Participants at a three-day meeting to discuss the development of an international network of Earth Markets, a new project developed by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, will today visit the world first’s example of such a market in Montevarchi, Tuscany, Italy. The international delegation also includes representatives from the project’s other pilot Earth Markets in Bamako, Mali and Beirut, Lebanon.
Earth Markets are a specific model of farmers’ markets proposed by Slow Food to strengthen opportunities for producers to sell directly to their local consumers, thus encouraging a short food chain.
“The historic importance of the market is common to all human cultures. The Earth Market project does not aim for us to return to the past,” emphasized Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. The aim of the program is to “rediscover and promote markets as the historical and most immediate retail outlet for farmers, which have today been overshadowed by commercial developments. Our commitment is to create a system that revitalizes local food production that is representative of its region and season and that meets the expectations of responsible and informed consumers.”
Dana Ghoussaini, representative of Slow Food Beirut and coordinator of Lebanon’s Earth Markets, presented the project undertaken thus far: “Our three markets are a true community of producers, in which they exchange experiences and knowledge. The farmers and producers who participate in the markets are generally family operated, small-scale businesses.”
“Our idea is to provide a selling point and direct market access for producers, but it is also a meeting point with a great a social aspect. In addition, it is educational, offering the opportunity to promote food which is good, clean and fair. We have also introduced recycling to the market, which is practically unheard of in Lebanon,” stated Miss Ghoussaini. “Some types of farmers’ markets already exist in Lebanon but the Earth Markets are new for us. The rules we have established to manage the Earth Markets here in Lebanon have been adapted from those developed in Italy, to suit our situation.”
“A difference between farmers’ markets and Earth Markets, is that with this project there is a centralized set of regulations, some aspects of which remain common and others which can be adapted to suit national situations,” said Mr Sardo.
Representatives of established farmers’ market networks in London and New Orleans presented two diverse experiences from Anglo-Saxon countries, where producers’ markets were completely destroyed and are now experiencing a revival.
Richard McCarthy, director of the NGO Market Umbrella group, emphasized the social, health and environmental benefits that had benefited the New Orleans community with the development of farmer’s markets across the city. These markets, which today operate twice weekly with collective takings of around $7million per annum, have been able to work with the government food voucher program, giving the city’s poorer families improved access to fresh, local produce. Cheryl Cohen, manager of the London Farmers’ Markets, outlined their project which has seen the establishment of 15 weekly farmers’ markets since 1999.