The network of Earth Markets, farmers’ markets that follow Slow Food principles, is expanding to Uruguay, bringing the number of countries with at least one market to 28. Uruguay’s first Earth Market is in Colonia Valdense, a small town in the south of the country.
Here, a group of producers have already been meeting weekly for the last year, offering a wide selection of organic, local foods produced in line with Slow Food values. From March 13, the Colonia Valdense market will officially join the international network of Slow Food Earth Markets. Held every Saturday morning from 9.30 to 12.30, the market is hosted at La Vigna EcoLifestyle, a tourist farm, dairy and inn with an organic garden.
Uruguay First Earth Market
Colonia Valdense is located 120 kilometers west of the capital of Montevideo and not far from the Río de la Plata, the estuary of the Uruguay and Paraná rivers on which Buenos Aires also sits. The Earth Market has around 20 producers, 11 of whom are women. Their range of products is varied and includes raw cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk cheese as well as sourdough bread made with artisanal flours, traditional bricelets (cookies flavored with lemon zest) and a typical dried, salted meat called charqui. Organic fruits and vegetables, herbs, jams, teas, medicinal herbs, plants and flowers are also on sale.
“Our objective is to create a place where producers and consumers can meet, a place for exchanging knowledge, dialog and nourishment,” explains Lucila Provvidente, the coordinator of the Slow Food Colonia Valdense Earth Market. “And we want to create a place where we can give more visibility to local producers who practice agroecology.”
The producers have already been working together with a great collaborative spirit since last year:
“Every Saturday there are moments of dialog and debate, when everyone can contribute new ideas, projects and actions for promoting the market,” explains Mariana Sellanes, who along with Alejandro Diano brings her artisanal bread to Colonia Valdense.
As a result, every week the Saturday market has been featuring seminars, book presentations and live music.
Seeds and roots
As the name suggests, Colonia Valdense has Italian origins. It was founded in 1858 by a group of immigrants from the Waldensian Valleys, in particular from the Piedmontese town of Villar Pellice.
On March 13, to mark the official launch of the Slow Food Earth Market, Colonia Valdense will also be organizing a symbolic exchange of seeds to prompt reflection on the importance of preserving seeds for future generations and ensuring that local communities can produce and select their own seeds.
“Having ‘free’ seeds is a way of supporting our food sovereignty,” says Lucila Provvidente. She explains how the exchange will work: “Whoever has organic seeds will make them available, bringing them to the market in small packets labelled with the type, producer and harvest date. Anyone who doesn’t have seeds can still take some home, and will commit to bringing back seeds to share with someone else at a future event.”
Exchange and sharing, therefore, are the watchwords for the project, the principles used to communicate the importance of producing good, clean and fair food. The Slow Food Colonia Sabores y Tradiciones Community sees the imminent entry of the Earth Market into the Slow Food network as just one step along its journey, and is already working to organize new initiatives, like bicycle tours around local farms and fruit orchards. The idea is always the same: To keep promoting those food producers whose work ensure well-being for the land, food production and people.