Monday, November 29, 2010

Report from Terra Madre (better late than never!)

Local Food Hub staffer Lisa Reeder took a few days off from the end-of-season hustle at our warehouse to fly to Torino, Italy for the biennial Terra Madre conference, an international meeting of Slow Food delegates from around the world. 

She was kind enough to write about her travels, so today we feature her report from Terra Madre!

Terra Madre is an international forum in which food producers, educators, activists and chefs meet to exchange ideas and to further the tenets of Slow Food - that food should be Good, Clean and Fair. As a new member of the new Albemarle Piedmont Slow Food Chapter, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference or from myself in that setting. Admittedly, I do enjoy a bit of a love affair with Italian food and food culture, dictated as it is by fierce devotion to regional specialties and a respect for seasonality...

There were 4000 delegates to Terra Madre, representing 150 countries and, perhaps more importantly, an impressive number of indigenous and native populations. To see people in their traditional dress, and hear their languages, and touch the seeds and taste the food that they brought to share, was to realize that this Earth is a vast and varied place, and that every culture has a living, vibrant relationship with the earth that is, in part, defined by food.

A highlight of the conference was the meeting of delegates from the United States, some 700 in number and representing all 50 states. Each speaker was more inspiring than the last, and as they gave brief overviews of the projects in their corners of the country, I felt a sense of inspiration, and hope. Carlo Petrini, Slow Food founder and president, issued the benediction that best sums up my feelings: to paraphrase, he said the revolution has already begun, and it happens through our work every day. While change might not be evident on a small scale, farmers are the world’s largest peaceful army, implacable as snails (the symbol of Slow Food) and working in accord with the Earth, and so this movement cannot go wrong.

I was filled with a fierce pride at his words. To consider our work here at the Local Food Hub, and at other community-minded projects around the country, as part of an international agrarian uprising on behalf of the Earth, is to set aside any personal agenda and instead devote my efforts to a larger purpose. Fortunately, that larger purpose happens to be delicious.

So I have returned from Terra Madre with tales of wild boar and polenta flavored with juniper, hand-dried golden plum jam from Sicily, and neat rows of cavolo nero, nebbiolo grapes, and hazelnut trees. I have returned with quinoa seeds from Ecuador, hoping to find someone or somewhere to cultivate them. But most importantly, I bring to you a message from Terra Madre: The work we do here is vitally important. Do not be discouraged, and do not be deterred. The revolution is happening.

Lisa Reeder also publishes her writing on her own blog: A Local Notion.

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