As South East Europe prepares for accession to the European Union, a rising movement is working to ensure this shift doesn’t strip the region of its agricultural traditions and food heritage. While joining the EU will offer many benefits and opportunities to small-scale farmers, they must be protected from broad-sweeping rules or policies that are inappropriate or harmful. Today the Terra Madre Trentino Alto Adige event is discussing how, given the right support, small-scale artisan production can instead be the basis for rural invigoration and sustainable development.
Organized by Slow Food Trentino Alto Adige and Slow Food Friuli VG in Italy together with Slow Food in the Balkans, producers from both regions are joining the event in Trento today to stand against a dominant limited view of ‘modern’ agriculture and share their experiences. “If we lose the knowledge that underpins the cultural and gastronomic heritage of rural Europe we will suffer enormously,” says Sergio Valentini, president of Slow Food Trentino Alto Adige. “Tradition needs to be seen as ‘successful innovation’ for its intimate relationship with the environment and cultures.”
Amongst the participants are Serbian producers of kiseli kupus (acidic cabbage) from the village of Futog, who are campaigning to obtain a denomination of origin for their product. Similar preserved cabbage products are made across the Balkans, but the Futog product has been renown since Ottoman times for its outstanding quality. The last remaining producers hope that by protecting their artisan skills and livelihood, they can increase their contribution to a healthy local economy and represent one more step in the path to ward off homogenization of food.
The meeting will also highlight the Slow Food Ark of Taste as a vehicle to support local communities and protect rural environments. The latest product to join this catalogue of foods as risk of disappearing from the region is Ajvar from Leskovac in Serbia. Ajvar is a staple in Serbian kitchens, but this traditional variation is made entirely from local varieties of peppers and has an important role in safeguarding local biodiversity and culinary character.
Slow Food is working with producers in the Balkans region through its Foundation for Biodiversity activities and is coordinating the ESSEDRA (Environmentally Sustainable Socio-Economic Development of Rural Areas) project. Supported by the European Commission, the project works with eight Balkan countries and Turkey to strengthen the capacity of civil society to support rural development and sustainable agriculture policies by protecting biodiversity and the gastronomic traditions. The project includes the mapping of food biodiversity in the partners’ countries.
Participants at Terra Madre Trentino Alto Adige today include: Dessislava Dimitrova from Slow Food in Bulgaria, Ivana Radic from Slow Food in Serbia, representatives of the Slow Food Youth Network, Mladen Mladic, from the Futog cabbage food community and representatives of Slow Food Permet in northern Albania.
For more information:
Slow Food Coordinator for Balkan Countries