THE BETSY LYDON SLOW FOOD ARK USA AWARD GOES TO MICHAEL PHILLIPS, ORGANIC ORCHARDIST
From Slow Food USA
New York, NY, November 9, 2004: In celebration of the life and work of Betsy Lydon, who devoted herself to sustaining small scale food producers by encouraging local, seasonal eating and an appreciation for diversified farming, the first annual "Betsy Lydon Slow Food Ark USA Award" is to be presented tonight at the Savoy Restaurant, to Michael Phillips, a farmer and author based in the Northern White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Michael Phillips grows a wide array of vegetables and medicinal herbs but his passion is in organic apples. "I'd love to be growing more apples, but recognize that the orchard can only be a part of our farm's market mix in sparsely populated northern New Hampshire," notes Michael. "Our livelihood goes in many directions, all of which takes time and focus. A passion for apples holds only so much economic promise for those of us" in this community. Two and-a-half acres of young trees supplies a community of shareholders with both dessert and juice fruit.
Michael grew up in a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, and despite extended family roots in farming, he obtained a civil engineering degree from Penn State. A ten-month career in the Washington D.C. area-and watching the sun rise in four lane bumper-to-bumper traffic-was enough to convince him to "retire" and seek an alternative path. Years were spent volunteering at a home for abandoned children in New Hampshire, where he was to plant his first apple tree and meet Nancy. The farm and a life connection to the apple tree followed from there.
Michael's book, "The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist," was published by Chelsea Green in 1998. Michael teamed up with his wife Nancy to write "The Village Herbalist: Sharing Plant Medicines with Family and Community," published in late 2001. This couple teaches about organic apple growing, herbal healing and self-reliant living at farm conferences throughout the country, with even their nine-year-old daughter Gracie leading herb walks.
"The real question in all this" says Michael, "isn't so much 'How big can I become?' but rather 'How can community-based orchards succeed everywhere?' Artisanal ciders and freshly-picked apples that reflect regional heritage have become niche markets for smaller growers, and to that I can only lift up my cup up high and give three cheers!"
The Betsy, which includes a small cash award, will be presented annually by the Slow Food Ark USA Project, a program dedicated to saving an economic, social and cultural heritage - a universe of endangered foods and tastes including animal breeds, fruit and vegetables, cured meats, cheese, cereals, pastas, cakes and confectionery. Contributions to the "Betsy Lydon Slow Food Ark USA Award" are welcome year round, and can be sent to Slow Food USA, 20 Jay Street, No. 313, Brooklyn, NY 11201, made by calling 718-260-8000 or via the web, at www.slowfoodusa.org.