A series of new developments for Slow Food in Bulgaria kicked-off last month at the Inter Food & Drink fair in Sofia, drawing the public’s attention to the situation for small-scale farmers and producers and their role in the sustainable development of the country’s rural areas.
The key event, a conference entitled “The Direct Sales Regulation: Challenges and Opportunities” held earlier this month, highlighted the situation around the year-old law that gives small-scale farmers improved market access but which in reality has brought little change. Local authorities are continuing to apply very strict sanitary and hygiene rules to small-scale producers, often preventing offical registration.
“The authorities lack understanding of the importance of supporting small-scale traditional products. Now that we finally have a quite good legislation, we are left with a long-established attitude problem,” said Dessislava Dimitrova, Slow Food International Councilor for Bulgaria. “We need to lobby a wide range of private and public bodies to change the first response from the usual ‘it’s impossible, we can’t’.”
To start this process, a new campaign was launched during the conference by the Bulgarian Slow Food association: “About Food: With Care and Understanding” will map a way forward to support Bulgarian artisan products and traditional flavors.
Providing a positive example to look to, Piero Sardo, president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, outlined the Italian experience in safeguarding artisan food and promoting local food traditions in Italy, where the Foundation’s projects have their roots.
Outside of the conference, all visitors to the fair were offered a glimpse of Slow Food in Bulgaria’s projects in a large exhibition space that showcased the products of Presidia producers and food communities and hosted a range of discussions, meetings, workshops and tasting events. There was also a special focus on youth and the Bulgarian Youth Food Movement was launched, joining an increasingly active network across Europe.
In other recent events in Bulgaria, Slow Food Rhodopi-Smilyan organized the annual Smilyan Bean Festival on October 29, welcoming guests from the Terra Madre Balkan network in Macedonia and Serbia. Producers from the Gialèt Bean Presidium also travelled to the event from the northern Italian region of Trentino, to continue collaboration with producers of the Smilyan Beans Presidium.
In two weeks time, Bulgaria will celebrate the opening of its first Slow Food Earth Market during the worldwide Terra Madre Day celebrations. Situated in the village of Tcherni Vit in Teteven municipality, the market will provide a unique place for locals to buy healthy, local food and build an important social venue to share knowledge and hopes for their future.
The Tcherni Vit Earth Market is funded by the European Union project “From food security to food sovereignty: Citizens and Local Authorities towards a new food paradigm in Europe to reduce world hunger”.
The Direct Sales Regulation – Challenges and Opportunities conference was organized by Slow Food in Bulgaria in partnership with Slow Food International, Inter Expo Centre and the European Institute.
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Photo: Smilyan Beans Presidium