By Rachael Cumbo
The Russian River chapter of the nonprofit organization Slow Food and Sonoma Direct, a local, sustainable-farming and meat-production company, will host the "Slow Big Night" at Bovolo in Healdsburg. The event honors Petaluma mixed-media artist Douglas Gayeton and celebrates the September release of his new book, Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town. The event is also designed to raise awareness about the Heritage Turkey Project in Sonoma County.
Established in 2001, the Heritage Turkey Project came into existence because Slow Food USA leaders wanted to encourage local farmers to bring back heritage turkeys to the market, as most of the major breeds were nearing extinction. In conjunction with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Slow Food has worked to reintroduce these breeds into local food markets. The Russian River chapter works with local 4-H and Future Farmers of America groups in order to breed, raise and farm heritage turkeys in a sustainable way. "It's a sick and sad situation," says Randi Seidner, a Slow Food Russian River member and early leader of the project. "[Factory farm turkeys] can't walk or produce on their own; they have to be inseminated. They have tried to perfect them for consumption with larger breasts."
By creating an alliance with 4-H and FFA, the Heritage Turkey Project aims to educate not only the local community, but also the children who take part in these programs, the farmers of the future. When the local program began years ago, it produced 75 healthy birds. The program currently yields about 200 birds each year.
"We are offering a bird that not only has great flavor, but we are also supporting the 4-H kids in their projects and helping them understand the importance of having these breeds in our community," Seidner says. "It is a service to our community to have these heritage breeds as an alternative."
The Heritage Turkey Project is the only collaborative project between Slow Foods and 4-H in the country to date. The organization's goal is to eventually "find somebody along the way who could say, 'Wow, this is pretty cool, I can make a living in this,'" explains Slow Foods Russian River member and duck rancher Jim Reichardt. "There is a push to find where our food comes from, getting to know the farmers, etcetera," he adds. "It all comes back to getting kids involved and getting someone excited about it, enough to take it on on their own."
On the menu: winter chicory salad, black pig salumi, vin santo braised duck legs, and chestnut crepes, with bottomless glasses of Cin-Cin wines. Proceeds from Gayeton's book will be donated to the Heritage Turkey Project at this event, and all other slow restaurants across the nation on this evening. Nov. 18 at 6:30pm. Bovolo Restaurant, 106 Matheson St., Healdsburg. $69 per person; reservation required. 707.431.2962. You can also visit www.slowfoodrr.org to purchase a Thanksgiving heritage turkey in advance.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.