Terra Madre: They are Giants, but We are Millions

For the last week, I’ve been attending an international food conference and festival called Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Torino, a beautiful city located in the Piedmont Region of Italy. This event is organized by Slow Food International, an organization committed to making good, clean, and fair food available to all people. And while a good portion of this commitment is about the enjoyment of food, it goes much deeper than that.

To truly enjoy what you eat is to know it—to know where it comes from, how it was grown, who produced it, and how it got on your plate. And, assuming you enjoy what you’re eating, to desire to keep it coming back to your plate and palate. True enjoyment calls for responsibility.

Food is not only a basic human need; it is intrinsically political. It is at the heart of social connections, cultural traditions, and economic networks, both local and global. You can see why, worldwide, the act of inviting somebody to your table is the ultimate form of sharing.

You may have heard about a little U.S. company called Monsanto (the largest global supplier of genetically modified seeds). You may also know that another little company, Bayer (a German pharmaceutical firm), just bought Monsanto for $66 billion. This is following the ChemChina-Syngenta and DuPont-Dow mergers. And I thought the agriculture industry was already too consolidated!

GMOs and glyphosate aside, the homogenization of our food supply is damaging our health, causing a loss of biodiversity and livelihoods, driving down the market value of food, and pushing indigenous people off their lands.

There are now two billion obese people in the world. And over $2,000 billion a year is spent on healthcare globally. Who pays for this? We all do, and not just in quality of life and subsidies, but in the future of our home and our children’s home.

But it’s not all bad news. The good news is that the small farmers, artisans, and indigenous people of the world are gathering together, finding their voice, and rising up.

I heard story after success story from around the world this last week. People are returning to the land, they are healing their sickness by growing their own food, they are rescuing cultural foods on the brink of extinction, they are redistributing wasted food to those in need, and they are calling for international regulations on agriculture to hold large companies accountable.

Slow Food provides an opportunity for decentralized cooperation and opens the dialogue for people in the food industry from all around the world to share their experiences. This gives small regions an opportunity to play a key role in forming a new reality—international cooperation that is sponsored by local bodies.

People want their dignity back, and that was made clear by the 7,000 delegates from 143 countries at Terra Madre this year, making up 300 Slow Food presidia and 1,000 food communities, as well as the 5,000 public who attended the forums and conferences.

We are all struggling to understand the real truth behind our dysfunctional food system. And we’re joining forces.

So, as Ron Finley says, “Plant some shit!” And make some shit. And, maybe talk to someone about it. Or better yet, invite them over for dinner. Plant a garden in the front yard instead of the back yard. Bring people to the table, and to quote Alice Waters, “Feed them something so tasty that they want to come back again.”

I’d like to say a special thanks to those who helped make this trip possible so that I could study and share this, and many other inspiring stories: Devon Hodges, Laurel Lyle, Phinehas Hodges, Amber Critchfield, Emily Pugh, Stephanie Hanson, Barbara Banthien, Samm Hodges, Julie Bradley, Abigail Wolfe, Chris Banthien, Sue Banthien, Liz Spencer, Kate Hodges, Christine Loeffler, and Summer Peterson. Read more at Edible Monterey Bay.

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