25 October 2008

Terra Madre opening ceremony

Thursday evening saw the opening of the 3rd Terra Madre conference in Turin Italy. Indianapolis has 14 delegates in attendance this year. The delegates are representing producers, chefs, students and academics. There are over 7,000 participants and observers from 1,652 food communities of 153 different nationalities in total. 720 delegates are from the United States.

The evening started off with a flow of sponsors giving speaches...but, this is not your normal line of of corporate sponsors. The 7200 delegates are all here as guests of the region. All lodging and meals are paid for by Italian Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; the Piedmont Regional Authority; City of Turin; and Slow Food International. It was obvious that the Italian government feels that the world is in a global food crisis and that they want to be a part of the solution.

Then came a message from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations. “Finding long-term solutions to the world food crisis is one of the priorities of the United Nations. I welcome initiatives such as yours which contribute to building new partnerships and focus public opinion on small-scale farming.” Read by Carlos Lopes, director of the United Nations.

Alice Waters, led to the stage by the moderator is a round of applause, spoke briefly about the US. She delivered a strong message that we need to join a political fight to assure a better food community; instead of just watching as big business destroys our society. We need to develop a statement by encouraging our capitals to build gardens on the lawns as SanFrancisco did for Slow Food Nation. That we need to be part of a global solution.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, spoke about his views on organic agriculture, biofuels and genetically modified foods. Prince Charles emphasized that the solution to these problems and the current global food shortages “rests largely with the truly sustainable farmer.” Referring to a UN report which argues that tradition and local knowledge form an extensive sphere of knowledge important for reaching sustainability, he said: “All this may, of course, seem far removed from the everyday concerns of small-scale food producers, farmers, cooks and academics, but it is crucial for your voices to be heard in these global debates.”I am enormously encouraged that so many people are today recognizing the benefits of working with nature and harnessing positive forces through healthy soil, healthy crops and healthy animals in order to provide healthy food,” the prince continued.“I can only conclude by expressing nothing but my greatest admiration for all you stand for. You are the guarantors of our long-term food security, based upon your dedicated care of the natural environment,” he concluded.

The highlight of the opening was hearing Vandana Shiva, Slow Food International Vice-President and founder of Navdanya. She is a very impasioned speaker of Good, Clean and Fair food. Vandana is the person that was the highlight of Slow Food Nation as well. Without a doubt people should read and watch more about Vandana and find out more about the research Navdaya is doing in Canada. The thing that hit home for me the most is how US food aid to countries is killing farmers in developing countries.

Other speakers included Tewolde Berhan Gebre-Egziabher, Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency of Ethiopia and UN “Champion of the Earth”; Humberto Oliveira, Secretary of Regional Development of the Ministry for Rural Development of Brazil; and Sam Levin, student at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Massachusetts, USA.

Sam stole the show. This sophmore in high school was added to the end of the program as a representative of the youth movement, a focus of this years Terra Madre. He talked about his journey over the past year. As a freshman in high school he went to the principle and asked if he could develop an edible schoolyard. Through the fall and early winter he made his arguements to school boards, all who were negative to the idea at first. But, he showed his persistence and was allowed to start the program. In 1 year the garden project has been a resounding success with elementary classes learning in the garden and healthy food being used in the caffeterias of the schools. Carlo Patrini, Vanadana Sheeva and Sam Levin were the 3 people that walked off of the stage with standing ovations. Sam is a 16 year old man that led 10,000 people through a journey with his speach. We will see more of him in the future.

Chef Thom England

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