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« The Hermitage – Denman Island | Main | Beginning »

Città Slow

“The Slow movement is really taking hold in the islands,” our friend Lisa tells us on Denman Island.

We’ve seen it everywhere: at Fairburn Farm with its herd of water buffalo and culinary retreats; at True Grain Mill at Cowichan Bay with a handcrafted grist mill from Austria with which the bakery mills organic wheat, rye, spelt, and kamut; at Windy Marsh Farm and other organic farms where the vegetable stands are untended, and you mark down in a notebook what you’ve bought and leave your payment (if you’re not bartering) and make your own change from a ceramic pot.

In short, it is the natural rhythm of this small island life.

But it isn’t meant just for rural life. You may well have heard of the Slow Food movement, begun in Italy, but with active “convivia” (as local groups are called) in San Francisco and elsewhere. Slow Food advocates sustainable, local, and artisanal foods as an antidote to increasingly industrialized food processes. It can be criticized for appearing too elitist, but that isn’t its intention. Over the Labor Day weekend in San Francisco, a major Slow conference is being held, and among the activities is a speaker series featuring Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, and Michael Pollan, among others. It will discuss weighty issues like the world food crisis, climate change and food, and
re-localizing food.

All of this can seem unnecessarily heady when you are walking with Darrel Archer as he leads his water buffalo to pasture and calls all of them by name. He’s been farming all his life.

On the other hand, 1973 and the few years thereabout are also vintage dates in these islands. That’s when Vietnam War draft-dodgers from the States arrived, so many of whom have stayed, cultivating an alternative culture that most often seems to fit seamlessly with traditional farming and fishing life here.

In another age of war, it can seem like time to move again.

When the ferry leaves Denman Island, Debi looks back wistfully.

“I could live here,” she says. “Couldn’t you?”

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