Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Organics’

Notes from the Seed Underground

October 17, 2012

One of the overarching themes involved in trying to write an intelligent travel book for intelligent travelers is the new focus on food: Good food, of course, but more and more “good food” means locally/regionally sourced cuisine.

The food experience has become an ever more important component of tourism, and the Georgia/South Carolina Lowcountry (especially the Charleston area) is in many ways on the leading edge of this trend. The obvious irony is that this “new” trend is really a throwback to the most tried-and-tested, old-fashioned ways of growing and preparing food, yet more proof that there’s nothing new under the sun. In this case, literally under the sun…

In this week’s Connect Savannah, the newspaper that serves as my regular job, we have an excellent piece by our Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos on the “new” revolution in food, with a particular focus on seed/crop conservation. Jessica interviews the great Janisse Ray, one of the most beloved authors and activists in Georgia. Janisse’s work combines a profound love and respect for the indigenous ecosystems of Georgia’s wide coastal plain with a refreshingly non-wonky approach that is at once accessible and deeply affecting.

Here’s a pic of Janisse on her farm. (Of course there’s a cow in the photo so I couldn’t resist.) This is actually how she lives, she’s not just playing a character:

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Janisse’s travels and research involve not only the vast network of marshes on the Georgia coast — estuaries of mighty rivers such as the Altamaha — but on the legacy of the ancient longleaf pine forest ecosystem that once dominated the entire southeast.

In her new book The Seed Undergroundhere’s a nifty public radio piece on it — Janisse approaches seed conservation more from the family farm angle, the concept also has a huge proponent in Charleston uber-chef Sean Brock, who runs a couple of high-profile restaurants (McCrady’s, Husk) featured in my new edition of Moon Charleston & Savannah.

The key for farm-to-table to be more than a passing fad is of course the “table” part. There has to be an immediate payoff, and in this case the payoff is the simple fact that farm-fresh, locally-sourced food simply tastes better!

Georgia Organics 2011 in the books

March 24, 2011

Chef Matt Roher on the cover of Connect Savannah

Savannah hosted its first ever annual Georgia Organics conference a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard to overstate how important this is — the conference has been held in or around Atlanta & Athens forever (the 2012 edition will be in Columbus, signaling another good outreach effort).

Held at the Trade Center on Hutchinson Island on an absolutely perfect spring weekend, the Conference impressed me not only as a wonderful gathering place of like-minded people — a description of most conferences in most places — it was a gathering place for like-minded good people.

In a world where so many basic professions have become so compromised by mendacity and greed — banking, politics, clergy, media, law, medicine, etc. — I had an epiphany of sorts during the final event of the Conference, the so-called “Farmer’s Feast” banquet of organic food.

It occurred to me as I surveyed the crowd that there was quite possibly not a single truly negative thing said or done at this conference… quite an amazing feat when you think about it.

Organic/sustainable farming would seem, in my estimation, to be the last profession left to us that does pretty much nothing but good things.

It was great meeting some of the faces behind the food I purchase as a member of the Savannah Food Co-op, such as the folks with Southern Swiss Dairy in Waynesboro, and Savannah River Farms in Sylvania, who make those excellent all-natural sausages I love to get.

Here’s a shot at the Conference Expo of Carmen Vasquez of the Co-op, visited by Wanda Scott:

The nice lady with Dubberley’s Seafood in Vernonburg, who also sell to the Co-op, told me something I didn’t know: “organic” shrimp is allowed to contain preservatives, and sometimes you’re actually paying for added weight that is due to preservatives. She says Dubberley’s shrimp go organic one better, by literally adding nothing to the little bugs.

Deviled eggs at the Farmer's Feast

The Feast itself, also at the Trade Center, was quite a treat, as you can imagine. The starters in particular were amazing — who would have thought simple radishes with fresh ricotta could be so good? I was impressed not only by the culinary skill on display, but on the attitude of local chef Matt Roher, who runs Cha Bella and was also the organizing chef for the Farmer’s Feast.

Here’s my profile of Matt in advance of the Georgia Organics Conference. It was one of the most pleasurable interviews I’ve ever done, with someone who is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about what he does.

Chefs are a notoriously competitive lot, and it takes quite a mature, dedicated person to put aside his ego and invite so many other chefs to town, many of whom are probably better than him! Good job, Matt, and thanks for the tasty food…