by Kelly Dumke
Imagine: 161 countries, 6,000 people, 8 official languages, 70 plus workshops, over 200 food displays… Welcome to the 2010 Terra Madre Conference, an international congregation of the Slow Food Terra Madre network of farmers, fisherman, producers, cooks, educators, students and activists. The latest biennial conference was held in Torino, Italy from October 21 through 25, and coincided with the international Slow Food fair Salone del Gusto. I caught up with some fortunate Friedman folks who attended and presented at Terre Madre 2010.
Terra Madre first appeared on the food and agriculture scenes in 2004, beginning as a meeting of producers and turning into a network of food communities that seek a sustainable economic, agricultural, and cultural model for the world’s food system. Terra Madre was launched by the grass-roots organization Slow Food, which works globally to promote “good, clean, and fair” food (read more about Slow Food and founder Carlo Petrini in last month’s Sprout here).
The Terra Madre conference provides a forum for food producers, workers, and activists from around the world to discus major food production themes. Each conference organizes a series of “Earth Workshops” with themes ranging from environmental resources, planetary equilibrium, aspects of taste, worker dignity, production techniques, and consumer safety.
This year’s conference hosted the Terra Madre network in Turin, Italy. The 2010 theme was cultural and linguistic diversity; crucial issues for the future of agriculture; and proposals for the sustainable future of the Terra Madre network. Several Friedman students including Jesse Appelman, Ronit Ridberg, and Amanda Beal gave the Sprout a first-hand look at the 2010 Terra Madre conference.
Friedman students Amanda Beal, Ellen Tyler, and Ronit Ridberg stand outside the 2010 Terra Madre conference in Torino, Italy.
Second-year Agriculture, Food and Environment student, Jesse Appelman, attended the 2010 Terra Madre conference as a U.S. delegate and Slow Food campus chapter representative (read more about Slow Food Tufts here). Appelman offers a look at the five-day conference organizational set-up. “There were at least 15 workshops to choose from each day,” he states motioning to the lengthy Terra Madre program he brought back.
The goal of the conference this year was to create a policy platform for Slow Food International. Appelman found the workshop descriptions to be limited and translations presented a challenge. He notes that the sessions he found most interesting were those designed for US delegates.
Appelman attended the US delegate session that drew 500 people and opened with esteemed chef and Slow Food Vice President, Alice Waters. Takeaways from the US delegate meeting include an effort for Slow Food USA to engage in deliberations on the Farm Bill 2012, a challenge for US slow food chapters to sponsor one garden in Slow Foods 1,000 Garden project in Africa, and a push to scale-up community level work in the US.
“They definitely know how to do the inspirational, feel good thing over there,” states second-year AFE student, Ronit Ridberg , recalling the excitement of the 2010 Terra Madre conference. Ridberg, like Appleman, attended the conference as a US delegate and Slow Food campus chapter representative. Beyond the workshops and formal presentations of Terra Madre, Ridberg describes the atmosphere of the conference exhibition, namely the Slow Food project called the Presidia.
The Presidia is part of the network of Terra Madre food communities and is coordinated by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. There are over 300 Presidia in 47 countries around the world. The Presidia include small farmers, fishermen, butchers, herders, cheesemakers, bakers, and pastry chefs each practicing a new agricultural model based on quality, recovery of traditional knowledge, and respect for seasonality and animal welfare. Presidia members display their products and demonstrate their practices at Salone del Gusto, an exposition that coincides with the Terra Madre conference.
Presidia stands lined the exhibition hall, organized into geographic regions offering a feast for the eyes and taste buds. Laughing as she describes struggling to get past the rows and rows of Italian cheese and prosciutto stands, Ridberg describes some of the remarkable small-scale producers including Harenna Forest wild coffee producers from Ethiopia, seasonal pumpkin producers from Kenya, ash yoghurt producers from West Pokot, Kenya, and Georgian Wine producers from Georgia.
Ridberg concludes with a description of the awe-inspiring closing ceremonies to the 2010 Terra Madre conference complete with inspirational speakers, multi-cultural performances, and even protestors. There was a vivid scene during the closing session when a woman dressed in a pig costume and covered in blood ran screaming onto the stage in front of Carlo Petrini. Before security closed in on her, Petrini motioned them to stop. The woman asked for “three minutes” and Petrini allowed her to address the audience with a plea for animal rights. After her speech, the woman was escorted off the stage and Petrini reminded the audience that “this is what it means to listen to each other.”
“It is a pretty magical place,” remarks Amanda Beal, second year Agriculture, Food, & Environment (AFE) student. “Terre Madre brings people together to create a common understanding of how issues of food affect them in similar and different ways.”
The 2010 conference was actually Amanda’s second time attending Terra Madre. Amanda first attended Terra Madre in 2008 as a member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardner’s Association – an organization instrumental in the growing organic farm movement in Maine. “The first time I went, it was overwhelming and I couldn’t take it all in,” she recalls. However, this 2008 visit inspired Amanda’s current project and led to an invitation to present at the 2010 conference.
“I had been steeped in organic farming for a long time, “ recalls Beal, remembering her arrival at the 2008 Terra Madre. During a bus ride to the 2008 conference, Beal met a Maine fisherman also attending the conference. A conversation was sparked about their shared hometown and “it got my wheels turning,” notes Beal. She recalls a light-bulb moment when she realized that the struggles small-scale fisherman were facing paralleled her work with small-scale farmers.
Upon returning from Italy, those ideas began to take shape. “I came back and asked if it would be useful to get farmers and fisherman together.” Working together with the Eat Local Foods Coalition of Maine, Beal drafted a grant, and to her surprise, she received seed money to establish a neutral forum for fisherman and farmers to come together.
Beal, along with a team of collaborators including second-year AFE student, Ellen Tyler, launched the “By Land and By Sea Project.” The project held four meetings bringing together Maine-based farmers and fisherman to discuss the similar issues they face including policy, infrastructure, and consumer education. Reports from the forums and a policy brief drafted to gubernatorial candidates can be found at http://www.eatmainefoods.org.
The project generated interest from various organizations including Slow Food USA, who asked Amanda to write a guest article for the online Slow Food publication, The Snail. Next thing, Beal was contacted by Slow Food International and asked to moderate a workshop at the 2010 Terra Madre conference. The workshop was entitled “Between land and sea” with a focus on the ecological implications of where the land meets the sea.
Amanda prepared for the conference by moderating an online forum for several months prior to the October conference. Researchers, farmers, fisherman, and individuals from around the world posed questions, offered insight, and shared stories about various issues facing farmers and fishermen alike.
Second-year AFE student Amanda Beal meets one of the fishermen from New Zealand she had been corresponding with during the online forum she moderated prior to her presentation at Terra Madre 2010.
Beal remarks that one of the main reasons Terra Madre wanted the session was a need for a stronger presence of fisherman at the convention. Although disappointed that the 2010 ceremonies emphasized the role of farmers and largely neglected the vital role fisherman play in the global food system, Beal was able to compensate by structuring a three hour session bridging fisherman and farmers.
The outcome of the “Between land and sea” session was remarkable. “The people who were there were fishermen and women who wanted to make something happen. They created a manifesto about sustainable fisheries over the five day conference.” A major goal was to make the role of fisherman more apparent in the global food system, and the new manifesto and ongoing work of the “By land and by sea” project are paving the way.
Reminiscing about the global and inspiring atmosphere of Terra Madre, Beal adds, “You may talk to someone who had to travel 8 days to get here because they had to walk from their village to the bus to the train, and you remember that not everyone lives in our world…it is very interesting to bring people together who see the world in so many different ways.”
Kelly Dumke is a second year nutrition communication student and aspiring chef at heart.