“In Turkey, there aren’t many markets like this, where producers and NGOs cooperate at this level.”
Earth Markets are a great example of resilience in the face of the changing climate in Turkey, as consumers and producers cooperate to protect heirloom seeds, promote organic agriculture and a shortened supply chain. By purchasing from Earth Markets, consumers in Turkey are doing good both for their own health and for the planet’s.
My name is Fatma Denizci. I do ecological farming in the Ovacik village of Şile. When I started organic farming, I was told that I should be using ancestral seeds, but there weren’t any. So, I founded the Ovacik Village Women’s Seeds Association and I am still running it.
As the Ovacik Village Women’s Seeds Association we have a specific aim. We want to represent a model for rural development around Istanbul and be known as a center where women who produce can join.
Here, visitors can experience how ancestral seeds are being farmed, harvested and used in traditional recipes by the villagers. While doing that, we preserve our biodiversity, cultural heritage and traditions. Here we lead villages to improve and become examples of rural development.
I have always been a Slow Food supporter from the heart. We celebrate Terra Madre every year in Ovacik village. The idea of setting up the Şile Earth Market came naturally when we thought about the need to know where our food comes from and who we should be supporting.
There was no regular farmers’ market in Şile before. It is especially important for women, who could not find any place to sell their products before. In 2013, we established a first small farmers’ market. Soon after, we noticed that this wasn’t enough for Şile and Istanbul. The number of our producers had gone up to forty-five.
In 2014, I went to Terra Madre Salone del Gusto to represent Turkey. In 2015, our market got the official status of Earth Market. This year we are celebrating our second anniversary.
In Turkey, there aren’t many markets like this, where producers and NGOs cooperate at this level. From seed to the marketplace, every stage is traced.
The Şile Earth Market is now quite popular and has been mentioned in the media many times. Chefs who care about local products and quality come here to purchase. We are very lucky to have this market close to a city like Istanbul.
The Seed Exchange Festival was our first tangible activity. The festival saw incredible public interest, with around five thousand people coming from Istanbul to a village with a population of just 130! It’s crucial to plant local seeds and work with them. Seeds are our future, past, and culture. If we lose our seeds, we lose our future.
The influence of our market in empowering women in the region has also been incredible. The women we helped have become so much more confident. It makes me so happy to see them be independent and know their rights.
Most importantly, thanks to this market, young people are now slowly being convinced that maybe they don’t have to move to the city like many others, and they can earn an income with agriculture.
Thanks to Slow Food, I saw cooperation, sharing and respect with no expectations. We should support this movement in which people from very different cultures want to defend the same values. I will keep supporting Slow Food with my heart and continue my efforts to preserve seeds. We will continue to work on protecting this biodiversity, cultural heritage and traditions. We will continue working to liven up the villages and defend rural development models.
Fatma Denizci is the Slow Food Şile-Palamut Convivium Leader. Photos courtesy of the author.
Turkey hosts three Earth Markets in various regions. See all the Earth Markets of Turkey.
The Şile Earth Market is run in collaboration with the Slow Food Şile-Palamut Convivium, and has been made possible thanks to the support of the Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (which supplies the stalls), the Şile Municipality (which supplies the market with electricity and water for free, and takes care of the cleaning), the Şile District (producer audits and training), the local Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture (provides certification) and the Şile Kültür ve Turizm Derneği.