Malta’s National Agricultural Policy: Strengthening agriculture-gastronomy links – 12/04/2018
Linking agricultural practices and gastronomy are encouraged in the National Agricultural Policy 2018-2018, whereby a listed objective is to “Strengthen the link between farming and gastronomy, food, health and the environment.” (MSDEC, 2018, p. 262)
Living at Dingli and being one of the main land users of Dingli Cliffs, the centre has strived to find an innovative way of infusing traditional knowledge systems and disseminating them to all types of visitors. The Centre’s motto is “A new concept…local produce”, and the daily operations attest to this.
The gastronomical experience offered by The Cliffs agrees to the meaning of an Interpretation Centre, that is, to offer innovative means of communication. Hence, gastronomy highlights the fresh local agricultural produce and the natural species richness of edible wild flora, always amalgamated to the historical and cultural traditions that have been retained throughout the years by the locals. One such habit is the use of wild edible plants for food and medicinal purposes. The Cliffs studies such knowledge systems and finds innovative ways of infusing them to future generations.
First preference is given to agricultural products available in the area according to the season, having the two-way benefit of providing economic returns to the local farmer, whilst making visitors aware of the rich local produce of the region. One such example is the One Kilometre Platter, consisting of freshly pickled vegetables and antipasti from a one kilometre zone around The Centre. These includes goat cheese from the last remaining shepherd in the area of Dingli Cliffs and seasonal vegetables bought from local producers. All vegetables that are served at The Cliffs Centre are a product of Dingli and its immediate surroundings.
Through its gastronomy, The Cliffs notifies and educates the public on the wide variety of edible plants, including the springtime’s borage, wild asparagus, and wild garlic. Furthermore, The Centre has been successful in studying past knowledge systems of local product use and in fact, it has managed to rejuvenate the making of quince jam and chutneys. Hence, in trying to revive past traditions, The Centre has focused on fruit trees which were not previously appreciated in the gastronomical aspect. The restoration of such local traditions could only be made possible by the direct engagement that The Cliffs Interpretation Centre has to the local stakeholders.
The daily operations of The Cliffs Interpretation Centre complement the prospect developed in the National Agricultural Policy, to link farming with gastronomy and food provision. Through such links, traditional aspects and practices, including the use of agricultural and wild produce, will be maintained and strengthened, to the benefit of the rural agricultural community and the authentic experience granted to visitors.