The Market We Want

29 Oct 2006

At a certain point in your visit to Salone, you may pass through a tent just outside the Lingotto. Right by Pavilion 3 is the Area Mercatale, a space that the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and the Region of Tuscany have dedicated to the world of farmers’ markets.

Every month, producers from the Valdarno and Casentino districts bring their products to market at Montevarchi in Tuscany. Now, the entire market has been relocated and reproduced at Salone, and it offers visitors a meeting place as well as a program of conferences and tastings.

It is here that three students from the master’s program at the University of Gastronomic Sciences will be presenting their research on farmers’ markets. The project grew out of the Slow Food Foundation’s work on the ‘short chain,’ the idea of reducing the distance between the producers and consumers of food. Farmers’ markets are a key manifestation of this concept, since it is here that the quality of the products being sold is personally guaranteed by the very person who planted, harvested, bred or processed them; he is right there next to the food.

But we are here dealing with a complex reality, and in an effort to understand the workings of farmers’ markets, I have studied several over the past few months. Meanwhile, David Szanto is studying the farmers’ markets of Canada, Ireland, and Great Britain, while Linda Kay is doing the same along the east and west coasts of the United States.

We are trying to understand what works, what works less and what doesn’t work at all; we are also trying to get a clearer picture of the kind of market we would like: a market, to use a famous phrase, that is good, clean and fair.

Different markets serve different communities, have different cultures and different needs; indeed, this is the beauty of them. All of us want a market where producers sell local products, but what constitutes ‘local’ is different everywhere, and the concept is even more difficult to define in countries with high rates of immigration.

It is precisely for this reason that we are presenting our research, and we hope to share the results of our work with both Salone del Gusto’s visitors and Terra Madre’s delegates. We want to discuss what we think, what we liked and what we didn’t, but above all what we have learned from the delegates and visitors themselves. Those present at Salone del Gusto and at Terra Madre bring with them the experience of producers, managers, and even just people who want a farmers’ market close to home. These people have thus far only imagined this kind of market, and they want to see it made real.

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