National Public Radio’s September Auction Includes a Rare Item - Organic Holidays in Crete

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Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries, an organic agrotourism group, donated two passes to their May 17 to 26, 2005 tour of Crete to National Public Radio for their online auction from September 3 to 21, 2004. Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries organizes cultural tours and classes in organic gardening and healthy cooking, with seasonal lessons in the production of cheese, honey, wine and olive oil. Students stay on an organic farm operated by agronomists of the Mediterranean Association for Soil Health, on the northern coast near the ancient port of Rethymnon. Classes are limited to eight students and presented by local chefs, farmers and experts in related subjects.

Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries, an organic agrotourism group, donated two passes to their May 17 to 26, 2005 tour of Crete to National Public Radio for their online auction from September 3 to 21, 2004. Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries organizes cultural tours and classes in organic gardening and healthy cooking, with seasonal lessons in the production of cheese, honey, wine and olive oil. Students stay on an organic farm operated by agronomists of the Mediterranean Association for Soil Health, on the northern coast near the ancient port of Rethymnon. Classes are limited to eight students and presented by local chefs, farmers and experts in related subjects.

For decades, doctors from leading institutions have emphasized the benefits of the healthy Cretan diet. “It’s not a diet, it’s a way of life,” says Nikki Rose, director of Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries. “Many of us are far removed from our food sources, which is why we’re in trouble now. Rural Crete is the place for food lovers -- a sanctuary. Here, people are still responsible for growing, producing, raising or collecting the food, wine and even the tea or salt on their tables. This is the window of Crete that we share with our students. Nothing you eat here is made in a laboratory. We study with great farmers and chefs, walk in the footsteps of the ancients, pick wild herbs, listen to traditional music, and just breathe the mountain air,” said Rose.

Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries works with a range of local partners from agronomists to the neighbor who makes homemade phyllo dough. Their goal is to help preserve culinary traditions and promote sustainable development and organic agriculture. “Since the Minoan era, Crete has been known for its ideal climate and agricultural products. Tourism has helped struggling farmers in the short-run, but at a great cost to the natural habitat, resources and traditional trades. Resort hotels pave over farmland and farmers work in hotels. Golf courses are being built as if the water shortage is just a Greek myth. Local people know that this could truly be the end of their culture. Our students have a rare opportunity to experience the wonders of rural Crete as we do, and work with us to help keep culinary traditions alive,” says Rose.

Kostas Bouyouris, Agronomist, M.Sc. Ecological Agriculture, is a founding member of the Mediterranean Association of Soil Health, and coordinator of the organic farmstay project. For over 10 years, he has implemented community organic farming projects that link farmers to hotel kitchens. Bouyouris also acts as technical advisor to the Grecotel Group, a leading hotel with 27 properties in Greece, where he manages their extensive organic farming programs and designs chemical-free landscapes.

Nikki Rose is a Greek-American professional chef, graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and worked in Paris, San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC. She organized cultural-culinary seminars in Washington, DC with chefs in the diplomatic sector and leading culinary schools. She moved to Crete in 1998 to form Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries. Rose writes about Greek culture, sustainable tourism and agriculture for Slow Food, Responsible Travel, Stigmes (Crete), and Athens News, among others. She now divides her time between the U.S. and Crete and is publishing a book about Crete next year.

Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries is a member of Responsible Travel, ECOCLUB and Slow Food. Their programs are approved by the American Culinary Federation for continuing education credits. They work directly with local organizations and individuals who are committed to preserving traditional trades and the environment. Together, they strive to protect Crete’s natural beauty and resources to share with generations to come.

“The value of organic agrotourism and ecotourism is to experience our world's unique wild nature, customs, sights, sounds and scents. Embrace a foreign place because it is foreign and you’ll have the most memorable holiday ever,” said Rose.

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