Slow Food St. Louis Small Farm Biodiversity Micro Grant Program has been supporting the preservation of biodiversity in the St. Louis (and surrounding area) food system since 2009. To date they have awarded $30,000 to small scale, local farmers, supporting more than 200 heirloom varieties and heritage breeds.
The program awards grants to farmers and producers for growing heirloom varieties and/or raising heritage breeds. Multiple grants are available each year up to the amount of $2,000. This initiative encourages farmers to grow heirloom produce and raise heritage breed animals by taking on all or part of the financial risk of the project. The program also encourages farmers to explore more niche product offerings, as many heirlooms and heritage breeds are unique to the marketplace, distinguishing their businesses.
Heirloom varieties are defined as a horticultural variety that has survived for several generations and is not used in large-scale agriculture. Many varieties are listed with the Slow Food Ark of Taste, Seed Savers Exchange, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that date back several generations, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture. The preservation of diversity in our food system is important not only for nutrition and taste, but also as a tool of flexibility as we face crop disease and climate change issues.
These grants have been awarded to over 35 different farms over the past four years. Some of the recipients include YellowTree Farm who produces heirloom tomatoes, practices seed saving techniques and is developing a portable poultry processing facility, Weidner Farm that produces dried beans and fruit and Riverbend Roots Farm that focuses on finding heirloom varieties that can be scaled for production. The success of the program has made these varieties available to St. Louisans at Farmer’s Markets, in CSAs (community supported agriculture programs), at grocers like Local Harvest and Maude’s Market, and on the menus of locally sourcing restaurants in St. Louis such as Farmhaus and Niche.
About our 2012 program sponsor, Chipotle Mexican Grill: Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO, started Chipotle with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, Chipotle continues to offer a focused menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. Through our vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle is seeking better food from using ingredients that are not only fresh, but that—where possible—are sustainably grown and naturally raised with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food. A similarly focused people culture, with an emphasis on identifying and empowering top performing employees, enables us to develop future leaders from within. Chipotle opened with a single restaurant in 1993 and currently operates more than 1,300 restaurants. For more information, visit Chipotle.com.