On a warm, sunny weekend in mid-November, the fourth Şile Seed Exchange Festival drew city dwellers to the small Black Sea settlement on the eastern edge of Istanbul for fresh produce, local seeds and good food.
Şile has already made a name for itself by organizing the first Earth Market in Istanbul, which has since drawn the attention of other municipalities around the country, making Şile a national leader in the defense of good agricultural practices. It also provides a good example of local governance through partnerships with non-governmental organizations, like the local Slow Food convivium Şile Palamut Birligi, and government bodies like the Directorate of Agriculture.
Famous for its long sandy beaches, historic lighthouse and fabric manufacturing, these past few years Şile has embarked upon a new path through its twice-weekly Earth Market, raising its sleepy villages and agricultural areas to a previously unthinkable prominence.
The Seed Exchange Festival helps the local villagers to realize the value of traditional techniques and of protecting and reproducing local seeds. The fourth edition saw the highest ever attendance, with wholehearted participation and market stalls showcasing the abundance of seasonal varieties. A wooden oven brought to the market place, activities for children and treats for the guests all added color to the festivities.
The activities for children were some of the most joyous moments of this year’s festival, including a puzzle workshop that encouraged children to match plants with their seeds; chestnut and corn planting activities, an antique corn sheller at the center stage, coloring books, a bread making workshop, and a “find the queen bee” competition; all were well received by children and adults alike. Good, clean, fair and local food production, our ancestral seeds being taken forward by the next generation: that is what the Şile Seed Exchange Festival represents!
This year’s edition of the festival was organized with the contribution of several different partners beyond the Earth Market producers, among them the Şile Beekeepers Agricultural Development Cooperation, displaying a transparent bee hive filled with delicious chestnut honey; the Food, Agriculture and Farming Department; Slow Food IDA with its varieties of wheats; the National Seed Exchange Center with its different varieties of seeds; Nar Ciftligi (Nar Farm) with its 1500 different seeds; the Zeytinburnu Medicinal Botany Garden with a Medical Tea Brewing Workshop, and Firinimdan Ekmekler with their ‘Sourdough Bread Workshop’.
During the opening speech, the Şile District Governor underlined how much care and attention has been given to agriculture:
“Şile is the future of a sustainable Istanbul. We have a territory of 900 km2, 80% of which is forest, water sources, fields. It is a natural habitat. We’re creating a new vision and sustainable targets based on an agricultural tourism economy. Taking care of our seeds is an essential part of sustainable agriculture and the Seed Exchange Festival shows how committed we are to it. We need to support our farmers.”
There were two further pieces of good news: firstly, a mill is being constructed in Şile so that the local farmers might produce their own corn, wheat, bean and chestnut flour. Secondly, the 45th Apimondia (International Apicultural Congress) will be held in Istanbul from September 29th to October 4th 2017, and delegates will be taken on a tour of Şile and its apiaries.
A big thank you to all the villagers of Şile who brought their seeds and their good will, making this festival a special occasion for all who attended. Our seeds guarantee us a sustainable future.