At the joint AFHVS and ASFS conference at State College Pennsylvania, we started with a day of excursions. I joined the ‘local food and flavors’ tour where we visited Tim Browser’s Elk Creek Café and Aleworks and tasted his home-brewed beer and locally sourced food. The local food tasted very good and was as Tim explained, centered around Nouveau Dutchie Cuisine. With humous and black beans as part of the menu, I could not really make a Dutch connection there, but it certainly was delicious.
The next stop was the Tait Farm Foods in the Happy Valley where the owner Kim Tait explained the manifold activities of the farm. They work as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and have around 120 families as members. Members come to the farm on a weekly (summer) or bi-weekly (winter) schedule to pick up their seasonal share.
There are different types of shares, but a full year share for a family costs 1100 dollars. It is also possible to have a workshare, where members can work on the farm for a share of the produce to reduce costs. They have to commit 5 hours a week.
After this we visited a local vineyard the Mount Nittany Vindeyard and Winery in the Brush Valley and tasted some great wines as well as cheeses from a neighboring dairy farm.
What was striking to me especially in the visit of the CSA farm is the strong emphasis you can find here on ‘the community’. As the leaflet of the Tait Farm explains:
“In its most simplified form, the farm grows food for the community and the community supports the farm”.
Yesterday, at the first day of presentations, a session on ‘terroir’ explained differences between the US and Europe regarding their sense of territoriality. Whereas the notion of ‘terroir’ has a strong connection with proximity and social ties in the US, in Europe it has more relation with the specificity of food, the cultural heritage and the cultural history this food expresses. So whereas a ‘local’ sausage from a French region can be found in extralocal market places in Europe, the US understanding of local food as direct marketing, locally embedded in social ties, confines the produce much more to a specific place. Hence, you won’t find many geographical indications protecting specific products here (also because of other reasons).