Around 300 young farmers, producers, cooks and students have spent the past three days at the Terra Madre Young Europeans meeting – the first European youth gathering of the Terra Madre network.
Opened by Slow Food President Carlo Petrini and the Mayor of Tours, Jean Germain, the event discussed approaches to encouraging sustainable, local food: from the use of art to raise awareness, to developing short food chains, healthy food in canteens, bringing youth back to the land, waste management and knowledge transmission.
The participants, all under 35 years of age and coming from across Europe, shared their diverse experiences and successes:
Oliver, a young chef from London, took up a challenge a few years ago that seemed impossible: sourcing locally in a city home to more than 12 million inhabitants. His restaurant now serves meals in which 80% of the ingredients come from the area covered by the London tube map, and 30% are organic. No chocolate is used and sometimes he has to organize transportation logistics himself, but it was worthwhile he says: “the food tastes incredible, it has meaning and the producers are now friends I can count on”.
Sanne, a student of Anthropology and Development in Rotterdam, was one of the founders of the Dutch chapter of the Youth Food Movement. An Eat-In was organized to launch their group, with the best chefs in town cooking fair priced meals with local products and serving them in a beautiful organic garden. The attention raised has seen many more people joining the movement ever since, and their next step is organizing classes on food culture for adults.
Lara is an ethno-botanist from Whales who specializes in medicinal herbs. Seeing how little attention they get from official science, she has devoted herself to record and communicate the knowledge retained by elder generations about the types and uses of herbs found in the Welsh countryside – especially to younger people.
Carlo Petrini reminded all the participants that gastronomy could no longer exist without defending biodiversity, the environment, solidarity, strong yet open cultures and identities, as well as small-scale food production. “This is really about inventing a new humanism, and if the young do not take up this challenge, there will be no more food and no future,” he said.
The Mayor of Tours, the city authority which made the meeting possible, added that he shared the values of Terra Madre, and reminded the audience that the city of Tours has the most square feet of green space in France, that it is all tendered to without pesticides and that the city has even installed bee hives in urban areas.
The event was held during the new biennial Slow Food event Euro Gusto dedicated to Europe’s gastronomic and agricultural heritage and environmental politics.