At the recent World Dairy Expo, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asserted that small farms may not have much of a future as the industry moves toward a factory farming model.
It’s safe to say Clevelander Mary Holmes doesn’t agree.
The co-founder of the North Union Farmers Market, Holmes is also the board chair for Slow Food Cleveland, a local Slow Food USA chapter. Launched one year ago, Slow Food Cleveland is focused on supporting local food systems and introducing people to a new way of eating.
“[The movement] is about good, clean, fair food for all,” explains Holmes. “Our goal is to encourage people to taste new foods—not processed, but fresh—by going to farmers’ markets, signing up for CSA [community-supported agriculture] programs, and growing their own gardens.”
The recently formed chapter is a reimagined version of the now-defunct Slow Food Northern Ohio chapter, with a fresh slate of programming in tow. According to Holmes, the previous chapter focused largely on wine-centric dinners and potluck events, but it was challenging to delve more deeply into the Slow Food ethos.
“When we tried to introduce more of what the Slow Food movement is all about, we found the membership wasn’t terribly responsive. Dinner at the Flying Fig? Everyone was there. Farm tour? Not so much,” explains Holmes. “The chapter languished for about three years, so we wanted to re-create a new chapter and start fresh.”
With the chapter’s new “Slow Food Café” series, launching Tuesday, Oct. 29, Holmes is hoping to mesh the best of both worlds. Held inside the Learning Kitchen at Dave’s Supermarket in Midtown, the monthly events will consist of a slow-food focused educational presentation or demo over a shared meal. The first speaker will be chemist Jacqueline Acho discussing the topic of "Better Living, Not Through Chemistry, But Through Food."
According to Holmes, the idea was inspired by the Science Café series at Music Box Supper Club, and she hopes that the event's Midtown location will attract some new slow food enthusiasts.
“The idea is to introduce a new audience to the social and health benefits of slow food; many of our previous events were for people who didn’t need to hear that message so much,” says Holmes, who was also instrumental in starting a Slow Food chapter on the Case Western Reserve University campus.
Along with the Slow Food Café series, Holmes also plans to offer outings to “under-the-radar” local restaurants, cooking classes, and other programs. In late September, the chapter also hosted a “Blessed Are the Cheese Makers” tasting featuring four local women cheesemakers.
Holmes’ overall goal? To help Clevelanders reinvent their relationship with food and see it as more than just fuel to get through busy days.
“People aren’t taught from the time they’re young how to be healthy—we go through the drive-through like we go through the gas station,” says Holmes. “[Our goal is to show people] how to slow down and pay attention to where food comes from. Slow food is about food as sustenance, food as love.”