Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Slow Food' Movement Picks Up Speed Locally

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Slow Food' Movement Picks Up Speed Locally

Article excerpt


FERNANDINABEACH - It's a Saturday evening and 29 South restaurant in downtown Fernandina Beach is packed. The kitchen is fired up.

Orders roll in and plates of locally grown, organic food roll out. Scott Schwartz, executive chef and owner, sprints from garden to grill, ensuring his farm-to-table eatery runs like a well-oiled machine. The garden isn't an ordinary one. Nestled behind the restored Victorian-era structure that houses his restaurant are 14 plant beds where he grows organic fruits and vegetables, ranging from Scuppernong grapes and Meyer lemons to squash and beets.

Schwartz is a member of Slow Food USA, a contingent of the slow food movement founded in Italy in 1989 to protest fast food chains and champion traditional, artisanal food preparation.

"When a customer requests a dish that includes shaved fennel," Schwartz said, "we run outside to get fennel from the garden. It is picked to order."

Schwartz is one of a growing number of Nassau County locavores - a term the New Oxford American Dictionary named its word of the year in 2007 - who grow and cook fresh, all-natural, locally produced ingredients that are in season; and buy eggs, meat and poultry from local producers whose practices are organic, humane and environmentally sound.

"Yes, it is faster and easier to import vegetables from Argentina," Schwartz said. "In a modern age when we can get food from anywhere in the world, some chefs don't care if it is natural or in season. I don't want a fish that is five times the size of a normal fish because it was genetically modified and orange because it was fed orange coloring."

Steve Gaul, agriculture agent for the Nassau County Extension Office, said interest in slow food is rising in Nassau County.

"We are definitely getting more calls ... from people wanting to buy from local farmers and learn how they can grow their own gardens," Gaul said.

Gaul said community gardens and community service agriculture farms, where consumers buy shares in a farm and typically receive one box of seasonal vegetables per week, are also gaining popularity.

Ava Ferguson, who co-owns a CSA farm called Cabbage Creek Farms in Kings Ferry, sells her goods at the Fernandina Farmers Market. …

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