Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fromage de bredbis fermier

At the age of 35, Maxium Boucaud decided to change his profession in the field of dentistry to sheep farming. Later, he discovered that his grandfather was a brebis fermier, a sheep breeder.
Home for his 42 sheep, Le Tuc, which means the top in the local dialect, is situated 70 kilometers north of Toulouse in Vazerac. I met Maxium at the farmers' market in Toulouse and he brought me to his farm for the weekend to observe his operation. He produces two types of sheep cheese, a tome de brebis and lactiquer, and at times, ricotta and yogurt. The tome de brebis is a 3 month aged cheese, whereas the lactiquer is ready in one week. At this time, his sheep are milked morning and evening and yield about 40 liters of milk. Processed daily at varying temperatures and humidity, Maxium has an adroit feel for when the cheese is ready to move to the next process and has a special eye for the right amount of salt. Maxium's friend Jerome impressed me how quickly he worked the 42 sheep through the milking process. Milking begins in mid-February and will go into September. Maxium allows his sheep to mature to two years of age before milking, where commercial breeders begin at less than a year old. Not only is Maxium's cheese heavenly but so is his cooking (picture). He prepared a locally grown chicken, with handmade pasta from the market. Much of his produce, breads, meats, and pasta comes from trading with other vendors at the organic market in Toulouse.
I was lucky to arrive on the weekend that the neighboring farmers had a festival celebrating the summer solstice. Under a full moon, a traditional fire was lit and local foods, wines, and music was served to all as the beautiful spirit of community flooded the vast countryside.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Place de Capitole Organic Food Market

Toulouse offers an organic farmers' market every Saturday and Tuesday morning at Place de Capitole. The 25 plus organically certified vendors offers seasonal fruits and vegetables, herbs, cheeses, eggs, meats, eggs, honey, bread, handmade pastas, plants, and condiments, such as the tasty sea salt harvest in Guerande. My next blog spot will be about a sheep breeder and cheese maker I met at this market, Maxium Boucaud, (pictured with cheese) of Le Tuc Farm who invited me to his farm.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

AMAP Les Pavillons - French style CSA

Welcome to AMAP Les Pavillons Friday evening food distribution in Toulouse! For what I could interpret, this mimics our Community Supported Agriculture system. AMAP Les Pavillons has 25 member who pay 20 euro per week for a basket of organic food. This week had fresh goat cheese, bread (baked on-site), peas, squash, lettuce, potatoes, beets, and raspberries. Their farmer grows on 5 hectares of land, and distributes about 150 food baskets weekly to several locations. This three-year old membership conducted a meeting prior to the food distribution to increase membership to help support their farmer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Slow Food France

Many thanks to the staff at Slow Food France! Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and promotes farming of plant, seeds and livestock characteristics of the local ecosystem. Slow Food has expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 132 countries. Check out their website at: www.slowfood.com

Pictured: Lucia Lora Aprile (in red shirt), Latger Anne (dark blue), Elisa Villella (green), and Lucia Penazzi (light blue)

Lucia Lora connected me with breeders of Pyrenees goats, noir de Bigorre pigs, and Mirandais beef. These rare specialized breeds are located in the Midi-Pyrenees region. My bike is headed in that direction! I am looking forward in sampling their products and will need the extra protein from pedaling uphill!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Interview with Sarah Pecas, Greenpeace France

Greenpeace France June 15, 2010

Greenpeace France provides five policy cornerstones for fundamental changes in farming and food systems in order to feed the world sustainably. They are: 1. Prioritizing the resource needs and knowledge of the world’s small-scale ecological farmers. 2. Supporting ecological farming systems with public research and investments monies. 3. Supporting the multiple ecological functions of agriculture through policies that value and protect ecosystem services. 4. Addressing climate change through the agriculture sector with support for ecological farming. 5. Recognizing the inter-related principles of food sovereignty and the right to food.

Greenpeace Campaigner Sarah Pecas believes that the slogan, act locally and think globally is necessary but she states that to act globally and think locally is equally important. Her campaign efforts go towards combating genetically modified products (GMO’s) in France and beyond. France’s food products have less than 1% GMO’s which by law must be label in contrast to foods in USA, where up to 80% contain GMO’s and requires zero labeling. Sarah sees a correlation between countries which have GMO businesses and the lack of governmental oversight in GMO’s effect on human and environmental health, labeling, and comprehensive media reporting. France restricts the growing of GMO’s but allows imports of livestock feed that of which contains 80% GMOs. Sarah says there is yet to be unbiased data to reflect the effects of GMO’s on human and livestock health, but there is significant evidence indicating the negative impacts of GMO’s on local economies and the environment. GMO’s contribute to climate change, to excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, to the destruction of small farmers, to ‘super’ chemical resistant weeds and pests, to the contamination of conventional seed crops, and false promises of greater yields as a measure of decreasing world hunger. Data on GMO’s can be found on Greenpeace International website at: www.greenpeace.org/

I asked Sarah what we could do individually and in our communities to address food sovereignty.

Greenpeaace believes that there are 15 simple steps to take in food security: 1. Food first (agriculture should provide all residents of a region the necessary means to feed themselves a health diet). 2. Smallholders are the key to sustainable food security. 3. Women make the difference. (Women provide the larger part of agricultural labor, food processing, household health and nutrition services). 4. Replace monocultures with diversity. 5. Design agricultural policies the support and enhance the multiple ecological functions of agriculture. 6. Escape the pesticide treadmill! 7. Minimise fossil fuel dependency. 8. Grow and produce food as close to those who eat it as possible. 9. Reduce and optimize meat production and consumption. 10 Reduce food waste and other agricultural products at every step of production, processing, and distribution. 11. Rethink and improve how bioenergy is produced and utilized. 12. Plant more trees! 13. Adapt global trade for the major challenges ahead. 14. Share the knowledge needed for survival! 15. Continue global multi-stakeholder exchange of knowledge and views.

“Green washing” is what Sarah calls the false promises by agri-businesses about the benefits of their costly products. Their rhetoric is about making a profit and food dependency, not in addressing world hunger. By decentralizing our food system and bringing the farm closer to our table, we can address problems such as food safety and food security, as well as environmental issues as water crisis, forest destruction, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.

Thank you Sarah for the interview and thank you Greenpeace France for your stellar work and commitment to our Earth!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A few scenes from along the Loire River, Orleans to Tours

Hello Food and Farm Fans!!!
Please enjoy the following photos from my 5 day bike trek along the majestic Loire River, from Orleans to Tours. Although the weather was cool and wet, my encounter with the beautiful farms and food felt warming. Here are a few food delights I saw: asparagus, sunflowers, several varieties of wheat, oats, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes (in greenhouses), mustard (seeds for harvest), potatoes, fava beans, corn, cherries, strawberries, apricot, peach, goat cheese and of course, hectares and hectares of grapes. I stopped at a Crocs du Merle, a winery producing on 10 hectares in Muides-sur Loire and purchased an award winning Cheverny ... a lovely white that embellished the local goat cheese, bread and veggies I had for dinner (photo). Bryno Deschamps, (pictured with wife), has 1 hectare of greenhouse grown tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and eggplant. He sales from his garage along with other local products in Muides-sur Loire. One afternoon I harvested strawberries at Ferme du Petit Villesablon in Chailles. What a complement with the bottle of Esprit, a dry red I picked up at Domaine des Pirrettes. Check out the photo with goat cheeses so lovely presented in a shop in Amboise. The fromage fermier from Sainte Maure de Touraine was my selection and it was heavenly. Valerie Lenaire, (photo at table) and husband Rodger, who manage the municipal campground in Vouvray, take great care in preparing their food. She remarked that the French do not philosophize about food, they are simply passionate about it and make it priority. They buy at a local market and stick to seasonal and local when possible. Valerie says the produce imported does not have the taste that her husband-chef desires in his dishes. Gardens along the Loire River are common, and remind me sf the dachas in Russia.