Last weekend I dug into the Makah Ozette potatoes that I planted earlier this year. It was the first time I planted potatoes successfully (i.e. plants actually formed this time) so I was anxious to see the outcome of my experiment underground. My friend Gerry Warren (Slow Food USA’s NW Governer for Washington and Alaska AND my former Seattle chapter co-leader), gave out sample seeds to Slow Food Seattle board members to plant on our own this year. This potato variety has a specific Northwest history (it traveled direct from South America to Neah Bay instead of stopping in Europe), and it was literally saved from extinction because of efforts of people like Gerry, Andrew Stout of Full Circle Farm, the Makah tribe, Pure Potato, etc. Here is a snippet that I wrote a couple of years ago on the Slow Food Seattle website about the Makah Ozette potato.
Makah Ozette Potato
Despite a crop failure in Spring 2007, the Makah Ozette potato supply grew through continued development of a local seed source, with several small farms planting a limited supply, and Pure Potato beginning work to certify the Makah Ozette as virus free. Meanwhile, demand continued to grow through Slow Food Seattle’s continued regional publicity efforts, including it as a menu item at the American Heritage Picnic in Seattle (organized by Slow Food Seattle and the Seattle Chefs Collaborative chapter).
This unique potato became an official Slow Food presidia project in 2008. Because of all the presidium’s promotional efforts, the Makah Ozette potato seed is now in high demand, and the presidium remains focused on increasing seed production to bring more seed to market.
What is a Presidia?
The Presidia program is coordinated by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, which organizes and funds projects that defend our world’s heritage of agricultural biodiversity and gastronomic traditions.
Loosely translated into “garrison,” Slow Food Presidia (Presidium, singular) are local projects that work to improve the infrastructure of artisan food production. The goals of the Presidia are to guarantee a viable future for traditional foods by stabilizing production techniques, establishing stringent production standards, and promoting local consumption.
If unique, traditional and endangered food products can have an economic impact, they can be saved from extinction. This is the simple reasoning behind the Presidia—small, targeted projects to assist groups of artisan producers. For more information and to see a list of all Presidia products visithttp://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/details/us_presidia