Origins Cafe Attends World’s Largest Sustainable Food & Global Community Summit in Torino, Italy
After our third season of exploring food and farms in the Cooperstown area, my sister Kristen & I embarked on our second pilgrimage to Italy - home of the world's largest sustainable food conference. Every two years, food producers from more than 130 countries descend on the city of Torino to experience Terra Madre, an inspirational week-long event hosted by Slow Food International which brings together a network of small-scale producers and ethical food enthusiasts.
The Terra Madre network - including over 5,000 farmers, artisans, scientists, chefs & community organizers - spans six continents and encompasses extraordinary diversity. Representatives present at the conference were people who cultivate the soil of distant lands, fish faraway waters, and save the seeds of diverse crops. Yet they share a common commitment to caring for the land they they labor on, the families they feed, and the quality of life for future generations. The unifying elements that bring these diverse people together are those of aligning human values: hunger for quality food, the desire to build a better world by promoting sustainable food production, respecting traditional ways of life, and celebrating the strength of diversity. Here we had the opportunity to further explore how food systems impact the welfare of Earth's ecosystems, people & animals.
The sensory experience of this event transcends all geographic borders and language barriers. Seeing the colorful traditions of dress; tasting the extreme diversity of flavors produced by family farms, from Scandinavian Reindeer cheese to wild African forest honey; hearing the voices of people sharing products and perspectives. A major topic of conversation throughout the conference was family farming. 2014 has been declared the "International Year of Family Farming" by the United Nations, as family farms provides food for 80% of the world's people. While global population continues to grow in the face of resource limitations, family farming provides food security & nutrition and improves livelihoods worldwide.
The Slow Food Youth Network
Within the Slow Food organization, the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) unites young activists, entrepreneurs, and consumers who are concerned about the future of food. It is a forum for the world’s younger generations to share ideas and discuss ways to engage our home towns & cities in improving food systems. Amidst inspiring new friends from around the world, we moved to music, shared craft beers, exchanged stories and culinary creations, and felt connected by the underlying values and goals that had brought us all together.
Throughout the conference, classes, taste workshops and panels took place to address specific topics and create a more intimate dialogue among people. Throughout these events, we explored new subjects and those of more familiarity, from the “Art of Bread Making” to “The Economics of Happiness.” Smaller groups covered topics such as, “Meet the Indigenous Youth,” and, “The Formula of Success in the Disco Soup.” A "Disco Soup" is a kind of community event spearheaded in Europe to divert expired but perfectly usable produce from filling landfills. These events have rescued hundreds of pounds of ripe food from supermarket dumpsters, while bringing together & educating community about significant food issues. With live music or a DJ providing a good beat to chop to, attendees create a soup that they can make and share together... and have fun! Thanks to the sharing of ideas through Slow Food Youth Network, similar events to engage communities in a fun way are now popping up all over the world.
the ark of taste
Another Terra Madre event offering great inspiration is called the Ark of Taste, a display of traditional foods from around the globe that are at risk of extinction. The world's diverse heritage of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, as well as traditional methods of food production come together in this living catalog. Plant & animal varieties and methods included are all threatened in large part by global agri-business giants. The industrial food system does not support diversity, as it depends on intensive large-scale production of only a few standardized varieties of plants and animals. The Ark of Taste demonstrates that outside the chief commodities of world trade exist an enormous variety of products that create livelihoods for thousands of farmers and communities. By identifying, preserving, and honoring these heirloom and special varieties, the Ark of Taste works to celebrate biodiversity and foster a sense of pride around small-scale traditions.
During one panel discussion called "Cooking to Spread Awareness," we had the exciting opportunity to hear chef Jamie Oliver, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, and edible education activist Alice Waters. We felt a bit star struck to be in the presence of these great leaders who have raised awareness and inspired action through their respective sustainable food initiatives around the world. They focused on how to bring nourishing food into school lunchrooms and where the political roadblocks lie. While strides have been made to teach children where their food comes from and to provide nutritious school lunches, we were reminded that changing the system is no easy feat. As Jamie Oliver emphatically stated, “there is no one thing we can do to fix the problem, it has to be an ambush!”
After five days at Terra Madre, we left Torino with our journals full of ideas, our minds full of new names and memories, and our stomachs full of a week’s worth of tantalizing tastes. Our spirits were lifted by the sense of shared humanity we had found with people from all corners of the globe. Topics relating to the global food crisis are not easy to swallow. There’s the exodus from the farmland, the depletion of natural resources, agricultural pollution of air and water, and the loss of crop diversity due to GMOs, to name a few. These topics are large and complicated and difficult to grapple with. But our experience at Terra Madre has strengthened our commitment to provide our community with fresh, clean, and ethically grown food. In this way we can honor each person we met in Torino, as well as all those who wish to bring health and prosperity to the table.
We were fortunate to meet a new friend, Daniele Tinti, who brought wine and olive oil from his family vineyard in Tuscany to the conference. And so, accepting his invitation to visit the Tinti family farm, our adventure continued into the rolling Tuscan hills.