by Sarah Mooney
Food is not a privilege of the few; it is a fundamental right of every person on earth. This statement was repeated over and over during the opening ceremony of Terra Madre. As I watched hundreds of thousands of people converge on Torino, a town roughly the same size as my hometown of Portland, Oregon, this could not have been more clearly demonstrated. I observed men and women in native attire looking exhausted from long journeys, carrying precious resources from their countries in rolling suitcases and boxes labeled fragile, to share with the rest of the world. We have come from the four corners with great hope and quiet pride, brilliant solutions and powerful questions. How do we feed the world’s growing population with good healthy foods, grown safely by people who are appreciated and respected as leaders of tradition and knowledge? Where else could Afghanistan, Cuba, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Russia, China, Iran, Bosnia, the US, among a hundred others, gather to solve a world-wide crisis? Leaving political leaders and massive corporations at home, we gather together as students, farmers, producers, and educators to reclaim our connection with the one thing that can sustain our future generations; the Earth.
With my university pass I was permitted to explore the conference the day before it opened to the public. I spoke with a date producer from Libya, a pepper farmer from Malaysia and a Slowfood educator from Nova Scotia. I entered a place I had only seen in videos and read about in books. This was my Burning Man and my Woodstock combined. There is nothing I have wanted to be part of more than this conference, surrounded by people from around the world who share in my passion for food.
The next day I returned to find that people had been tirelessly working all night to prepare for thousands of visitors. The energy in the Terra Madre Pavilion was unmistakable. Muslim communities shared their mint tea with the countries nearby while the Filipino booth celebrated with impromptu dancing and singing as they introduced curious onlookers to exquisitely prepared meals. I was offered a small kernel of spice that made my tongue feel like a million centipedes were walking across its surface and a chocolate from Brazil that naturally tasted as if it were made with lemons and oranges. I am torn between my love for Hungarian curly haired pig salami and the smoked butter from France. Between tastings, I participated in conferences to learn about seed saving logistics from Vandana Shiva, how to develop my own local Earth Market and how the Dutch Slow Food Youth Movement is transforming the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Late in the evening, I danced and sang with Carlo Petrini at the UNISG booth.
“The earth is our north star and the paper in which we write our story”, Vandana Shiva so eloquently stated during the opening ceremony. This could not have been more comprehensibly demonstrated than through this year’s Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto conference. The gathered network of farmers, educators, artisans, activists and consumers with a passion for good, clean and fair food practice has the ability to change how we feed the earth’s population. We are part of a powerful global movement with the influence to make real changes. By Monday, exhausted and inspired, people returned home with markedly less of their indigenous products, replaced by gifts from new friends and carrying a explicit knowledge of this community that will continue to fight for what they know is the fundamental right of every person on this earth.
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A native of the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Mooney is a Master Candidate at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy.