The 2012 edition of the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre comes to a close today, leaving the organizers, producers, delegates and farmers with a renewed sense of hope and enthusiasm for the future of food and farming. The event’s new formula, which saw Terra Madre, Slow Food’s world meeting of food communities, join the Salone del Gusto, proved a success: Overall attendance at the event registered an increase of 10% of visitors, from 200,000 in 2010 to 220,000 in 2012 over the course of five days. Also of note are the longer visits compared to previous years. Visitors arrived earlier and most spent the whole day at Lingotto Fiere.
Organizers deemed the event a huge success and a sign that, despite the financial crisis, the public understood the political importance of the event, the central role of food and agriculture as well as the need for a paradigm shift within the food system. Over 16,000 people, both Terra Madre delegates and the general public, took part in 56 conferences organized by Slow Food. In packed rooms, they listened to debates on topics ranging from health and labeling to water and social issues, with panels of food producers, experts, food community representatives and youth from all over the world. It is hoped that this expression of public interest will force the industry to look at farmers with much more attention and ethical consideration.
At the heart of these conferences, and the event as a whole, were young people, whether farmers, activists or students. Creative activities organized by students of the University of Gastronomic Sciences and the Slow Food Youth Network proved to be extremely successful in involving youth from around the world in debates on sustainable production and consumption.
Also central to the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre were educational activities for children: 3,700 took part in games focusing on food and taste education, compared to 1,000 in 2010. Students from 6,000 schools around Italy visited the event. The Master of Food classes, hands-on workshops for adults, also proved to be a hit with tickets sold out before the start of the event, forcing the organizers to add more workshops to the schedule. A high proportion of tickets, 60%, were sold to visitors from outside Italy.
Slow Food Presidia producers, Terra Madre food communities and exhibitors present in the Italian and International markets expressed their satisfaction with their interaction with visitors, who were more curious than ever to learn about the products, and with the level of sales: around half of the Presidia producers had sold out at the end of the fourth day. Another good sign was the high number of buyers who visited the event: 350 over the course of the five days.
Visitors proved to be very receptive to sustainability initiatives undertaken by Slow Food for the event, and appreciative of the fact that the printed program had been replaced by the specially developed smartphone application. Besides winning an award in Milan for the best services app, it was downloaded by 15,000 users, who gave very positive feedback.
As well as being the first time that the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre joined together into a single event, it was also a special year because during the same weekend 650 delegates from 95 countries took part in the International Congress of Slow Food. This key three-day event will define the future of the organization, and featured presentations from 90 delegates from 51 different countries, sharing their own Slow Food experiences.