Bridging the divide

tomatoI was anticipating this report about Americans teaching Australian farmers about social media and how to “agvocate”.

And I much enjoyed this story, told by René Redzepi about the upcoming symposium with chefs and farmers.

“Consider the story of my friend, the farmer Søren Wiuff, who works closely with my restaurant, Noma. Not long ago he made his living working an almost entirely monoculture farm of carrots, keeping only a tiny plot of odd vegetables for himself and a few small restaurants – an eccentric assortment to experiment and play with, a way to keep himself connected to the soil and his craft.

Visiting Søren in the early days of Noma, seeing and tasting those peculiar and special ingredients, putting my own hands in the rich, fertile earth captivated my imagination. It was the start of a bond. My curiosity released his creativity and our relationship blossomed, yielding incredible returns for us both. Today, Søren operates a polyculture producing renowned asparagus, multiple varieties of cabbage, legumes and even better carrots. Some of the experiments with his crops are simply astonishing.

Last spring, he handed me a carrot that had been buried in the ground for two years, which he believed had a unique flavour. I didn’t like it. It was starchy, mealy and the texture just didn’t feel right. Nevertheless, out of respect for our friendship, I took it home and cooked it slowly in a pan, basting it with goat’s butter and turning it every few minutes while continuously adding spices and herbs. An hour later, almost like magic, the carrot had transformed. The skin had a leathery, crunchy texture and the flesh inside melted in my mouth with an intensity of flavour like I had never tasted before. The vintage carrot was born – a completely new ingredient that had sprouted out of our mutual inspiration.

Experiences like these are not only rewarding, but very important. Close interaction with farmers and scientists can expose the chef to new flavours that can be used to delight diners. But that’s just the start. Those same relationships, in this age of agrobusiness, can help a small farmer like Søren survive financially. They can also represent a small step against the decline in biodiversity – an astonishing 90% of crop varieties have been lost in the past century – that not only threatens our environment, but also explains why it’s so hard to find a tomato that tastes like the ones we remember from childhood. In its own small way, a relationship forged between a chef and a farmer, or a chef and a biologist, has the power to effect real change.”

And another article today about Lizette and Allen Snaith from Warialda who sell their beef at eight farmers markets each month.

“Lizette often uses social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with consumers and market regulars.

“It’s a tool for us to communicate with our customers or people interested in what we do.

“It’s simple.

“If you can type, you can do it.

“It’s not rocket science.

“The farmers’ markets give us face and personality.

“Twitter is just an extension of that.””

Farmers using social media to engage consumers. Chefs and farmers throwing a culinary Glastonbury. It’s time for authenticity and partnership; the time is now to bridge the divide.

CC photo by Ajith_chatie

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