What I Learned about Food and Farming in Italy

Terra Madre youth

photo taken (selfie-style) by Maxime Gauvin

I (Shannon) was incredibly lucky this year to be chosen as one of 56 Canadian delegates to Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy. I was there for 6 days, from Sept.21 to 27th…..a fairly busy time of year on the farm….and I’m so grateful to Bryan for agreeing this was a not-to-be-missed, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to his parents for coming out to help him on the farm while I was gone.

So, what is Terra Madre?

It’s a slow food event, a collection of different food-related happenings, the largest in the world, with people from over 140 different countries who all care deeply about the food system overall as well as their community-level food sovereignty. (this is my definition, others would define it differently I’m sure).

So, let me unpack that statement.

A slow food event: slow food is a value. It’s based on the principles of Good food, Clean food, and Fair food. Slow Food is the antithesis of everything that brings us fast food.

A collection of different food-related happenings: it’s challenging for me to describe Terra Madre as any one thing.

There were panel discussions with big names in the changing-the-food-system world, like this one called They are Giants, But we are Millions, with Jose Bove and Marion Nestle.

Jose Bove

José Bové has a powerful history of civil disobedience actions – in particular against junk food and GMOs – and now, as a Green member of the European parliament,.

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of  many book on food including Food Politics and Pet Food Politics.

There were panel discussion with people from all around the world doing great things in their communities, like this one about The Role of Women in Food Production. On this panel sat a woman from Burkina Faso, a woman from Indonesia, a woman from Ukraine, 2 women from Spain, a woman from the Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, and a woman from Mexico.

women farmers

There were informal presentations and discussions like this one that happened at the Slow Food Youth booth called Building Future Food Leaders.

Slow Food Youth

There were food booths from every province in Italy and every country that sent a delegation to the event (over 140 countries).

Torino

raw Italian cheese

There was a huge parade of over 5000 people who walked through the streets on Torino, in solidarity with their dream of a good, clean, and fair food system.

1-img_6999

Good Clean Fair

Slow Food Canada

People were singing, shouting, smiling, and proudly waving their country’s flag and positive signs for the food future they wanted to see. At the end of the parade, everyone swapped a small food token from their country with someone from another part of the world standing close to them. (I swapped some Fundy dulse for a chocolate bar with seaweed in it with a woman from Ireland).

There were many exhibits around the city, from this one on bees and honey, with a beautiful honey pyramid with 1000 different honeys,

1000 Honeys pyramid

and displayed beehives from around the world.

honey bees

pollinators

wild bees

save the bees

round beehive

I especially liked seeing this Kenyan Top Bar Hive since we also have a Top Bar Hive on the farm (built by our super-talented friend Alex) in which we placed a caught swarm this year.

top bar beehive

natural beekeeping

To a beautiful and inspiring photography exhibit, hosted by the coffee company LavAzza. Here’s one of the photos (from a coffee farmer in Indonesia) on display and the description, which really moved me.

female farmer

Equator

There were informational booths on some of the areas of food that Slow Food focuses on, from the Indigenous Terra Madre Network to Slow Meat.

paleo

vegan ethics

And, a section of one of the city’s streets, Via Po, was converted to Via Gelato, where delicious Slow gelato could be purchased that featured good, clean, and fair ingredients. I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed Via Gelato!

gelato

And all this was set among the beautiful historic city of Torino.

Torino

Turino

Turin

Italy

I was incredibly lucky to stay with the most wonderful hostess, Valeria, a retired math teacher.

Gingko Biloba tree

She shared her perfectly European apartment with me, which I found out, just happened to be the closest host accommodation to where the majority of the events took place.

European apartment

She made me fabulous dinners in which she told me the region the dish was from and where the ingredients were sourced. She also shared her wonderful group of girlfriends with me and we all marched across the city each evening until midnight with them pointing out well-known sites to me and pointing out good examples of Baroque architecture.

Italian grandmother

One evening, we went out to a potluck at a yoga studio where a few other students who were also delegate hosts  brought their delegates from Iran, Spain, and the U.S. The food and conversation was incredible!

yoga studio in Torino

Besides the Terra Madre events, I loved scoping out the many daily farmers’ markets in the city, seeing how vendors were displaying their produce and which kinds of produce were available in late September.

market in Torino

farmers market

pumpkins

flowers for sale

The only slicing tomatoes I saw (there were also Roma-types and cherry tomatoes) were these ones.

Italian tomatoes

Valeria asked me if I grew tomatoes on our farm. I said we grew around 50 varieties, but none that looked like this one. The next day, she surprised me with a package of seeds for this variety. I’m excited to grow it next year for a taste of Italy! I can’t express how wonderful it was to meet and live with Valeria during this event and I am eternally grateful to her.

With the great free daily lunch cafeteria for delegates, eating was not an expensive prospect. I especially loved the mackerel one day and the slow-cooked squid another day (it was my first time eating squid!) AND the piles of cheese available. Oh, and the Italian plums. And the chicory/radicchio salads.

Italian buffet

Italian plums

Parmesan

Italian lunch

I had an incredible time meeting people who share my interests. I highly recommend any Canadian apply to be a delegate to this special event. It happens every 2 years, always in Torino.

A good first step would be to become a member of Slow Food.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *