Wow! If watching the above fast-paced video does not get you excited about a coalescence of international foods, producers, co-producers, and gastronomes, then the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre are probably not for you. This is not another food and farming conference, nor another gourmet food show. Every two years, Slow Food International hosts Terra Madre in conjunction with the Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy with the simple idea of bringing together the active participants of the Slow Food movement who would otherwise never be able to meet each other as food communities. It takes place in October, and this year, I applied and was accepted to attend as a Slow Food USA delegate.
Being a delegate
I’m honored to represent Slow Food USA and Northern California at Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in October. While the opportunity to learn and taste at this huge event is exciting, I’m looking forward to meeting producers, chefs, and other food and farming advocates and doers from around the world and the US. The chance to visit Italy and eat cheese and agnolotti pasta is thrilling alone, yet I also hope to return home with stories and flavors to inspire what Adam and I do. There is so much to learn about farming practices, food system infrastructure, challenges and innovations, food preparation techniques, and traditions. We and Golden Vineyards are currently hosting a student intern from ESA in France, and we have learned so much from each other about the differences and similarities between our experiences as farmers. Inter-cultural exchange is so vital for food and farming, just as it is for all the arts and sciences!
I have yet to figure out which conference events I’ll attend, but I’ve already signed up for two Taste Workshops, as some of them have already sold out. I’m on a budget, so for now, I’m only opting for two – Storie di maiali felici (Happy Pigs) and I nuovi Presidi dei salumi (New Cured Meats Presidia). If you’ve been talking with me or Adam recently, my interest in these topics is no surprise…Other Taste Workshops focus on wine and regionality, beers, specific street food, and many more highly specific food and beverage topics, and everything in between. There are cooking classes, special dinners throughout Turin, bread and pizza workshops, and mixology workshops that you can pay to attend as well. The conference events are like seminars covering agricultural practices, social and environmental issues, region highlights, and biodiversity.
I never would have known that the snail would creep back into my life as an adult. In high school at The Madeira School, the snail is our mascot and a reference to our motto Festina Lente, or make haste slowly. This is in reference to each woman achieving her personal best at her own pace. So, at 14 years-old, the value of slow and steady was already instilled in me. (Another Lucy Madeira saying: “Function in disaster, finish in style and keep calm at the center of your being,” which has ALSO been an invaluable mantra for me as a farmer!) Incidentally, the snail is the logo for the Slow Food organization.
I read Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair by Carlo Petrini in the fall of 2007, just after my first summer farming with Adam. At the time, I was living in San Francisco, applying to graduate schools, and exploring within myself as to why I was so drawn to local, sustainable farming and high quality food. By that point, Petrini’s points about the ills of industrial agriculture and the importance of revamping the food system were not new, but I liked his perspective on gastronomy and making connections for positive change. I thought I needed to continue my formal education and learn about sustainable food and farming through more schooling, but I ultimately discovered the importance of developing my relationship with the Earth and soil, and that I just needed to farm. I eventually found a paid internship at Quetzal Farm in Santa Rosa, and after, moved to Mendocino County to run Mendocino Organics with Adam.
Admittedly, I only recently officially joined Slow Food as a member. As a paying member of the Biodynamic Association, the Biodynamic Association of Northern California, the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, the Farm Bureau, etc. on a farmer’s salary, it’s really hard to financially support them all! But as with any association one chooses to join, one has a desire to connect with others sharing the same values and interests. Adam and I have always valued good, clean, fair food for all, and it has always been a goal for us to grow and raise it, and make it available to our community. I encourage people to see what their local Slow Food Chapter is up to and start strengthening our food communities.
Toward the end of Petrini’s book, he discusses the importance of a network of gastronomes and the impulse behind Terra Madre. In Petrini’s words about connecting the global food network, “The objective is to reactivate the connections, starting with those meeting the gastronome’s criteria of quality and then extending the network as far as possible.” That is why, after Terra Madre, I can be a node to activate the global connection with my local community, and the impulses and inspirations from Turin can ripple here at home. What excites me most about attending Terra Madre is the potential for possibility in my own creative journey as a food producer. I can read about the black pigs of Italy or rare varieties of rice in the Philippines, but to taste the European cured meats or talk to the rice farmer in person will be priceless. What will other people think about how we raise pigs, sheep and cows in our unique landscape, or how we practice biodynamics with Golden Vineyards?
If you want to learn more about the ills of fast food, the idea of good, clean, and fair food, new gastronomy, and food communities, definitely check out Petrini’s book! In future blog posts, I’ll pick up the Terra Madre themes of Family Farming and the Ark of Taste, and what they mean in my life at Mendocino Organics.
But food, as we have seen, is far more than a simple product to be consumed: it is happiness, identity, culture, pleasure, conviviality, nutrition, local economy, survival.
(from Slow Food Nation by Carlo Petrini, Rizzoli Ex Libris, 2007)