A Mother’s Birth – PART THREE

20 Oct 2008

Verduno, Cuneo, July 25 2003

The Real Castello is a comfortable hotel and an excellent restaurant. We were just a step away from the Naples Congress and the Slow Food Award for the Defense of Biodiversity. We came to this place, favored by Slow Food because it is conducive to thought, to escape the frenzy of recent weeks and to think about the October 2004 project. It still hadn’t been given a name and was referred to as the ‘Meeting of the 5000’.

In addition to Petrini and the presidential duo Bogliotti-Vallauri, Paolo di Croce, national vice-president Roberto Burdese and I were also present. Sitting in the shade, around a table on the lawn, we updated each other on recent developments. Carlo had had meetings with the Turin city council, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Piedmont Regional Authority. A meeting was also held in San Rossore, Tuscany, where Vandana Shiva and IFOAM director, Bernard Geier, gave positive feedback.

We retraced the different stages of the project previously mentioned in Grasse: we needed to put together a team divided into different geographic regions, recruit the communities and work on the logistics. The last phase would entail the final draft of the program, travel and accommodation arrangements.

Obviously new colleagues will become involved. However, some of the ‘old hands’ will be necessary to help with teamwork coordination, especially those with experience of international projects and ‘capable of putting other people under pressure’. As soon as Petrini said this, four pairs of eyes turned to look at me: a degree, three years’ experience in international cooperation, twelve years’ experience at Slow Food and the ability to speak three languages hardly register compared to the career opportunities open to an intractable character.

Bra, March 1 2004

Dozens of meetings and discussions have been held over the last months. The event now has a name: Terra Madre– world meeting of food communities. Fourteen people are at work in the Bra offices, a tumult of crisscrossing contacts and relations, while new entries continue to appear on the update sheets: ten communities confirmed, then thirty, then eighty.

The key organizers in the various countries send emails, request information, suggest people who should be invited. A world of friends and acquaintances has been set into motion, and we have discovered unexpected contacts in the most remote places. The support of the Ministry, the Regional Authority and Turin city council has led to the creation of a dedicated committee for the promotion of the event and the transparent management of its finances.

Finally, we are able to visualize those four days in Turin, from October 20 to 23. The event will open with a plenary assembly featuring lectures on target themes. This will be followed by the Earth Workshop, held over the following two days and consisting of ten simultaneous meetings, three times a day: hence total of sixty meetings dedicated to talking about products (ranging from Irish salmon to corn from the Andes, Indian rice and Canadian wheat) and problems of a non-specific nature (forest desertification and protection, sea and ocean problems and so on).

A plenary assembly and concluding speeches will be held on the last day of the event. Of course, each participant will be able to visit the Salone del Gusto, which will become the practical and educational dimension ofTerra Madre for the public, while providing insiders with opportunities for training and reflection.

We often risk making an enormous mistake when we talk about agriculture, food and our planet’s future because we tend to treat them as something that can be built and invented. There are millions of people in the world involved in food and agriculture that have adopted the methods we consider most desirable. They respect the environment, food quality and work of those involved, as well as the concepts of agro-biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. These people are guaranteeing the future of the rest of the world. They are not as visible or economically powerful as big businesses and multinationals, and this means they are without the tools to provide or receive training.

This is Terra Madre’s aim: to provide a learning space and opportunity for all those who have found sustainable solutions for the agro-industrial sector, a mutual training experience that leads to the multiplication of those models and situations. The future of food is happening now.

Cinzia Scaffidi is the director of the Slow Food Study Center

This is an edited excerpt from an article which was first published in Slow 46.

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