Now for the best story of Summer 2010.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to Springfield, Missouri, the land of my high school and my Dad’s side of the family.  You may know it as the Queen City of the Ozarks.  Or the hometown of Brad Pitt.  Or perhaps the birthplace of the über-famous Bass Pro Shops.

Today the city has a new source of renown:  They just started a Slow Food chapter, called Slow Food Southwest Missouri.  I was thrilled to be a part of the chapter’s inaugural event on July 26th — and for reasons I did not anticipate.

As part of the trip, I wanted to learn about the local food scene in Springfield and connect with the people who are building it.  I sent an email to my friend and food activist, Melissa Millsap.  She’s the Wonder Woman behind Urban Roots Farm, as well as the edible garden program of the Springfield school system.  It also turns out that she’s on the council, if you will, of local superheroes in the movement for good, clean food.

For the event, it was decided that we’d host a farm-to-table dinner, along with a screening of Shelley Roger’s lively documentary, What’s Organic About Organic?.  Amanda Millsap Owen, owner of Home Grown Food, a sweet marketplace that sources all its products from nearby farms, offered the lot next to her store as the venue.  A local artist created a beautiful promotional poster and the ticket sales took off.  By the morning of the event, we had over 65 tickets sold.  We were thrilled.  (And little nervous — could we pull it off?)

On the day of the event, a team of guys put up a huge white tent.  They hung rows of lights and set up the audio visual system.  Another group set the tables.  It was hot and humid, but we were a steady machine.  A big thunderstorm rolled through around 5 o’clock, and we kept on.  The Do-It-Yourself talents of this crowd got it done.

People were due to arrive at 8 pm, and we were ready for them by 6:30 pm.  And then…

Continued below

Hours Into The Original Venue

The Lights Go Up!

We decided one side of the tent should be a little more taunt.  We pulled up one of the rope lines, adjusted it to a few feet away, and started to hammer in the new stake.

WE HIT A GAS LINE.

Suddenly the whole lot reeked of gas.  There was no avoiding it.  A call went out to City Utilities.  They came down and ordered us to leave the premises.  They said — under no uncertain terms — that we could not host our public event there.

I would have photos of this part, but at the time, it was too tense to whip out a camera. Homer says it best.

Amanda, and her husband Ryan, then made an amazing offer.  “We just moved into a house two blocks away, why don’t we hold it in our backyard?,” they suggested.  And with that, the crew picked up every table and chair and walked it all down the gravel alley way to their yard.  The guys set up the screen in its new place on the side of the garage.  We hung white lanterns on the clothes line to help people find their way.  What happened then was a beautiful dinner, followed by an inspiring film, all under the stars.

Thank you to everyone involved — it was an unforgettable night.  The only way I can describe it is to say, “it did my heart good.”  I could not wish for than this:  A breezy summer night, breaking bread with friends and family, and conversations fueled by the spirit to make our world better.  Thank you to everyone in the Slow Food SW Missouri chapter for making it possible.  Now to many more!

Up and Running at the New Venue!

The Crowd Gathers for the First Event of Slow Food SW Missouri

The Backyard is Set for Farm-to-Table Dinner

With a Toast to Our Local Farmers!

I LOVED This Menu -- Both Its Design & Content -- Thank you all!

Recently, before an audience of hundreds at the New York Botanical Garden, Josh Viertel of Slow Food USA, quoted a frightful statistic:  Currently in the African-American and Latino communities of the U.S., children age 9 and under have a 50% chance of developing diabetes.

Fifty percent.  One in two.  Heads or tails.

Diabetes and obesity are tightly linked and a lot has been said about the “cheap calorie.”  In the American food system, it’s less expensive to eat at McDonald’s than it is to go to the farmer’s market and make a stir-fry.  We also know that one’s diet is a main contributor to statistics like the 50/50 one quoted above.

This summer many Americans are talking about our health care system.  I believe if we want to improve health care, it’s important that we also change the way we produce and consume our food.

But before we explore the macro view of American health, I have a simple question:  WHY are processed foods bad for us?

In his book, Organic Inc., author Samuel Fromartz offers an explanation.  As I read and write more for Groundswell, I find my learning curve is a line straight up.  Can I admit to you that I’ve never known the role of the pancreas before?  Here’s the passage from Fromartz’s book:

Page 15:  “…A diet high in refined foods…[is]…the engine of a boom-bust cycle of satiation and hunger that leads to weight gain.  The body easily digests these foods, spiking blood sugar levels and pushing the pancreas into overdrive to produce insulin and channel the excess sugar to muscles, organs, or fat.  By working so hard, the insulin eventually depletes blood sugar, causing energy to flag and hunger to arise, leading to a new cycle of consumption and depletion.”

Ronald Eyes The Word - Macy's Parade Eve - Thanksgiving 2007

Ronald Eyes The Word - Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Eve