Slow Food Boulder — a nonprofit focused on promoting fresh, locally-sourced food — is changing its focus to a more countywide approach.
The Slow Food movement began in Italy in 1986 as a protest to a McDonald's opening there. The organization was officially founded in 1989. The tenets of the Slow Food movement include sourcing food that is healthy for people, good for the environment and beneficial to the people who farm or harvest it.
Slow Food Boulder County is focusing on supporting local farms — especially around the Longmont area — and introducing schoolchildren to new vegetables and fruits.
Jodie Lindsay Popma, a member of Slow Food Boulder County and a nutritionist by trade, said that the organization has been putting on tasting days at schools to show kids where their food comes from and having them taste produce in different ways.
"We did one at Thunder Valley (K-8 in Frederick) and we brought in carrots from Brighton to help kids expand their tastes," she said. "We open a salad bar for free and we teach the younger ones how to use a salad bar, because some of them are nervous. They get a sampling of a fresh carrot and a prepared carrot and they get a sticker if they try them."
Popma said that the organization has expanded from four such events per year at Flagstaff Academy in 2015 to 13 events in six different schools around the county this academic year.
For kids, the lessons have an element of history to them as well since Boulder County — especially Longmont — was a community centered around agriculture.
"We've moved pretty far away from that, but I want kids to know that that was our foundation," Popma said.
In addition to the tasting days, some schools are also participating in the Plant A Seed For Change program, in which schools plant the three sisters used by Native Americans, who planted beans, squash and corn together. The tall corn stalks offer the climbing bean vines the necessary support, while the beans pull nitrogen into the soil for the squash and corn. The large leaves of the squash protect the trio from too much sun and choke out weeds. Additionally, the prickly squash leaves keep raccoons away, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac.
Schools participating in the program get a packet with seeds and information about the three sisters so that students can learn the history behind the practice.
Additionally, Slow Food Boulder County is encouraging people to get heritage seeds from organizations such as Seed Savers — which preserves historical heirloom seeds in order to encourage biodiversity — or Ark of Taste, which champions foods facing extinction.
Popma pulled out packets of seeds sponsored by Seed Savers to demonstrate.
"These are heritage seeds that have grown out of fashion. Like this one is from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and this is a type of beets from Baltimore in 1825. This is a St. Molly's tomato, which looks kind of like a tomato-tomatillo hybrid," she said.
Slow Food Boulder County is encouraging local farmers and gardeners to grow heritage seeds as a way to keep corporations out of gardening and to keep certain varieties of fruits and vegetables in production.
Popma said that one of the tenets of the Slow Food movement is to get people to grow their own food or buy from local farmers in order to reduce carbon emissions from transporting food. Additionally, Slow Food Boulder County touts vegetables that aren't treated with pesticides, called neonicotinoids, which some research suggests has a harmful effect on pollinators.
"I encourage everyone to grow a garden — especially parents with young kids and parents of picky eaters. (Children) will learn about growing and then they will eat tomatoes directly off the plant, and that helps with the concept of picky eating," she said.
"I recommend finding seeds that are a more heritage breed ... because you want to find seeds that are not treated with neonicotinoids or treated with (insecticides), which prevents bees from landing and populating on them properly. If you plant a garden, it seems so small, but it's a monumental change we're trying to create."