Seeds and tatties – Ark of Taste visit to SASA

Seeds and tatties – an Ark of Taste visit to SASA

Guest post from Andrew Marsden, SF Edinburgh Secretary

On the evening of Wednesday 29th June a small group of Slow Food members visited SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), the Scottish Government’s main agricultural laboratory, which provides a range of services to support Scotland’s agricultural industry and heritage. 

Of particular interest to Slow Food Edinburgh and our Ark of Taste campaign were the seed banks where many historic seed varieties are stored. 

The seed bank role is shared with collaborative laboratories across the UK with Scotland concentrating on potatoes and dried seeds such as pulses and legumes. The latter can be stored almost indefinitely in protected humidity-free chilled rooms (>-20 degrees) whereas the potatoes can only be stored for a year when they have to be replaced from growing crops. 

SASA grows over 1000 varieties of potatoes in its’ surrounding farms – about a third of these varieties are currently used commercially, the remainder are stored to preserve the genotype and support scientific research. 

Some of the potato varieties have fascinating heritage stories attached and would be good candidates for boarding the Ark of Taste. 

We next visited the potato fields to get an insight into both the preservation of the varietals and SASA’s role in supporting training for agriculture inspectors in food purity. We experienced first hand the effect of inappropriate use of chemical herbicides coincidentally infringing on and affecting successive years of the potato crop.

The visit was most informative and helped to forge strong links between Slow Food’s environmental activities and the agriculture scientific community – we are indebted to Dr John Kerr and his staff for giving up their evening and sharing their expertise to make this visit possible. 

Thanks also to all those who attended, took wonderful photographs and shared their experiences on Twitter.

We're already in the planning for our next dedicated Art of Taste visit to watch this space!

Slow Food Scotland - Our Thoughts After Brexit

Reposted from Slow Food Scotland Website -  

Dear Slow Food Members, Supporters and Friends,

Like many others, you will no doubt be reeling from last Friday’s news.

We have clearly entered a period of great uncertainty and turmoil, and feel somewhat helpless in the face of events that seem to change from hour to hour.

But we think there is a response to this situation that chimes with our Slow Food principles.

It became clear when chatting to some of the small farmers at the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market and hearing their reactions to Brexit and its implications for their farms and families.

Clearly, their lives and livelihoods have been hit with unprecedented uncertainty. Many rely on EU support to produce food, care for the land and employ people, and the prices they get for their products are often at the mercy of market forces.
But they are the ones who are defending biodiversity, producing the ‘good, clean and fair’ food we value, keeping rural communities alive and traditions relevant.
Without them, our landscape and food culture would be devastated.

In one example, a farm employs 16 people because of choosing a more sustainable approach, whilst other farms in the area average 3 employees.

They need our solidarity now more than ever.
So, let’s support their products however we can. But more than that, let’s talk to them, hear their stories and their challenges, let them know that we are on their side as they face the months and years ahead.

Nor must we forget our immigrant communities, also potentially having to cope with a world that seems less tolerant of diversity, more inclined to point out what divides us than our common humanity.

As Carlo Petrini pointed out at the recent University Of Gastronomic Sciences graduation, we cannot call ourselves true gastronomers without the humility and compassion to listen to those less fortunate than ourselves and to defend their interests.

Let’s do it individually, as convivia, as national bodies, on social media, through all our communication channels, at markets, anywhere we can.

Slow Food is here to defend biodiversity, the diversity of the people who are its guardians and everyone’s right to food that’s truly good, clean and fair.

Here in Scotland, we have always been proud to participate in Slow Food’s global thinking and events that place diversity at its very core.

Our involvement has nurtured important and inspiring pan-European bonds and relationships, often thanks to the free movement of people, produce and ideas between countries, communities and fellow travellers. It has encouraged, in particular, the youth of Europe and the wider world to meet, share and participate in defining the future of food. It has also inspired and motivated many of the small producers who face such uncertainty today.

Certainly, the challenges thrown up by Brexit will motivate Slow Food in Scotland to celebrate these opportunities, protect them and work to ensure they are not diminished or restricted.

John Cooke, on behalf of Slow Food Scotland