September 29-October 3 2014


Food is more than what you eat. Terroir is the idea that food has specific qualities that are influenced by a sense of place. From the people who tend to it, to the minerals in the soil in which it is grown, to the local microclimates of the area, how food is farmed influences everything about its taste, texture, smell, and overall quality.

We explore terroir in the Know Your Food Film Series at the Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley, California, with co-owner Judith Redmond. The deep flavor at the farm comes from organic farming and soil building practices. For Judith and others, you can literally taste the hard work that goes into growing such stellar produce.

People often associate terroir with wine (and, if you do, we’ve got a great recipe for you from Chef Ann Cooper), but a sense of place exists in most all food and drink. Sustainable Food Trust’s Patrick Holden investigates the terroir of cheese, drawing parallels between cheese and wine. Master gardener Tucker Taylor takes us on a tasty tour of California and invites you to explore terroir with your friends. Southern Foodways Alliance roots terroir in history and place: Sapelo Island, home to descendants of West African slaves fighting to save their land.

While terroir might hold its roots in the French “terre” for land, soil is not the only thing that provides some of our favorite foods with a sense of place. Kevin Dunny of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company offers a new term for the Lexicon, aguoir. It’s a play on the French term, a mixing of Spanish (“agua”), and French.

A foods true flavor is meant to be as Perennial Plate explores on a trip to visit South African award winning winemaker Johan Reyneke.

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Terroir, the notion that food has specific qualities defined by a sense of place, is a French word, often used to describe not how wine tastes but from where it tastes, and not from a winemaking region but from a single vineyard, even a single lot planted on a single hill. It’s that precise.
Scientists say terroir is determined by unique mineral combinations in the soil or an area’s microclimate, which is akin to a climatic signature. A farmer’s growing practices also play a role.


Combining the French “Terroir” and the Spanish “Agua”, Aguoir is the notion that how seafood tastes relates directly  to the quality of the sea in which it grows and lives. The word is directly attributable to Kevin Lunny, of Drakes Bay Oyster Farm.


Food carries with it an undeniable sense of place. The French even have a word for it: terroir. Judith Redmond, a native Californian, has farmed in northern California since 1989 as one of four owners of Full Belly Farm where a diverse assortment of fruits, nuts, vegetables, flowers, and herbs are grown. Sheep and chickens are pastured on the farm.


Excerpt from Lexicon’s Film Discussion Guide “Terroir”:

Consider which foods remind you of a place you like to go and what connections these foods have to that place.

How would the food appear differently if it were produced or grown in a different area?

Download Film Discussion Guide

The Terroir of Cheese

Patrick Holden speaks to Bronwen Percival, Cheese Buyer for Neal’s Yard Dairy, and Diana Seysses about the science of cheese, and the relationship between food and place. Drawing on Patrick’s own experiences of creating a raw milk cheese on his organic dairy farm in West Wales, they discuss the importance of access to raw milk and the close parallels between cheese and wine.

What is the science of cheese?

Information Artwork Text

Local Book CoverTitle: Terroir
Location: Full Belly Farms, Guinda, California
Featuring: Judith Redmond
Found on Page 23 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

“Terre” means “land” in French. Terroir, therefore, is a French term meaning all food expresses a sense of place.

It is the belief that the flavor and character of a food product is directly attributable to the climate, geography, and farming practices from which it sprung.

Each farm is unique so the combined effects of terroir take time to be revealed. Some parts of a farm are colder in spring. Some are weedier. Others, sandier. A farmer must understand the land, meet new challenges as they arise each year and develop a farming approach that builds resilience.

At Full Belly Farm, organic farming and soil building practices combine with the terroir of the Capay Valley to build deep flavor in their fruits and vegetables.


A Taste of History

Produce has certain tastes and characteristics based of where it’s grown. Each region has its own microclimate that affects the fruits and vegetables differently. These unique qualities of each growing area are known as terroir. Judith Redmond explains her experience of the effects of the local conditions on her products, and why understanding this terroir of a region is valuable for consumers.

Q: What is microclimate?

It’s a weather or climate that is produced by specific geography and topography in an area. It could be less foggy, more foggy, more rainy, hotter, colder, or more windy in one place than in another. All of those things are determined from one region to the next. They’re affected a little bit by the immediate topography and geography and also by the climate of the whole area.

In a narrow valley, like the Capay Valley, some of our weather is determined by the valley running North-South. The winds often come from the north. The fog off the delta comes from the south, but doesn’t get far up the valley because of the topography here. It can be very foggy 20 miles away while it’s clear and sunny at our farm.

Q: What important factors determine what you grow on the farm?

Soil is really an important factor, if you have sandy versus really heavy soil that can make a difference. But microclimate and climate are very important parts of what people grow. You can’t grow bananas and mangoes in Northern California because the climate is too cold in the winter.

Q. Is it hard to get some consumers to understand that they can’t get something like fresh tomatoes in the middle of January or oranges in July?

I don’t think it’s so hard for consumers to understand those things. It’s more of a challenge to overcome the dominant industrial paradigm of agriculture that most people grow up with. It’s really a question of exposure.

As soon as people have tasted fruits and vegetables that are local and fresh, I think they understand the difference fairly quickly. But there are so many factors that go into people’s food choices that you’re asking to really change a very complex thing when you talk about changing people’s diets.

I think people understand more than we realize. But it has been difficult for them to act on that understanding because of the cost of food, their convenience factors, lack of cooking skills, lack of time to cook, etc.

At Full Belly Farm, organic farming and soil building practices combine with the terroir of the Capay Valley to build a deep flavor in our fruits and vegetables.

Q. Why do you think terroir is an important term for consumers to understand?

Terroir has come to represent those elements in a region, in a local area, that are special and give richness to the seasonal cycle. It’s come to mean the character of a unique place that’s reflected in the flavors and textures of the products that are grown there.

For those interested in healthy, flavorful, and rich food, becoming acquainted with your local terroir can provide a deeper understanding of food.

Expand Article

Judith Redmond, a native Californian, has farmed in northern California since 1989 as one of four owners of Full Belly Farm where a diverse assortment of fruits, nuts, vegetables, flowers and herbs are grown. Sheep and chickens are pastured on the farm and Full Belly also offers training for interns and year-round children’s educational programming. Judith focuses on marketing, maintaining border strips of native plant hedgerows, and managing the 1,300-member Community Supported Agriculture project.[/em]


Happy Cows Come from California

By Tucker Taylor

I am a firm believer that nice weather makes for nice people. The same thing can be said for domesticated plants and animals. Here in Sonoma County, we have a relatively moderate climate with a diverse array of soils such as the Gold Ridge soil series, limestone, volcanic, loamy, gravely and serpentine soils. These differing soil types are especially noticed in wine. Differing micro climates and soils add a sense of place, a certain terroir, to our animal products, produce and wine.

Diurnal temperature variation references the shift which occurs between the high temperatures of the day and the low temperatures of the night. When the difference between day and night temperatures is great is wide, like it is in Sonoma County, the plants produce a greater amount of sugars during the warm days while also retaining a good amount of acidity during the cool nights. This means balanced flavors, whether you are talking about peaches, grapes or even grass.

Grass, you say? Yes. You see, the lush fields of the Sonoma Coast produce some of the best cow, goat and sheep milk and cheese in the world. This is a direct result of the fertile fields which are bathed in a generous supply of fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean.

Tucker TaylorTucker Taylor is an expert in certified organic farming, specialty produce, and sustainability. Taylor strongly believes in soil cultivation—with a healthy dose of compost—as the key to a good harvest. He is now the first Director of Culinary Gardens for Jackson Family Wines, where he spearheads the cultivation of all the company’s gardens globally. Prior to joining the Kendall Jackson family, Tucker oversaw landscaping at every property of the world-renowned chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants (French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc), setting the standard for today’s farm-to-table fine dining. Follow him on Instagram @farmert.

Information Artwork Text

Local Book CoverTitle: Aguoir
Location: Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Inverness, CA
Featuring: Kevin Dunny and Eleodoro
Found on Page 24 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Aguoir is a mix of “terre”, French for soil, and “agua”, Spanish for water. It is a play on the French term “terroir” expressing the idea that food tastes of its place.

Ever wonder how oysters are grown? “Singles” are raised in “grow out” bags set out in the estero’s intertidal zone. As the oysters grow they are placed in increasingly larger bags until ready for harvest at somewhere between 16 and 24 months.

Kevin tells me that the oysters here taste differently depending on where they are raised in the estero. He calls this aguoir.

Residents of the Hog Hammock community in Sapelo Island, Georgia, believe that the Geechee Red Pea is their key to economic development. The peas they grow taste of history and place. Planted anywhere else, they wouldn’t be Geechee Red Peas, they’d just be peas.

The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. They set a common table where black and white, rich and poor — all who gather — may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.

A member-supported non-profit, based at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Southern Foodways Alliance stage symposia, produce documentary films, collect oral histories, sponsor scholarship, mentor students, and publish great writing. Donations from generous individuals, foundations, and companies fund our good work.

Perennial Plate
Meant to Be

Johan Reyneke is a South African farmer and biodynamic wine maker, but first and foremost he is a surfer. His wines taste of history, of place and of Johan’s attitude towards life.

The Perennial Plate is an online weekly documentary series dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating. Chef and Activist, Daniel Klein and Filmmaker Mirra Fine are traveling the world exploring the wonders, complexities and stories behind the ever more connected global food system.

F3 Logo copy
Chef Ann Cooper is the Renegade Lunch Lady. She is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children. She is also the founder of Food Family Farming Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to empower schools to serve nutritious whole food to all students. F3 supports positive change through educational training programs, direct services, a web portal and collateral resources. Chef Cooper envisions a time soon when being a chef working to feed children fresh, delicious, and nourishing food will no longer be considered “renegade.”

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