It would have been hard to predict that a Davenport couple’s spontaneous decision to walk instead of drive one summer day would turn into their current life’s work. But that walk, significantly longer than a neighborhood stroll, was from Davenport all the way to the seminal 2008 Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco, which would draw 80,000 people inspired to help change the way we think about food.
The three-day trek up the coast ended in the wine section of the Taste Pavilion, where Dana and Wallace J. Nichols rested their tired feet with a glass of something nice. They began chatting with fellow imbibers at the bar and one nice lady, after hearing about their journey, aptly declared, “You took a slow walk to Slow Food Nation up the slow coast.” That woman happened to be Alice Waters, and from that moment, Slow Coast was born.
Wallace, who simply goes by “J,” is a marine biologist and con- servationist who initially made his mark in the 1990s by tracking a sea turtle from Mexico to Japan—the first such journey on record. Since then, he has dedicated his life to a multitude of projects, the biggest re- volving around the theory that being near the ocean has a strong in- fluence on our brains. He believes that if we can study those effects, we can gain tools for protecting the sea for future generations. He has en- listed a vast network of friends, from environmental activists to surfers to neuroscientists, to help with the cause.
Not unexpectedly, with such grand goals, Nichols is a busy guy. Over the years, his time has been consumed with TEDx talks, con- ferences, promoting conservation travel and research at the Califor- nia Academy of Sciences—most of it taking him far from his home and family here on the Central Coast. Eventually, putting his efforts into “everywhere but here” made him finally ask, “How can we do more here to support this community?”
That question was in the back of the Nichols’ minds on their walk up to Slow Food Nation, as it was prior to that, on an even longer walk, from Oregon to Mexico in 2003. Their time traversing coastal ranges made them identify the fact that their own home
space, existing in the unnamed 50-mile stretch of coast south of San Francisco, is truly unique yet underappreciated. And so they com- bined Dana’s background in the organic food industry (with an early organic drink maker) with J’s science and came up with Slow Coast a concept with two simple rules. Rule No. 1 defines the geography of the “Slow Coast” as the land between Tunitas Creek and Bonny Doon. The second rule is to promote all things organic, local, artisan and creative, as well as the people who produce them in this special place.
What started as a simple potluck, with invitations to local farm- ers and neighbors to share a meal and introduce the Slow Coast idea, has evolved organically, says J. Now the “unofficial chamber of commerce for the Slow Coast,” he jokes, it operates two nonprofit stores—a vintage Airstream parked at the Swanton Berry Farm stand on Route 1 in Davenport, and a newer one within the Davenport Roadhouse, as well as an online store. They sell local products, from Fish Princess Farm soaps to Harley Farms goat cheeses. Other prod- ucts include homemade books, crafts and jewelry, sold individually or packed in attractive cedar gift boxes. Movie nights, fundraisers, speakers (like Michael Pollan and Frances Moore LappeÂ) and a variety of impromptu gatherings have since added further momentum.
Fittingly, considering how it all began, Slow Coast is ultimately part of the broader international movement that defines slow food, slow money and slow living. But it remains hyper-local, aim- ing to encourage visitors and residents alike to stop, explore and sup- port the work of the farmers, chefs, artists and artisans who are lucky to call our beautiful coast their home.
Amber Turpin is a food writer and baker who homesteads in Ben Lomond.
Slow Coast stores:
Swanton Berry Farm, 25 Swanton Road, Davenport, 831.252.0338
and Davenport Roadhouse, Davenport, 831.426.8801
www.SLOWCOAST.org • TheSlowCoast@gmail.com
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