Food, Faith and Finals

09 Sep 2008

Ireland’s groundbreaking event focusing on good, clean and fair food production, Terra Madre Ireland, was held over this weekend in Waterford, from September 4 to 7. Hosted by the national Slow Food association, the program combined serious debate and discussion regarding sustainable food production across the island, with taste education and regional producer tours, demonstrations, convivial dinners and Ireland’s largest farmers’ market.

On Friday September 5, following the all-island conference of over forty thematic workshops, Terra Madre delegates, members and the local community all enjoyed a Slow Food Feast for 700 people, held that evening in the spectacular surroundings of a former church.

Slow Food president Carlo Petrini took to the alter after the meal, speaking passionately about the local sustainable food network and emphasizing that it had been a, ‘historical day, which reaffirmed the need for a new agriculture, and which had seen producers gain strength in asking for policy change’.

Saturday’s program included several tours to artisan producers in neighbouring counties, in addition to a series of cookery demonstrations ‘A Slice of Waterford’ – with chefs from seven of the region’s best restaurants preparing dishes using local produce – and the educational Agri-Aware Mobile Farm for children.

During a special Harvest Thanksgiving Mass, held in the city cathedral on Sunday morning, Father David Keating delivered an insightful sermon about Terra Madre, the origins and importance of food, the issue of biofuels, climate change and other environmental problems effecting how food is produced today.

Keating embraced all denominations and blessed those involved in the Slow Food movement, wishing them ‘a long and healthy stewardship, which would truly help Irish society re-engage through food with what it means to feel alive, in the good company of others’.

The congregation then joined the crowds in the square outside the church, where Ireland’s largest ever farmers’ market was underway. More than 70 producers from across the country attended with their artisan and raw milk cheeses, smoked fish, traditional cakes, breads and preserves and late-summer produce, and more besides.

The national hurling final between the local team and neighbouring
Kilkenny that same afternoon heightened the lively atmosphere created by the market. A live, big-screen broadcast was projected amongst the stalls, and locals – there for the match or the market – arrived decked out in the colours of Waterford (blue and white), supporting the city’s team in their first All-Ireland final for 45 years, which they sadly lost.

Slow Food Ireland Chairperson Darina Allen closed the weekend, thanking the hundreds of delegates who attended the workshops, the many volunteers and the city of Waterford for hosting the event and emphasizing how crucial Terra Madre Ireland will be for the future of sustainable food production. ‘There are stirrings on the ground, and the people of Ireland are at last finding their voice,’ she said.

More details on the event will be available from the website

Bess Mucke
[email protected]

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