Farm advocates bring Slow Food to Tahoe |

Farm advocates bring Slow Food to Tahoe

On Tuesday evening a sunburned tomato picker from Sacramento received a round of cheers from an enthusiastic group of socially conscious farming advocates, after she described the amount of organic produce she supplies to local restaurants.

Heidi Watanabe’s farm supplies Moody’s Bistro with 450 pounds of tomatoes per week, including the tomatoes sampled Tuesday by the group of 40 fresh-food supporters.

Moody’s owner Mark Estee said when Watanabe stops delivering tomatoes in early October, he hesitates to bring other tomatoes into his kitchen.

“Her product is just so good,” he said.

Estee introduced Watanabe of Organic Family Farms to help illustrate the benefits of knowing and supporting local farmers and to recruit new members to Slow Food USA.

The restaurateur partnered with other local businesses to invite the public to visit Moody’s and sample farm-grown produce paired with sustainably produced wine, and the listen to a presentation on the 21-year-old fresh-food movement that promotes direct contact between local farmers and citizens.

“We don’t have a plan’ we just want to get people together and educate,” Estee said as he motioned for people to try red and golden sliced tomatoes and wine.

“This here is for free, which never happens in a restaurant,” he added to polite laughter.

Moody’s Estee, along with Dragonfly restaurant’s Billy McCullough, organic produce supplier Lisa Boudreau, local farmer Gary Romano and Kaili Sanchez of Project MANA are founders of the Lake Tahoe chapter of Slow Food USA. The organizers are soliciting prospective members to pony up the $60 annual dues to join the fresh-food movement.

Slow Food is an international organization that already has 160 chapters, called convivia, in the United States. According to Slow Food’s Web site, Carlo Petrini of Italy founded the interest group after MacDonalds opened a fast-food outlet in his neighborhood. He began the “eco-gastronomic” organization in 1986 with 64 like-minded individuals, who wanted to provide an alternative to what they called the “industrial food system.”

The nonprofit Slow Food now has 83,000 members worldwide.

Rick Theis, leader of a Russian River chapter, said he was excited to participate in Tuesday evening’s membership drive, held in Moody’s outdoor patio.

“I’m excited about meeting people that support local food and farmers,” Theis said. “I grew up sitting at the dinner table every night, talking and sharing food, and now Slow Food is reminding me of the importance of this.”

Truckee resident Katie Clifford, the mother of two young children, sat nibbling on Sacramento-produced organic tomatoes as Theis spoke.

“I’m really interested in this movement,” she said. “I’ve found that some of the parents that I know are on a different level than me [when it comes to food]. I want to find out what’s out there so I can share with them.”

From San Francisco, Eating Well Magazine’s partnership agent Claudine Ryan said Slow Food is part of a greater movement of consumers who want to know that food is grown locally and seasonally, produced sustainably and, most importantly, accessible to the general public.

“I think that Truckee is amazing because they are on the forefront of this movement,” Ryan said. “There are two organic markets here and even the Safeways have a good selection.”

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