Monday, November 30, 2009

April 2009: Terra Madre, "Mother Earth"

In January, we had a look at Slow Food International and some of the worldwide programs it has to further the cause of good, healthy, local food, well prepared, and convivially enjoyed. In this column, I’d like to present the words of a young woman, Anne Dzakovik, who attended Terra Madre, the huge Slow Food flagship event in Turin, Italy. Anne is originally from Niagara, now living in Scotland where she is a volunteer with the North Glasgow Community Food Initiative and works for a pilot food waste recycling program in Glasgow. Her mother is Sandra Watson, who is a member of Slow Food Pelham.

Anne writes:
In October, I was lucky enough to join 9000 committed folk from over 150countries at Terra Madre, the third biennial global meeting of food communities from around the world. We spent five days talking, listening, debating, celebrating, dancing, and, of course, eating. We were delegates from all around the world: youths, chefs, activists, peasant growers, fishers, breeders, academics, and artisans.

Terra Madre, which means “mother earth,” is the main event on the calendar of Slow Food International. It consisted of ceremonies, workshops, and meetings that were all designed to bring people together on issues that they are passionate about, ranging from GMOs to the future of bees, and from custodial herding to sustainable restaurants. As well as the more formal collaborations and discussions on these diverse issues, I saw many beautiful and spontaneous collaborations and connections being made all around me, especially at the communal meals.

It was hard to turn around during the five day event without bumping into someone who was working on an amazing project. Over breakfast one morning, I met a friendly Colombian man – Hernando – who works for UNESCO promoting the biodiversity and development of the Amazon region through sustainable usage of the forest’s immense food resources. On one of the daily bus journeys, I sat beside a shy Icelandic biochemist who has a side interest in creating an appealing and accessible local food economy for tourists in rural Iceland. During festivities one evening, I found myself beside a fellow Canadian who is working in Borneo on food security and peace keeping issues. Each day I kept running into a lovely couple originally from South Africa who are living and making cheese at an intentional community in Dumfries, Scotland and who connected me with a soft spoken, white haired crofter – Mr. McBride from Lewis, who specializes in hand woven tweed clothing. The list goes on and on and on.

Terra Madre has been growing each of the three years it has been in existence and this year it expanded to encompass a delegation of 1300 youths who enthusiastically launched the youth food movement during the event. As a youth delegate representing Glasgow, I was overwhelmed by the amount of positive encouragement and energy that was focused on this new offshoot of Slow Food.

Along with trading stories and ideas and getting caught up in youthful energies, I was also completely inspired by the opening and closing ceremonies at Terra Madre. The crowd and the speakers at the Palasport Olimpico stadium were multicultural and mighty colourful in dress and dialect. One of the most memorable speakers was Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist and renowned physicist from India, who spoke powerfully about the often-ignored contributions of agriculture to the climate crisis. Prince Charles and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon sent messages highlighting the importance of traditional agricultural methods in finding the solution to a sustainable planet. A pregnant Maori educator wove a beautiful and poetic story of the survival of her people and their land and of our joint role as the earth’s guardians.

My head was swimming after coming home from Italy, reflecting on the kindred spirits I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with and looking ahead to my role as one of the founders of the new and exciting youth group. This is definitely the most rewarding and enjoyable activist work I could imagine being involved in.

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