Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm says food is more than what you eat. Food carries with it an undeniable sense of place, and the French even have a word for it: it’s called terroir. Learn more about what makes food from different regions taste unique in this new video from filmmaker Douglas Gayeton of the Lexicon of Sustainability project.
Origins of Full Belly Farm: We started about 30 years ago, when a group of four people decided to go into business together as organic farmers at a time when there were very few organic farmers in the world really. Some of us had a lot of farm experience in our family background, others didn’t. But all of us were concerned about environmental issues, community issues and wanted to do something with our lives that would integrate our environmental values into our work. Farming organically seemed like the answer.
On Capay Valley, home of the farm: It’s a narrow valley with a creek running down the center and we were lucky enough to find some land right on that creek. There’s lots of wildlife here; it’s a beautiful natural environment. It has a really wonderful climate for growing vegetables year round. It’s also not a big enough valley that there are many really large farms. It’s a valley of small-scale family farmers and with a very human landscape that was very attractive as a place to live.
Transparency: We are a farm that works directly with consumers almost as a matter of principle. We go to farmers’ markets and talk to our eaters a lot. Each of the three farmers’ markets that we go to has one owner attending it almost year-round every single week. We also have a community-supported agriculture program. Through that program, we feel as if the families that get a box every week are very much a part of our farm. They build a relationship with our farm and we get pretty continuous feedback. We also have a weekly newsletter that all of those members and other people in the community get. Through that newsletter we can tell them what’s happening at the farm, what’s happening with their vegetables, what’s coming up and also what agricultural and food issues we think are important. Telling people what we do and why we’re doing things is a fundamental part of transparency. I think transparency is one of the principles of a community-based farm.
Complexity of food choices: As soon as people have tasted fruits and vegetables that are local and fresh, I think they understand fairly quickly the difference. But there are so many factors that go into people’s food choices that you’re asking to really change a very complex thing when you talk about changing people’s diet. I do think people understand more than we realize about it. It’s just been difficult for them to act on that understanding because of the cost of food, convenience factors, their lack of cooking skills perhaps, their lack of time to cook, many other factors like that.
Defining terroir: Terroir has come to represent those elements in a local area that are special and give richness to the seasonal cycle. It’s come to really mean the specialness of a unique place that’s reflected in the flavors and textures of the products that are grown there. If someone’s interested in healthy, tasty, rich food, I think they’ll be much more excited and they’ll have much more deeper understanding if they get acquainted with that local unique terroir.
All images, artwork and video by Douglas Gayeton