#GrazingItalyUK – B&B breakfast and Slow Food at Casa Visconti

Nov. 19 Not all food is authentic Bolognese
The Casa Visconti B&B in the heart of Bologna is proving to be a find, in great part due to lively proprietress Claudia Visconti. Our room and sitting area are bright and art filled, the bathroom tidy and efficient, and the breakfast lovely and tasty. (What’s not to like about frothy espresso, sliced stawberries and Kiwi, and an assortment of pastries?)
The gem, however, is Ms. Visconti herself: energetic, enthusiastic about her city, and discerning about the origins and preperations of meals.
Not everything is “authentic,” she asserts, and she goes out of her way to point us to bistros and restaurants grounded in sourcing from local farms anchored in sustainable practice and in excellent preparation. I’m hoping I can connect with the Slow Food leaders she recommended.
Dessa and I shared our table with a couple from Luxemburg, owners of a store dedicated to artisinal foods from around the world. Real food devotees, they were in town for a Dillan concert. They shared their outlooks on the slow appreciation of links between agricultural practice, nutrition, taste and the cost of good food.
More on these conversations in a future posts.

#GrazingItalyUK – Bye, bye Cardiff. Hello, Bologna!

Today (Nov. 18), we leave the UK (so eager to return) and head to Italy. First stop, Bologna. Can’t wait to eat!!! Having a great time traveling with my daughter, Dessa.

Flying Cardiff to Bologna

Flying Cardiff to Bologna

#GrazingItalyUK – at Derbyshire grass-fed dairy. And rain. Of course.

November 14th.
In Wisconsin, it’s about the snow. In Derbyshire, rain’s the thing
Especially after last night’s misadventure (missed plane), today’s farm visit felt like a special gift.
My early morning flight out of Dublin brought me to the East Midlands, a place of fat white sheep on rolling hills, ancient stone walls, and lovely thick-walled houses hugging narrow, winding roads. Low, stone buildings, many of them hundreds of years old, are home to families, small shops or public services.
The day was grey and chill as I exited the terminal and made my way to a platform where frequently running buses provide convenient and very economical transportation to a wide network of towns and villages.
Robert Thornhill, grass-based dairy farmer, is a 2014 winner of a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, an award and grant given to farmers who want to conduct practical research about sustainable farming on their home turf and by visiting foreign farms. He met me at the Bakewell bus stop and drove us back to his 300-acre Standhill Farm. I am so grateful for the time he and his wife devoted to converation and comfort. He pulled on boots and walked out into the rain to show me his milking parlor and pastures. It was wet out there. Then he and his wife introduced me to their two young sons (just back from a rock climbing lessons) and we all sat down to lunch and steaming tea.
This post will be short, but I promise a longer report on this particular visit because Thornhill is nothing if not both committed to sustainable grazing and to thorough research about how to make this work on his farm. Again, more later.
Right now, I’ll say that Thornhill is a successful dairy farmer for what I observed to be key attributes: thorough, curious and experimental, steadfast and forward thinking.
Thanks, again, Robert.

#GrazingItalyUK – from Dublin to Derbyshire – finally!

Nov. 14. 8AM Flight to England I’ve checked-in and will soon board my flight to the Midlands Airport. Once back on the ground I’ll make my way to Bakewell, home of Robert Thornhill’s Standhill Farm, a sustainable grass-based dairy farm. Wish me luck! Sylvia … Continue reading

#GrazingItalyUK. Farming for different reasons. Two young men.

Nov. 13 It was a wonderful day and a half at Nicharee organic farm, just off the eastern coast of Ireland. Clouds rushed overhead and the wind whipped at ground level. The constant buffeting took me back to my childhood summers on the beaches of Staten Island. Bill Considine was … Continue reading

#GrazingItalyUK — Stranded in Dublin Airport.

…”the best laid plans…”
Nov. 13. Dublin Airport. 10:30PM
Today’s itinerary stated: 7:30PM fly from Dublin to Derbyshire.
We’ll here it is, 10:30PM and I’m sitting in – drum roll – a McDonald’s in Dublin Airport.

McDonald's busy while rest of food court sleeps

McDonald’s busy while rest of food court sleeps

And guess what? It’s crowded. It was fairly quiet 30 minutes ago, but I’m guessing hungry customers will come in waves as planes arrive and depart.
I gotta say, I appreciate the noise and activity. I’m a bit nervous about that time of night when all foot traffic stops. I think it’ll be a bit scary. We’ll see.
Well, I’ve chowed down on a chicken sandwich, fries and a diet soda. Yes, every food rule broken. In my own defense, McD’s was my only choice because the rest of the food court, a fairly large area, is shuttered for the night. Go figure.
Boy, I hadn’t had McD’s in a long time, so it was interesting to note everything tastes exactly as it did years ago. Consistency – yes. Nutrition? A different story.
Stomach full (if body not truly fed), I’m plugged into an outlet, charging up laptop and phone, and talking to you!
Things could be lots worse.
Oh, and how did I end up in this pickle? My bus from Wexford to Dublin took an hour longer than scheduled because of traffic tie-ups. Why all this congestion in small seaside towns? Who knows. I can attest to the fact that there were at least a couple of other bus riders who were very fearful of missing flights. I hope they didn’t.
Ah, my devices all charged up. I wonder if there’s a pub around here?

#GrazingItalyUK – Dublin, and then Wexford

Day 2 in Ireland – a second day of great travel, friendly people, very poor Internet, and non-existant international phone service (although it had been arranged much in advance)
I lost an hour’s worth of writing earlier today. Let’s try this again.

My daughter Maggie and I were wheels down in Ireland 8:30AM Nov. 11 and were treated to a ride to our hotel by two bright musicians, entrepreneurs in the local scene. The ride was unusually long (lots of haulted and rerouted traffic) but conversation was lively, so, no complaints.
We made it to the Grafton Hotel, situated in the heart of a busy downtown shopping district. We spent about an hour checking out small shops and a vertical shopping maul a stone’s throw from the hotel. Any American would be comfortable here.
The narrow, winding streets were crowded. The pace was fast and the look very sharp indeed. Dublin is a big city, make no mistake about it. Black is the color, and tight is the mode. Skinny pants, black hose and leggings paired with leather boots – ankle or knee high – or 3″ heels. Long scarves around necks of both men and women, and light-weight jackets the standard issue.
The population, at least in the city center, is surprisingly young, mid-20s to early-40s.
Our initial needs met, we both crashed for a couple of hours.
After a refreshing shower, we dressed for the evening out. It was a 10-minute walk on rough brick and cobblestones, and across a quaint foot bridge to the Winding Stair restaurant. Mag (who performs as Dessa with the rap crew Doomtree) used smartphone navigation to get us there. Much needed given the twists and turns on streets and alleys that change name every other block.The street fairly throbbed with the energy on the street. Lots of people out on a weekday evening. Felt a bit like NYC, although I felt a bit of New Orleans in the mix – a definite upbeat vibe.
True to it’s name, the Winding Stair features a circuitous staircase from the first to second landing. The spot was suggested by Bill and Sharon Gunter, the conveners of Slow Food Dublin. It proved a good choice – local foods put to their best advantage in creative dishes. I washed mine down with a local hard cider. Yum.
I’ll review lots more of the Slow Food Dublin in an upcoming Deep Roots Radio show. Throughout this trip, I’m hoping to gain some understanding of how different countries feel and demonstrate the good-food-good-agriculture connections.

On to Wexford
This morning, I got to the Dublin Connolly rail station with 30 minutes to spare. Lots of time to grab a yogurt and watch the crowd surging through the turnstyles. Connolly Station is an intersection for commuter trains, rail travelers, bikes and buses.
DublinWexfordI love UK rail service: comfortable sitting, picture window views, smooth and quiet travel, and Internet service. (I’m having an awful time with both Internet and International cellular service so far, so I think I’ll bite my tongue on this for the moment.)
The rails from Dublin to Wexford hug Ireland’s eastern shore and so I was treated to spectacular views of waves crashing just yards from the road bed. And when I looked to the west it was to farm fields gradually sloping up to hills dark against a grey sky.
It’s a wet landscape of puddles, creeks, shallow wetlands (I could almost see the trout), and ponds. Wooded hedgrows marked field boundaries, and houses nested into hillsides.
A good trip.
Now, I’m sitting in a small coffee house in windy, raining Wexford. The forecast is more wet with lots of wind. Raincoats are ubiquitous. I picked one a slicker in Dublin.
I expect a call any second. It’ll be from William Considine, organic farmer/owner of the Nicharee farm in Duncormick, about 20 miles from Wexford.
It’s at this farm that my farming research begins. How are organic/sustainable farms in Ireland the same or different from those I’ve come to know in the U.S.? How are they the same?The adventure continues.

Dublin – Here we come! #GrazingItalyUK

Follow our farm visits and chats with SlowFood #GrazingItalyUK Here it is, November 10, 2015 – travel day to Dublin, Ireland and the start of our UK-Italy grazefest. I’ll be visiting grass-based sustainable farmers in Ireland, England and Scotland, and chatting with SlowFood advocates in the UK and, hopefully, Italy … Continue reading

Agrilliance – global website for local food independence and data sharing

In this Deep Roots Radio interview, engineer and social-justice advocate Julien Roberge describes the 2015 launch and future direction of Agrilliance, a global web platform and project of Sustainability Innovation & Strategy, an organization he co-founded in Quebec, Canada.
According to its website, Agrilliance aims to transform “the landscape of food supply and demand by making it local – globally.
“We are developing a range of solutions with that intent and our first initiative comes in the form of a web platform that facilitates connections between consumers and food producers. By building trust between customers and suppliers, we aim to strengthen local quality food access.

Agrilliance website

Agrilliance website

“Much more than a farmer-to-consumer directory, Roberge says the aim is to develop a rich resource for access to increased biodiversity in crops and livestock, climate data and producer networking. The focus is on good healthful foods produced locally: revived food independence, food security.
I hope you enjoy this interview.
This and other Deep Roots Radio podcasts can be found on my website and on iTunes.