Terroir, the essence of a location, expressed through food and drink produced there, is the stuff of earth science: geography and micro-climates, mineral content and acidity of the land. However, terroir is something intangible as well. Terroir is also the stuff of people - shared history and storytelling, stewardship for traditions that are passed down and celebrated as uniquely their own.
Without the two - the tangible and the intangible - the fermented juice of grapes from Provence is simply great tasting wine. Combine the two and you have a Provincial rosé, rich with the floral notes of wild lavender, made from the harvested fruit of vines growing in the warm Mediterranean sun, just as it has been done for hundreds of years.
Although we don’t often give ourselves credit for it, the truth is that St. Louis has a thriving terroir: a tapestry of small farmers, artisans, chefs, vintners and brewers working to make our corner of Missouri a place where great things come from as opposed to a location where great things are delivered to. This spirit - ensconced in nature’s early summer regalia at Claverach Farm in Eureka - was on full display this year at the seventh annual Slow Food St. Louis Feast in the Field on Sun., June 3.
Organized by Kelly Childs and Bill Burge from Slow Food St. Louis and led by Local Harvest Café chef Clara Moore, the event featured an extended cocktail and hors d'oeuvres reception followed by a flight of six courses and desserts (see the full menu at left) prepared by chefs and cooks from some of the finest restaurants in St. Louis. The meal featured a bounty of locally sourced ingredients, harvested from the fields around Claverach and small local farms that call St. Louis home. Dishes ranged from the delicate (chilled ginger and tomato bisque) to the decadent (thick-cut pork belly, braised in red wine and paired with pickled vegetables). However, the evening’s menu transcended both the dishes and the talented hands that created them. The goal is not to show what a single skilled person can do with excellent ingredients but to see what it looks like when a community lends a hand to create with what they have, appreciating the things that they’ve raised and looking forward to what’s to come.
This idea - celebrating not only what we have but the future - is the real hallmark of Feast in the Field. The conviviality of a meal enjoyed in a picturesque setting is the obvious draw of the event, however, Feast in the Field is really about funding the Slow Food St. Louis Small Farm Biodiversity Micro Grant Program. To date, the program has distributed more than $30,000 to local farmers to assist with growing and raising items that are not widely produced in and around St. Louis. The project is a financial investment - ranging in size from $200 to $1,000 - in our local farms as well as in our own local food culture: our own terroir. The results of existing investments have already appeared on our plates at restaurants like Niche and Farmhaus as well as in the bins and baskets that line the aisles of our local farmers markets.
To participate in Feast in the Field is to put a down payment on the futures of our small farms and business owners, on our local economy, on being a bit more self sufficient, on a meal we’ve yet to share at the next Feast in the Field, or maybe, more importantly, around our own dining tables. To participate is to ensure that the terroir of St. Louis is more memorable, more sustainable and tastier than ever.
What Slow Food's Micro Grant Program Has Helped to Fund
Recent Slow Food St. Louis Small Farm Biodiversity Micro Grant Program grants cover a wide variety of unique projects right here in St. Louis, including funds to support:
- All One Hive to promote sustainable beekeeping practices. Rather than purchasing commercial queen bees, All One Hive looks to secure active swarms and obtain colonies by cooperating with like-minded beekeepers to establish honeybee sanctuaries. Using small tracts of land populated with native honeybee forage plants, All One Hive hopes to introduce local honey to farmers markets.
- YellowTree Farm to develop a semi-portable open-air processing facility. The St. Louis region has few poultry processing facilities, which often charge a premium for their services, making local poultry expensive for consumers. An independent mobile facility can be rented by other local poultry farmers, reducing the overall cost of sourcing poultry locally.
- Villarreal Family Farm to grow heirloom romaine lettuce - the goal of this project is to provide a year round local source of flavorful and colorful heirloom romaine lettuce to restaurants and for the Villarreal CSA.