With great fanfare and after a lot of fundraising Slow Food Charlotte accomplished the huge task of sending over 14 people to Turin Italy for Terra Madre 2008. As a part of the observer arm of the delegation we were there to experience something special and unique. Which if you are in to food, culture, and a wider world view should be experienced.
The real question upon return is how to best speak of the event. How to best capture, seal, and use as a foundation for our local conversations and action. I’ve found it difficult. Speaking with many of the delegates there are similarities of not having just one thing but a peppering of tens if not hundreds of little moments that remain indelible.
The Beginning of Terra Madre
We arrived in Torino after a short stay in Lucca by way of an overnighter in Pollenza where we had visited the Slow Food Universita di Scienze Gastronomiche, eaten at Osteria Boccondivino, & Slow Food HQ in Bra. (We know how to move around.)
Picking up our passes and checking in with the US liaisons we were able to meet some of the other US delegation and see a plentiful and diverse group of peoples. The opening ceremonies was long yet brilliant.
Beginning with a procession of Sardinians showing off one of their rituals (impressive, daunting, and powerful) to follow was the marching of the flags. Many countries of the world were represented and as we later found out from Winona laDuke a hope that indegenious cultures will be able to fly their flags next session.
Passionate Speakers, We Listened in Awe
Speakers included those in Slow Food and beyond, Alice Waters introduced a video of Prince Charles, UN Asst. Secretary General Carlos Lopes spoke on behalf of Ban Ki-Moon, Vandana Shiva was passionate and fiery in her remarks, a student Sam Levin blew us away with his youth, determination, vibrance and step-taking, Carlo Petrini brought it all home in the poignant thoughts of our development and rich diversities.
We were awash in the power of the people.
I had chills so many times I thought my brain was going to fry out. I’m not sure everyones world view is ready to accept what is going on. The world is being dominated by those with power and we are constantly seeing large companies leverage that power into poor decisions; squeezing the bottom of the chain, selling consumers marketing and bad health, while replacing nature with man management which is leading us down a very bad road.
United States Delegation, 800+
America will always amaze me. We are a super culture, a mixing pot of everyone. Including the great diversification of the indigenous countries within our country. How often we forget our own brief history.
The meeting of the US delegation was huge and very long. I understand why Slow Food Nation was conceived. We have a lot to talk about. With over 300 million in our borders we have a lot of work to do to corral this great nation.
We heard from many great regional speakers (session notes from Robin):
Josh Viertel, President of SF USA
We cannot take out without putting back in.
Our priorities: #1 The Youth, #2 Social Justice.
We are a movement, not an organization.
We feed the community, and the community feeds us.
The importance of teaching.
Green Mountain College Farm and Food Project
Initiated under three goals: #1 Food, #2 Minds, #3 Ideas
Community supported agriculture (CSA) in the classroom to the kitchen and dining.
Common goals with continued partnership and community building.
White Earth Land Recovery Project
Winona laDuke, protecting our sacred wild rices, listening and talking to our relatives (the vegetation), cultural diversity is as important as bio-diversity, remember where we came from and how we got here, honor the history of food, and that we all have the right to own and eat food.
Kellen Vaughn Shelendewa, the crops are your children, learn from your elders, the ancestors are with us and watch us, the earth has been entrusted to us.
Brett Ramie, community inclusion cannot be done without elders, our world cycle is a non-linear progress and we must apply the knowledge of our elders before it is lost to us.
Ian Marvy, creating future eaters and teaching young people to farm.
Peace and refuge exists in the garden.
From seed to sale, helping the youth see potential in alternative markets.
Embrace the joy, understand the anger, and transform one to the other.
Chef Tony Miller, cook to farmer collaboration.
Let the food be the food, the star of the plate. Finish strong, show the youth what we need to continue. Keep the dollar in your yard, source locally whenever possible.
What Novice Farmers Need to Succeed
Access: land, info, market, cultural institutions, encouragement.
Land, liberty, sunshine, stamina.
Inter-generational collaboration in activism
Coalition of Immokalee workers, a 32 pound bucket of tomatoes gets $.45, the same as in 1978. Equating to $8-10,000 a year. 7 cases of slavery in the last decade. They have fought and won cases against large companies to pay more for their produce. Big companies can not keep applying this financial pressure downwards.
Strengthening Food Communities, Will & Erika Allen
Engage and inspire the community. The need to break down the social constructs that are oppressing people. Food justice, generations of justice. Look for the small projects to produce tremendous results, “Below the Grass”. Rich food for all folks.
Overcoming Cultural Divides with Smiles
Robin and I wanted to break through the cultural divides and meet people. We built a photo book, packing it with pictures of who we are and where we are from. Upon meeting someone new usually it involved the act of smiling and gesturing for a photograph.
I would take their picture and then we would approach showing them their picture. This then turned into an often funny trial and error of english, italian, french, hand signs, and laughter.
What really helped was showing our pictures.
Showing our city at night, Robin and her classroom, our farmers and local agriculture, our family.
Through this exchange we would learn who they were, where they were from, what they brought with them, and with many contact information for penning them later. Our parting gift to those we met was a simple photograph of Robin and myself surrounded by some of the pictures they had seen with a set of email and snail mail addresses so that we might keep in touch. We hope they do.
Classes, Lectures, the Public Speaks
There were so many things to learn and not enough time to learn them all. Between Salone de Gusto’s formidable tasting, pairing, and food explorations you had multiple tracks that you could run on in the Terra Madre sector. Climate change, soil protection, fair trade, bee colonies, getting to market, how to market, activist luncheons, youth meetups, and so much more.
We attended many which I’ll go in to in individual postings later, but would have loved to entertain more. Watching and being a participant with all these groups of people, each having a headset and a translator was just brilliant in being able to communicate across the gulf of language.
Do You Value Yourself? Do You Value the World?
In the end we all share this world and many of us are experiencing the same problems. How we face those problems, find solutions that are good, clean, and fair, will be a monumental challenge. If we don’t face it head on though it will get no easier later and if the damage is irreprable, then what.
I’ve said it before, I got into this movement for a hunt for quality. I fell in love with the chain of agriculture and now am in it for my future family. If we can adopt a greater outlook for ourselves and for those in our charge maybe there is hope yet.
Continued Thought, an Evolving Experience
More to come. We thank all of those who helped us achieve our goal and look forward to building further essays and pictorials that give light to what we learned. I end with a musical slideshow that encompasses some of the sights and similar musics heard during our time abroad.