Slow Food On Campus Exeter

Fresher's Fun

Friday, 16 September 2016

A big thank you to everyone who came along and took part in our Fresher's week activities!

On Tuesday we started the week off in style with a social at Oddfellow's pub. We were so pleased to see so many people turn up to come hear, see and most importantly taste what Slow Food is all about. Our event was so popular that we filled up the entire conservatory and the courtyard!

Oddfellow's out did themselves, yet again, serving up two tables worth of gorgeous food - from olives to pizza, BBQ chicken, and roast potatoes we were really spoilt for choice!

Then on Wednesday we stepped out on our Food Trail of Exeter. We explored all of Exeter's need-to-know Foodie hotspots. Starting out in Princesshay we visited Chandos Deli, who as well as serving scrumptious sandwiches also stock local brands - their motto is something we should all live by "great food, pure and simple." After exploring Chandos we then headed via the cathedral to the capital of all thing's sweet and cake-y: Cake-a-doodle-doo. Tearing ourselves away from the beautiful counter of cakes, we cut across town to Gandy Street to check out one of Exeter's newer foodie venues called Chococo. If you haven't already guessed Chococo is a Chocolate House (yes those exist!), all the chocolate is locally produced in Dorset and there's a super intriguing cafe lurking upstairs that the Slow Food committee are very excited to try out!    

After introducing the Freshers to the joys of Gandy Street, we then headed off to explore Exeter's Farmers Market. A haven filled to the brim with interesting local producers. As well as your usual assortment of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish there were many more intriguing offerings including beer from Exeter Brewery, coffee from Crankhouse coffee, a smoothie stall, assorted cheeses and an Indian chutney stall. The market can be found on the corner of South and Fore Street every Thursday between 9.00am and 2.00pm - so be sure to stop by!  

To round off our food tour we headed down to Exploding Bakery to grab a mid-day snack and a cup of seriously good coffee. The Bakery's recent expansion means it's sure to become a hotspot for student's searching for the perfect flat white to drink while they work. As well as the cake, which is made fresh on site, they serve Monmouth Coffee - meaning as well as being beyond tasty everything you can order is also locally sourced. 

We've all had so much fun meeting you all this Fresher's and we're excited to see you all again this Saturday in the Great Hall for the Fresher's Fair!  

Slow Food on the Farm

Sunday, 28 February 2016

If you weren't already aware, last week was Green Week at the university! A whole range of activities were put on, courtesy of the Green Unit, including a risotto cooking class hosted by us! But more on that later.

On the Wednesday, a free day trip out to West Town Farm was on offer. Lured in by the promise of some fresh country air and tasters of local, seasonal produce, committee members Charlotte, Shane and I headed out to see what was on offer.

We were picked up from outside Northcott Theatre by Kevin who drives the Love Local Food van around campus on Tuesday lunchtimes (Slow Food members, don't forget we emailed you a voucher to use at the van!!) 

We arrived on the farm to a glorious Spring day. As soon as we got there, the offer of wellies was made to those who had turned up wearing shoes they actually wanted to keep and our route around the farm was pointed out on a map.

(There's the van if you're ever wondering what to look out for! ^)

We started off with a guided tour around the farm yard itself. Kevin took us into a sheltered area by the barns and talked to us about some of the farm's produce.

We were pleasantly surprised to hear that it's not just food; far from it! Alongside organic meat, apples and vegetables, the farm also has honey bees, a natural clay resource and willow from which they can weave baskets and make charcoal! West Town is really keen on increasing the diversity of the ecosystems that depend on the farm which is really reflected in the range of produce they yield. On top of this, they're also keen to spread the word about local produce, organic farming and traditional skills and are a brilliant educational resource for the local community - including us when we were given some horse radish to try!

Next, we were taken round to see the animals. Usually they're out in the fields grazing or rolling in the mud respectively but they've been brought in for the wetter winter months.

Kevin had absolutely no qualms in pointing out that all the animals will eventually end up on somebody's plate. It was a sad truth when faced with all those cute little pigs and doe-eyed cows but ultimately, this is what it comes down to when we choose to eat meat and the life these particular animals have on farms like these is infinitely better than that faced by so many others.

When asked if he tells the school children who come out on educational visits about where the animals go, he replied that he definitely does. "It's the parents who tend to get more upset than the children!" He laughed.

Next it was onwards and upwards, out across the fields!

As blindingly obvious as it is, we really couldn't have wished for a better day to visit. There was barely a wisp of cloud in the sky and the sun was just about warm enough to allow the unbuttoning of coats and the discarding of scarves.

We followed some footpaths across the fields. The footpaths are accessible to the general public, so long as you drop into the farm office to let them know that you're on site. If you're a particularly keen walker, you can even find routes using public footpaths from Exeter city centre out to the farm.

There's Exeter in the distance!

I'd been to see a really enlightening talk by George Monbiot at the university a couple of months earlier about how agricultural land laws keep our countryside barren. Having heard Kevin discuss the importance of the diversity of wildlife, I was keen to hear what West Town thinks about those laws.

He told us about how there are certain limitations that come with being part of a stewardship such as only being allowed to harvest during certain time periods. On the other hand, it has allowed the farm to flourish and they ensure that natural habitats for wildlife are maintained as much as possible. For example, additional hedgerows have been kept in order to provide shelter and habitats for wildlife. We were also shown where the land has been left to its own devices in order to provide food for skylarks.

After that, the terrain got decidedly trickier and before we knew it we were carefully picking our way down a steep bank (which somebody once rolled down - in a tractor!! They only escaped with a few broken bones, thank goodness!!) and then squelching through a very, very muddy path! Beloved shoes were reluctantly sacrificed to the mud.

The farm also offers luxury accommodation in the shepherd's hut (above).

Once we were back on dry land again, we were shown some more of the farm's produce including some squash that came back with us for the evening's cooking class (but more on that later!)

And then for the bit we'd all been waiting for - lunch!!

We were treated to a freshly made soup containing vegetables straight from the farm's community garden, locally baked bread and butter.

And then if that weren't enough, we were treated to tea and apple flapjack too! We couldn't believe our luck!

We all sat around together, warming up with our drinks and having a chat about the farm. 

And we were joined by an additional hungry guest!

Once we'd eaten our fill (and we really did eat a lot - there was so much food to go around!) we had one last look around the farmyard before visiting the ceramics workshop and the community garden.

So so cute!!!

As well as providing an educational space, the farm can be used for other events such as birthday parties, conferences and even weddings!

Plus the ceramics studio holds workshops and courses using clay dug up from one of the fields and the community garden is a local project for volunteers to go and help tend the land - it's an incredibly versatile space and if you're thinking of getting involved at all, I recommend you check out their website.

 Back in the yard, we were given our last taster of the day: green smoothies!

We stripped kale from its ribs, juiced a lemon, grated ginger and poured apple juice in for good measure. After a little trial and error with the blender, we whizzed it all up together and had a toast to... well, I'm not sure what we were toasting to really! Good health perhaps? It would only seem appropriate with a kale smoothie!

It was an absolutely brilliant day and we would all thoroughly recommend it to anybody who gets the chance!

If you want to visit the farm yourself, pop along and visit Kevin in the Love Local Food van - he stops outside Northcott Theatre from 12:15 until 1:30 on Tuesdays. Again, Slow Food on Campus members, don't forget your discount vouchers that we emailed you! And if you're interested in finding out where else the Love Local Food van stops as well as more about their products, have a look on their website here.