John and Armen were invited, along with several other North State farmers and food producers, to attend as delegates, the Terra Madre 2008, Slow Food International Conference in Torino, Italy from October 22 through 27. We were thrilled to be included in the Terra Madre Network which brought together food communities, cooks, academics and youth delegates for four days to work towards increasing small-scale, traditional, and sustainable food production.
Terra Madre, an event organized by the Terra Madre Foundation, brings together food producers and workers from around the world, 153 different countries, giving them the opportunity to discuss the major themes of food production. Together they share and compare the diverse and complex issues that underlie what “high-quality food” means to them: issues of environmental resources and planetary equilibrium, and aspects of taste, worker dignity, and consumer safety.
This Terra Madre focus was on Youth. We met some amazing young people, true inspiration to those of us who have been involved with food for decades. The diverse nature of their interests in food production, nutrition, economics, education and supplies was impressive. We had the opportunity to really get to know a small number of conference attendees as we were transported back and forth each day from our hotel, shared meals, and evening libations.
The message we brought back is how important food communities are, and how vital to our local landscape. Everywhere we looked in Italy, there was evidence of gardens, small farms, vineyards, restaurants, cafés, etc. The focus of the conference was to try and figure out how all people can have access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. We were reminded of what a bountiful region we live in, and how fortunate we are to have nearly anything we desire at our fingertips, while there are many, many people around the world just trying to keep up with basic dietary needs. There is definitely food for thought.