When Carlo Petrini first took part in a protest campaign against McDonald’s fast food chain in the 80’s I wonder if he realised then he would be leading a global grass roots movement that ‘envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Slow Food involves over a million activists, chefs, experts, youth, farmers, fishers and academics in over 160 countries.’
The biennial event can be life-changing, for those who embrace its ideals. 7,000 delegates from 143 countries, 300 Slow Food Presidia and 1000 food communities of the Terra Madre network and Ark of Taste producers from five continents came together to meet, learn and discuss, warmly welcomed by the good folk of Torino plus the tens of thousands of visitors from elsewhere.
We have a great many challenges we must confront, above all safeguarding our agricultural biodiversity ‘raising awareness and creating positive energy towards the objective of Slow Food: good, clean and fair food for all.’
So much of our food production is based on tunnel vision and greed. Not only do many commercial monocultures rely on chemicals to produce crops but it is not conceivably possible for anyone to carry out the tests required to see the damage the combined cocktails can do long term – to our grandchildren and our planet.
The other day I witnessed first hand the effect chemical spray had on a commercial vegetable. Grass had been sprayed, fed as silage to cows, whose manure was spread on the field and the vegetables died. Under supervision this was repeated for a second growing season and the effects of the poison were still apparent in the vegetables – proof if proof were needed chemical effects are long lasting and highly toxic. Whilst in Turin we also spent quite a while discussing the decline in our soil’s biodiversity with the EU Commission and were kindly given a Soil Atlas of Europe to digest! http://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/content/soil-atlas-europe
Economies of scale and our obsession with export drives food production to cut corners, cross breed for fast growth, feed grazing animals with grain and industrialize much of our farming techniques. And don’t get me started on reformulation: like golden rice, it is not a panacea…!
Thankfully, when we went, as we have done many times, we met hundreds from the Slow Food Youth Network that gives you hope for the future of our planet. Add to this the many fantastic producers on Scottish Food Guide and I can take heart there is a rainbow.
Frustratingly, too many think Slow Food members are just out for a glass of wine and a holiday in Italy – NOT TRUE on either count! We can all eat economically, ethically, fairly and sustainably but we need to embrace it as a way of like, eating more simply and seasonally, asking questions about our food and getting closer to production. Believe me, a lot is kept from us. Not least, our Ark of Taste endeavours have been an eye opener on our food production: what we have lost forever and what we still have thanks to the dedicated few. I am Leader for Scotland’s Ark of Taste.
Our Terra Madre memories are multiple and meaningful, friendships made, acquaintances renewed and much to digest… inspiring and fulfilling to meet so many passionate people. Those who engage with Terra Madre fly the flag for artisan producers, environmental agriculture, dedicated chefs, and strive to keep standards high.
Our thanks are too many to mention, not least to http://www.slowfood.com for their continued inspiration, and to pick out a few favourites…
http://www.thum-schinken.at for their delicious Austrian hams
The lovely lady from Belarus with her cheeses http://zlatarskisir.rs
The super couple with their Old Norse Sheep http://www.villsau.no
The fantastic dried melon from Turkmenistan; this marvelously hatted girl with her Ukraine apples
…for the hundreds more, I thank you,