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What is Terra Madre?

Terra Madre is Slow Food International’s meeting of the sustainable food world. It can be a life-changing experience. It’s a very large conference (5.000 delegates in 2010) that takes place in Turin in October of even-numbered years.

Terra Madre brings “together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations.” (From the Terra Madre Web site.)

All U.S. delegates to Terra Madre are subjected to a stringent selection process overseen by Slow Food USA. As delegates, their expenses while at the conference are covered by Slow Food International.

In addition, our chapter offers some Minnesota delegates grants to cover travel to Italy. We are able to do this because of our fund-raising efforts. Candidates apply to our chapter for a grant, and are chosen by our standards committee. We awarded five grants in 2010. Recipients were Lonny and Sandy Dietz, Ann Houghton, Heidi Morlock and Mike Phillips.

Photos and Tales from Minnesota Delegates

Lonny Dietz of Whitewater Gardens, Altura, MN

If you think you have a plan it will change.

Sandy and I missed our connecting flight in Amsterdam and had a four-hour layover. We were then rerouted to Torino through Rome. It turned out great, though, since we found that Winona Laduke and her group were on the same flight, and we had a chance to visit with them in the airport. We made it to Torino around 6 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. We found that the Terra Madre staff were waiting to take us to the registration area and to our hotel, even though we arrived a day before the official transportation service began, and the e-mails said that there would not be any help if we went early. It was a relief that we did not have to figure our the train or bus system in the dark.

The Terra Madre experience is amazing. It was inspirational from the opening ceremony to the closing. Carlos Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, had such a wonderful dream and made it a reality. You cannot help but want to spread the message of Slow Food and the work that is happening around the world. It was great to see all the Presidia items at the Salone del Gusto and learn that the number is constantly growing. Even in these times of world tension, it seems to go away when we come together to celebrate food and cultures.

We feel that we came home with a greater insight about the extent of the plight of our food system. Even though intellectually we all know of the problems with food distribution and seed piracy and manipulation today, meeting and listening to the people most affected really made it all hit home. Terra Madre impressed upon us that most of society lives in a bubble, not seeing what is happening in our own back yards.

Something else that made a huge impression was the youth delegation. Their energy, passion, and excitement were infectious, not to mention a little deafening at times. The youth around the world are the ones who will make a difference, sad as it is that they are the ones that have to clean up our mistakes. It’s wonderful that Slow Food is there to help pull them together.

Photos by Lonny and Sandy Dietz

The central hall of the meeting building.

Jane Rosemarin, chapter leader, Slow Food MN (Twin Cities)

I joined Slow Food because of its support for biodiversity (and because I’m an old Berkeley foodie). At Terra Madre, I saw firsthand the good work Slow Food does to preserve biodiversity through its Presidium program. Slow Food seeks out food communities around the world who are producing an endangered or traditional product in an environmentally-sound way and designates them as Presidia. Presidia receive technical, marketing and other types of support from Slow Food’s Foundation for Biodiversity.

I learned that the Presidium designation can help a product get protected, Geographic Indication status within the European Union.

It was a pleasure to be among a wide range of Presidia at the Salone del Gusto and to be able to sample Presidium foods such as Kallari chocolate, a special dwarf cardoon, beans from Africa, figs from Tuscany and beautiful cheeses from around the world.

I was impressed to see the recognition Slow Food has in Italy, and in Europe generally. In Italy, there is a real pride in local, traditional foods, and Slow Food is a recognized part of this (it even receives government support).

After the conference, my husband and I went to Emilia Romagna, where restaurants that serve Presidium foods mark them on their menus with a logo. And when we told our innkeeper in Ferrara that we were members of Slow Food, she not only knew what we meant, but could immediately recommend restaurants that served traditional dishes prepared with local ingredients.

I’d love to go back to Terra Madre, maybe next time as an observer so someone else can receive the total immersion of a delegate.

Photos by Meg Harms-Feigal

A meeting of delegates viewed from a balcony.

Carlo Petrini, Slow Food's president with Meg Harms-Feigal

The Salone del Gusto, a huge sustainable-food expo.

Wild Rice from the White Earth Reservation is a Presidium product.

Photos by Val Landwehr

A cacao nacional bean.

Memebers of the Ecuadorian Cacao Nacional Cooperative, a Slow Food Presidium.

The hunchbacked cardoon (cardo gobbo), another Presidium.

Sedano rosso di Orbassano, red celery from Piedmont, is another Presidium product.

A meeting on urban food jutice in the United States.

The exterior of the meeting hall.

This melon is also a Presidium food, as indicated by the swirled logo on the crate.

Pizza from Bra in Piedmont, as sampled by Molly Callister and Ron Huff.

A world of Presidia, around 12 feet high.

The Presidium figs of Tuscany.

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