Tuesday, February 1, 2011

“Slow Foodie” learns new methods in Turin, Italy

News to Know
by Kesa M. Johnston

“Those who cook meals as a family and eat meals as a family are not only performing a great service to themselves, but to their fellow man in general,” Stan Edwards, owner of Mt. Gilead Farms, said.

It's a simple concept, but one that is often forgotten in this world of instant gratification and “want it now” mentality.

Edwards, raised on a family farm, knows the value of “living off the land” and hopes to encourage others to think of ways to do the same.

The farm has been in Edwards' family since 1919 when his great-grandfather purchased the land in Newell, Ala. and through the years the Edwards' clan has continued the family farming tradition with his grandfather, father, uncle and cousin Tim raising hogs and cows, growing vegetables and operating Edward's Brothers Farm Supply Store (now known as Burgess Feed and Seed.)
This is one of the buildings on Edwards farm.

Although Stan grew up on the farm, his first profession was as a surveyor traveling the world including Canada, Alaska, California, Costa Rica, Mexico and many other foreign locales. Stan was still surveying with his cousin Tim Shelton, who now owns Newell Farms, when he met Will and Laurie Moore.

Will and Laurie own Moore Farms, a local farm that brings together others in East Alabama and West Georgia who offer locally grown foods to those interested in good tasting “slow food” (as opposed to convenience driven fast food).

At the time Stan met the Moores, he had just finished reading the book “Five Acres and Independence” by Maurice Kains. The book had encouraged Stan to consider what he could do with his own five acres, especially since his surveying business had significantly decreased with the recession. Stan set out to change not only his own way of doing things, but also to encourage others to buy local and to consider the source of the food they eat.
The first crops that Stan raised and sold to Moore’s Farms included eight orders of radishes, turnips and three dozen eggs. Since then he has learned how to get the most out of his land and to survive “off the grid.”

Stan’s farm, Mt. Gilead Farms, was founded on the premise of versatility and stepping away from what Stan calls “the monoculture.”

Stan Edwards, far left, provides produce for Moore’s Farms and Friends to sell. He is pictured with some of the other growers including Will and Laurie Moore, far right.

Stan plants approximately six to eight “immediate” crops that take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to produce. These are the crops that Stan lives on, not only for a profit, but also for his own food. Some of Stan’s favorite “immediate” crops include the Scarlet Red Stemmed Turnip, the Hakurai Japanes Turnip, a filet bean and cherry tomatoes.

He also plants “staple” crops which take anywhere form 90-100 days to produce but that tend to yield larger profits so that he can buy equipment to sustain his farm. Such longer growing “staple” crops would include big onions, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and others.

Edwards’ personal philosophy is that he is helping to provide to the masses “the option of good, clean, fair priced food.” Stan takes pride and strongly believes in his commitment of giving back to the earth instead of only taking. Stan stresses that “Everybody eats; Not that everybody physically performs the act of eating only, but that everyone has the right to eat as the Earth has plenty of food for everyone.” Edwards, many of his other friends and slow “foodies” feel that when you involve a family or other individuals in the act of farming that the family unit and community as a whole becomes stronger.

“Instead of sitting down and watching television, a family who participates in farming their land and then participates in the processing of the food to put it on the dinner table becomes a stronger family,” Edwards said.

Many local businesses participate in purchasing from local farmers and recently the Farmhouse Restaurant in Roanoke along with Jon Boy’s and the Grapevine in Woodland have purchased turnips from Stan. The Moores also service many local individuals and are the founders of the new East Alabama / West Georgia Slow Food Group. (www.usaslowfood.org)

According to the website, “Slow Food USA seeks to create dramatic and lasting change in the food system. We reconnect Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We work to inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces so that they ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat.”

As part of Stan’s involvement with the local slow food group, Stan was asked to be a delegate to 2010’s Terra Madre (terramadre.info) event in Turin, Italy where more than 5,000 representatives from the worldwide Terra Madre network met.

Terra Madre, which means Mother Earth, brings together those players in the food chain who together support sustainable agriculture, fishing, and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity. The five-day meeting brought together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations.
Stan traveled to the event with the help of Moore’s Farms and its supporters who assisted Stan with airfare and accommodations.

There are approximately 1,100 plus chapters of low Food Groups throughout the world. Stan was very excited to share his experiences at Terra Madre and to meet other farmers he could identify with. Among Stan’s newfound friends are a 78-year-old Baptist preacher from California who single-handedly started eight community gardens and helped two gangs to disband to help run gardens in their community. Stan also befriended two brothers from Ghana and a young Hurricane Katrina victim displaced from her home, who at the age of 24 is now farming her own 6 acres in Savannah, Georgia.
Edwards shared that when he was younger, he felt that no one had it any better than the USA, but now that he has traveled around the world, in particular to Terra Madre, he has seen exactly what is left for Americans to do to protect their future and better their way of life.

“Italians appear to have a great appreciation for their fellow man and tend to enjoy life, the center of the land, healthy living, great food and great conversation,” he said. “In general, there is somewhat of a fellowship around the art of growing food, preparing food and eating food.”

Stan hopes to continue to share his newfound knowledge from Terra Madre as well as his hard earned personal knowledge of farming, living off the earth’s bounty and protecting our food sources while supporting local farmers.

Kesa M. Johnston is a local attorney who is an avid supporter of local farmers and the slow food movement. Her office website is www.thepowerofadvocacy.com. Please contact Kesa at kesa.johnston@yahoo.com or Will & Laurie Moore at farm@moorefarmsandfriends.com for more information on supporting local farmers or joining the local slow food organization.


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