesto, vegan “slop,” sweet potato pie – most of these and other dishes made from locally grown or produced food.
The connection between the meal and the mission of Slow Food Huron Valley was clear, as Bayer – a member of the group’s leadership team – told the diners: “Good food needs to be a basic human right.”
During the dinner, leaders of Slow Food Huron Valley (SFHV) promoted several upcoming events, including a follow-up to last year’s Local Food Summit. [See Chronicle coverage: "Local Food for Thought"] The January 2009 event, held at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, drew about 120 people, including farmers, restaurateurs, nonprofit leaders, educators and other local food activists. The goal was to strategize about how to strengthen this area’s food network.
The 2010 summit is tentatively slated for March 2, said Shannon Brines, a member of the SFHV leadership, and owner of Brines Farm in Dexter. This year, they’re hoping to hold the event on the University of Michigan central campus, at a venue that can accommodate a larger crowd. No specific site has yet been confirmed. Registration will begin later this month on the SFHV website, Brines said.
Brines noted that the local food summit will follow two related events next month in Dearborn and Lansing. On Feb. 19, an urban farming conference will be held on the UM-Dearborn campus, with Robert Kenner – maker of the documentary film Food Inc. – as keynote speaker. And on Feb. 25, the Michigan Good Food Summit will be held in Lansing, with the aim of developing a statewide sustainable food system.
Among the other local-food events that were highlighted at Thursday’s gathering:
- This year’s Pie Lovers Unite! is set for Saturday, July 24 at the Ladies’ Literary Club in Ypsilanti. Last year’s PLU featured pie prizes (including for the category of “most unusual” pie), pie haikus, pie charts and more. Admission is a pie.
- The 2010 HomeGrown Festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 11. The 2009 event was a “jaw-dropping success,” Bayer reported – several thousand people attended, coming to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market area for locally grown food, chef’s demonstrations, live music and kids activities.
- Another Local Harvest Cook-Off is being planned for Sunday, Nov. 7. Like last year, it will be a potluck featuring dishes made from local ingredients and judged by local chefs. The event is organized by Tantre Farm and Old Pine Farm, which operate two local community-supported agriculture programs, known as CSAs. The judges for the 2009 event were Alex Young of Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Natalie Marble of Ann Arbor Cooks, and Corbett Day of the Lenawee Intermediate School District.
- A fundraiser to send local representatives to the 2010 Terre Madre conference in Torino, Italy will be sometime in mid-June, at a yet-to-be-determined location. Held every two years, Terre Madre is an international slow food network aimed at sharing best practices among farmers and other activists. “It’s basically the Olympics of slow food,” Brines said. In 2008, SFHV raised enough money to pay of the airfare of five local representatives: Brines; Eve Aronoff, owner of eve The Restaurant in Kerrytown; Molly Notarianni, Ann Arbor’s market manager; Zingerman’s Deli chef Rodger Bowser; and Aubrey Thomason, a cheesemaker with Zingerman’s Creamery.
Several ongoing events were also mentioned, including a monthly food-centric book club – the upcoming book to be discussed is “Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom” by Sidney Mintz.
Brines, who sells produce at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, reported that 19 vendors showed up last Saturday, despite the weather, and he urged people to drop by.
Deirdra Stockmann told the group that SFHV started to get political this year, participating in the national “Time for Lunch” campaign. It’s an effort to lobby Congress to revamp the National School Lunch program, putting more of a focus on healthy, locally produced food.
Other initiatives highlighted during Thursday’s dinner include a new effort to involve teens in the local food movement, a call for people who might be interested in food entrepreneurship to get together and brainstorm business ideas, and a reminder to make reservations for the upcoming Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, which runs from Jan. 17-22. Also, volunteers are needed to help plan the 2010 HollerFest, held each year by the King family of Frog Holler Farm, long-time vendors at the local farmers market. Ken King died last year – the family was given SFHV’s first Local Food Action Hero award in September.
Sign-up sheets for people interested in volunteering or participating in these events were available at Thursday’s potluck. For more information, email SFHV at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, the nonprofit’s monthly leadership meetings are open to the public – the next one on Feb. 2 begins at 6:30 p.m. in the second floor of Zingerman’s Next Door, 422 Detroit St. in Ann Arbor.