2014 Delegates

Eleven delegates will represent Oregon at 2014 Terra Madre, with eight from our Portland area and three hailing from Eugene and Corvallis. We asked each of them a few questions so you can get to know them a little better. They bring unique, yet overlapping, interests, passions, skills and concerns to the food table. We congratulate them and wish them well on their exciting journey both to Italy and beyond.

Don’t miss our July 26 fundraiser!

Emily Ritchie

Evan Gregoire

Jackie Varriano

Jane Pellicciotto

Josh Volk

Kevin Scribner

Lane Selman

Leah Rodgers

Linda Ziedrich

Lynn Fessenden

Mickey Clayton

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Emily Ritchie

Emily RitchieHow are you involved in the food community?

I work for FoodCorps Oregon as a fellow—connecting kids to real food and coordinating programs on a state level and supporting and training our service members. Three years ago, at Food Roots in Tillamook, Oregon, I taught more than 300 youth, building up the capacity and sustainability of garden-based education programs. Last year, I also catalyzed Boat to School, resulting in school districts serving Pacific pink shrimp, rockfish, sole, tuna, cod, and crab to students around Oregon, from the coast to the high desert. I am also a proud member of the Slow Food Portland steering committee!

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

I’m working on a project to research models around the world. I hope to build on this research by connecting with others at Terra Madre. I look forward to meeting farmers and fishers selling to schools and institutions, to hearing from producers creating products that schools can more easily buy, and to understanding how school meals vary depending on cultural differences.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

I am very passionate about cheese, and studied an Alpine cheese called L’Etivaz in Switzerland a few summers back. Also, my flock of six chickens are all named after delicious cheeses, too.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

I identify as an activist for good, clean, fair, delicious, local food. In college I started a school garden and taught students how to cook with the garden ingredients in every season. After studying chocolate making in France and cheesemaking in the Swiss Alps, food has shaped my values of supporting farmers, artisans and traditionalists. I love gathering around a table with a group of friends, learning culture through eating, and I am incensed that good food isn’t available or affordable to all. I found a sense of purpose when I joined FoodCorps, which allows me to put my energies towards creating a more just system at a statewide level.

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Evan Gregoire

tm_evan

How are you involved in the food community?

I’m a co-owner and farmer at Boondockers Farm, in Beavercreek. For over ten years now my ethos has been to educate myself about sustainable food production in order to help empower others. I hold workshops, classes and tours for all ages on biodiversity, growing techniques, preserving foods, saving seeds, heirloom vegetables and heritage animals on and off the farm. As a master gardener and farmer in Eugene before moving to Portland, I found my second nature for soil nutrition, permaculture and community involvement. I also hope to be involved with Slow Meat in Portland in the coming months.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

As a farmer, my focus is on preservation. I have wanted to go for years to learn and collect seeds. At Terra Madre, I hope to cultivate relationships and gain knowledge so I can better continue my focus on diversity and share what I learn with others here in Portland.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

My introduction to food came when I was very young in my grandparents’ amazing gardens. Some of my best memories are picking oranges and tangelos from my grandparents’ trees. The avocados they grew were the biggest I have ever seen! My grandparents passed away a few years ago but their energy and passion for growing food will always be with me.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

The loss of small farms, older and wiser generations of farmers, and the diversity of animals and plants that thrived on those farms. We need diversity in breeds and seeds, especially with a changing climate and rising populations. I’m also concerned about loss of culinary flavor. Maintaining balance among fragile ecosystems is key to learning how to produce food in a sustainable way. In Oregon, we have a strong culinary micro-region of our own. We can play a larger role in the community by cultivating food culture through growing and saving diverse populations of plants and animals.

Connect with Evan on Facebook and Instagram.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

Terra Madre was a game changing experience for me as a farmer. It allowed me to meet so many new friends and see the way the Italians do food, which is simply remarkable. Italians have an energy and passion in their food production like very few other cultures I have experienced. The navigation of the conference was very intense and getting to go around the city with old friends was very enjoyable during some of the event. This year it’s in the streets so this should be an extra interesting year for TM. The hotel we stayed at was far from the city so getting up in the morning after a long night with friends was a trek. Some waited for the bus, I liked to get a group together and navigate ourselves through town via the mass transit. It is always the best way to see the city when traveling. The shear overall size of the conference was what really was the jaw dropper.

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

I was going to Terra Madre and Italy with an intention to collect seeds and meet farmers on my travels at the conference and afterwards. It has had such a great impact on my personal goals to spread biodiversity and keep growing my seed collection internationally. As a result of my travels the Portland Seedhouse was born from really seeing the collaborative effort among farmers to collect seed and protect it. This project will allow for the thousands of years of biodiversity to remain in the hands of farmers and keep all of us in touch with our roots, which is ever so important.

 In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

Collecting seed at the conference was simply amazing. I kept asking for “semi”, the farmers thought I was crazy. Saving and educating about these precious seeds has enabled me to give back so the seeds can be passed on to others. Keeping these traditional varieties alive is a very special mission for me, now more than ever. Thinking about that these seeds are where my ancestors are from amazes me. This looks to be a lifelong international journey for me now.

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

If you want to go to Terra Madre… come prepared and don’t mail too many things home it wasn’t worth it. Apply early and get involved with the local chapter as much as possible. I always tell people when I am describing Slow Food for the first time as “it is what you make of it”, so don’t sleep in the hotel room and miss one of the classes because you scheduled too much, you will regret it. Just pound coffee and run out the door, you can sleep when you die. Nothing is as important as enjoying the experience of being there. And think about talking to other people from other areas don’t spend as much time with your friends you can see them later.

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Jackie Varriano

Jackie VarrianoHow are you involved in the food community?

In addition to being one of the co-chairs for the Eugene chapter, I’m a freelance food writer. I interview chefs, farmers and more on a constant basis here in Eugene and around the country.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

First, I took a look at our chapter and saw some pretty large holes. We’ve got a small membership and an even smaller group of people who attend events. We wondered if people just weren’t interested in Slow Food anymore or if we weren’t marketing effectively.

In the Midwest where my family lives, few know what Slow Food is or what it stands for, but I noted their enthusiasm to participate in events. I discovered the same thing in my own community. I wanted to be a delegate so I could experience Slow Food at its roots and better learn how other chapters engage their community. As a teller of stories, getting the chance to meet fellow U.S. delegates and others from around the world and helping spread the word about what they do was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I hope to grow our chapter, engage the community and better support our local farmers, food producers and restaurants.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

I grew up in North Dakota where the farms that surround Fargo are family owned but dedicated to growing sugar beets, corn, soybeans and wheat. There was no farmers market overflowing with fresh shell beans, padrones and garlic scapes.

But there was my parent’s garden overflowing with vegetables. My summers were punctuated by salads stuffed with vegetables still warm from the sun. Weekends were spent next to a stove where tomatoes bubbled, creating salsa and tomato sauce. There were piles of peppers waiting to be sliced and packed in oil or vinegar and pickles to be made. It was this living by the season and squeezing the most out of what you had—the summer packed into a jar to get you through those winters—that first ignited my passion for good, honest food.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

I see myself as an advocate of sorts. I’m not a farmer. I don’t grow the food or produce anything except words. But it’s through these words that I hope to showcase the passion of others, educate people on the importance of food production and spark an interest in seeking out quality goods—not only in my community but across the U.S.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

Everyone tells you how big the Salone is going to be – but seriously. It’s huge. I realize not everyone has time to do this, but I ended up spending about 10 days or so before the festival (and some time after the festival) traveling around Italy, so once I was at the Salone it was amazing to revisit some of the regions and see foods I had just been introduced to. It takes time, but really talking with the producers is well worth it. Also, talking with the delegates is an unmissable experience. From sitting next to someone you don’t know at the US meeting and striking up a conversation to sitting next to people at lunch/dinner, to participating in the happy hours and events the USA booth puts on – it’s so fascinating to learn from your other delegates. You might even have something in common! I ended up running into a woman I went to high school with in Fargo ND. She was a ND delegate – and I hadn’t realized she was going to be there, so that was surprising for sure. 
Lastly, although there were some definite rockstar-type lectures, (with panelists like Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver and Carlo Petrini), I found I got so much more enjoyment out of the smaller events that I didn’t know much about. There were less people, the panelists were able to get much more in-depth about their topics and I met so many interesting people passionate about what they were speaking on. I’d say pick something out of your comfort zone – you might be really surprised by how much you enjoy it!

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

I went in with zero expectations, and I’m not sure if that helped, or hurt me. I know people who are farmers who didn’t seem to attend too many of the lectures, but they made connections with other farmers and food producers at the booths, leading to farm stays and lasting relationships. I wish I would’ve had a clearer idea of what I wanted out of the event – was more proactive instead of acting like a sponge, just ready to soak it all in.

That being said, I was amazed by how little I know about global food production. It’s made me think about how I write and what I write about when it comes to food. One of my favorite panel discussions was around the topic of meat – and not only did the panelists talk about the upcoming Slow Meat event that was scheduled for Denver, they talked about pricing, cause and effect of low meat costs, what labeling means, etc. My eyes were opened to just how far the US has to go when it comes to meat (and fish) compared to other countries, and it has been frustrating since I’ve returned to get traction. Many of the editors I work with act like Slow Food is old news, or something that only wealthy white people participate in – but on a global scale that’s not the case.

I’ve since left Oregon and moved to Seattle and there doesn’t seem to be a large Slow Food presence here and I find that interesting. I’m struggling to find the passion felt at Terra Madre once I’ve returned – but then I only need to look at the work that my fellow delegates are doing, like Evan Gregoire and Jamie Holding Eagle to see that Slow Food ideals are alive, well and working.

In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

Probably not enough. I’ve written a few articles, and turned my focus on to producers that are living life the Slow Food way. I’ve talked with friends, family and co-workers about Slow Food, encouraging people to get involved – especially food producers who I think would really benefit from having a Terre Madre experience.

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

I’ve told so many people to apply! It’s an invaluable experience for a farmer, food producer and even a writer like me. You get as much out of it as you put into it – go with high expectations, don’t be afraid to meet people or ask for things, participate in everything you can, make connections, stay a few extra days to explore, speak up for your beliefs as you might find like-minded people from all corners of the globe, but don’t be afraid to listen.

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Jane Pellicciotto

Jane Pellicciotto

How are you involved in the food community?

As a Slow Food Portland steering committee member, I bring my visual communication, writing and marketing skills to the table, as well as plan events and cultivate relationships in the food community to ensure a strong and resilient web of activity. As a designer, educator, writer and business mentor, and not a chef or food producer, I’m able to nurture other critical parts of the food system, though I have had the pleasure of helping a few chefs and did cooking demos at the farmers market. Curiosity led me a few years ago to draw and document for a year all my produce! Fortunately there are many entry points to the ecosystem of food as it touches every aspect of our lives. A good food future needs many players.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

It’s daunting to be a volunteer and the voice of a chapter for an organization that addresses so many areas, from justice to biodiversity to taste to culture to environment. To be a more effective and confident steward of its mission, I thought it would help to have a deeper Slow Food experience. Portland is fast becoming an important food center and I hope my immersion in Terra Madre will enhance how I shape stories, experiences and efforts towards a better food system in our region and in general. Among other things, you can probably expect some live tweeting, juicy blog posts and maybe even a how-to guide for your own future visit!

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

Visiting Italian relatives in Brooklyn, NY, created my most vivid memories. Food and meal preparation were deeply embedded in their daily life. In their DNA. They’d discuss the merits of the week’s ragu and argue over the right way to prepare stuffed peppers. It was simple, peasant-like cooking that I can taste just writing this. But there was a rigidity around food, and meals often lacked a joyful element. This made me deeply curious about how people relate to food, which I try to unpack through writing, creating food-centric events and even teaching people to make pasta. I suppose you could say it’s in my DNA now, too.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

There are so many issues, but four stand out. Limited access to fresh foods for many communities in the U.S. The largely unchecked marketing engine of the industrial food complex with its specious health claims. The significant healthcare costs affecting us all because of our eating habits. Subsidies of industrial crops that skew the true costs of foods, which, in turn, cripples farms producing real food.

Connect with Jane on Twitter and Instagram.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

The sheer scale of both Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto is impressive and overwhelming, in a good way. You wouldn’t think that after 5 long days you still had a chance of missing something. 
 
I had heard about but was unprepared for the true international aspect of the event. It was a rare pleasure each day to see the throngs of delegates enter the building wearing traditional dress from around the world. A tall, blonde Scandinavian woman deep in conversation with a turbaned, dark-skinned man from the Middle East. A girl in tribal dress tasting cheese from France. Norwegians shucking oysters for a group of women from Burkina Faso. I can’t think of many opportunities to be part of a global experience like that. Combine that with coming together around sustainable food, justice and preserving food culture and it makes all the ills of the world melt away knowing we’re all connected.
One day in the canteen, a man from Guatemala sat down with me. Neither of us could speak the others’ language. We drew pictures on napkins to understand one another. I figured out he was a cardamom farmer. That’s the best part of travel to foreign places, remembering that we have other ways of communicating and connecting.
 
There was a very strong youth component. Their booth had so much energy, which is a great sign. They have both the challenge of dealing with what we’ve left them and the opportunity to change things for the better. Now that Terra Madre is open to the public, lots of young children were brought through. To watch their curiosity and openness gives me hope. We hear so much negative stuff on the news. Change starts with introducing one person to something different, something special, and a chain reaction takes place. 
 
The Ark of Taste: The sheer amount of work that went into collecting, labeling, categorizing, designing and displaying some 2000 foods from around the world left me speechless. It was truly the anchor of the Terra Madre hall. You could have spent 5 days just examining every product.
 
I’m not going to lie. Eating your way though the entire country of Italy aisle by aisle is something I will never forget.

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

It should have come as no surprise how good we have it here but being at Terra Madre very much reinforced that. Both in good ways and bad. We are so blessed and do live in a kind of bubble in Portland, even within the U.S. On the plus side, there are a lot of boots on the ground here fighting for a better food future. And yet, there’s an obsessiveness and preciousness around food here that I find off putting, as if it’s a kind of sport. At Terra Madre you witness deep and humble food traditions from around the world, created and supported by people don’t take photos of every meal to post on Instagram. There’s room for the whole spectrum but I guess I want to always maintain a kind of humility about food.

In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

I went intending to capture stories and be able to tell or help people tell their own stories. To help create an archive of attendee stories so there’s a more in-depth history instead of just list of names. One thing I encouraged but wasn’t able to see through, was to highlight the ethnic culture in Portland that few people see. We have a lot of refugees from places like Laos and Nepal and I’d like Slow Food to find a way to expose Portland to that, not just through one event but more deeply. Portland has very little ethnic culture and I think we should do a better job of helping what little there is to thrive. I can’t think of a better approach than through food.

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

I understand the format will be different in 2016 year and brought out into the streets in various venues. I’m not sure how that would work. It’s hard enough to experience everything under one roof, albeit an enormous one. I like the concept but most of the logistical advice might not apply.
 
Be prepared to be very tired and overstimulated. I recommend being in country several days before the event and seeing Torino. It’s a great city and you won’t have time during Terra Madre. This will acclimate you to the timezone.
 
A lot of wonderful conversations happen on the bus to and from your hotel each morning and evening. Cherish those because there’s so much to see and do while your’e on site that it’s hard to connect with people.
 
Sign up for a slot to volunteer at one of the U.S. booths. You learn a lot about peoples’ perceptions. For example, at the Ark of Taste USA booth many Italians who stopped by had no idea olive oil was made in California! It’s a relief to stay put for a few hours and let the spectacle come to you.

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Josh Volk

Josh VolkHow are you involved in the food community?

I am the vegetable grower at Our Table Cooperative in Sherwood. We have a small, unique CSA that also grows for direct-to-retail and restaurant, plus two farmers markets and our own farm stand due to  open in late summer. I’ve been growing vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit for the past 14 years in the Portland area, and before that in other parts of the country. I also consult on small farm projects nationally and in Canada, teach workshops and write on growing techniques, and design tools for growers. I am a former member of the Slow Food Portland steering committee, the Portland/Multnomah Food Policy Council and I currently sit on the advisory board for the Metro Small Farms Program. I’m also helping the Portland Area CSA Coalition to grow their organization.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

I attended Terra Madre in 2006. It was very inspiring and the event was so overwhelming that I felt I was just scratching the surface. John Paul from Cameron Winery was a return delegate that year, having attended the inaugural event in 2004. It was useful to have some experienced perspective along on that trip, so I wanted to return in that same capacity, and also to follow up on my own initial experiences. In 2006, I connected with several farmers and brought back small techniques that I still use to this day. Northern Italy is very close in latitude and climate to Northwest Oregon, so there is a lot of overlap just in that region with what we do here.

My list of goals for attending this Terra Madre is too long and I need to winnow it down. The overarching goal is to make more connections and to bring back ideas for production and organizing. I’m also very interested in sharing what we’re doing here in the Portland Area.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

I’ve always liked to eat and I’ve always liked to know how things work. Learning to produce food has been part of my personal quest to understand where my food comes from. A very early memory for me is watching a news story about migrant labor camps being sprayed by crop dusters and the resulting health problems. It was just a short piece on the evening news, but that always sticks with me and was the seed for my strong interest in organics, not just as a healthier way to eat, but also as a healthier way to produce food. Early in my exploration of growing food I was also very inspired by community gardens that I volunteered in that were in low income neighborhoods. The positive impact that they had in the community, disproportionate to the cost of the program, was very inspiring.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

There is a complex, interconnected set of issues that I see around food and food production. The value and price that we put on food as a larger society is ever present in my mind as a commercial grower. I also think that there needs to be a shift in thinking of food producers as resource stewards, whether they are on land or water, and that we need to find ways to compensate good stewardship, something that doesn’t always increase yield or efficiency in the short term but is essential for so many other reasons. I also see wages for agricultural labor as a problem, but I think it’s one that is caught up in a much larger picture of wage disparity worldwide.

Connect with Josh at joshvolk.com.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

There were so many wonderful parts it’s hard to know where to start. Seeing foods and food traditions, and even just the costumes from every corner of the world, and having the opportunity to taste and hear the stories about those foods was the best part. Hearing the stories and meeting the people behind those foods, sharing growing stories and cooking stories, even in small ways; the people are the best part. It’s not just the people from other countries either, it’s also an incredible shared experience and opportunity to meet and connect with growers, producers and chefs from around the US.

I think the most surprising thing for me at the 2014 event was how much it had evolved from when I first attended in 2006. It was even bigger, with more access to foods from beyond Italy, from all over the world. It was also more open, with more opportunities to connect with the other delegates and observers.

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

It’s a really inspirational event. Day to day it’s easy to see and hear about all sorts of problems in the food system all over the world, but at Terra Madre there’s a real sense that there are good people working to make the world a better place every day in every country. The internet and media in some ways has made us so much more aware of what is happening in other parts of the world, but it becomes obvious that it is a pale substitute for the physical experience of being face to face with people from other countries and traditions and having meaningful interactions. Talking with producers from other parts of the world the struggles are evident, but so is the progress and there’s a lot of hope and optimism there.

In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

The stories and photos I brought back from Terra Madre are ones that I have been sharing ever since I got back: through public talks and dinners, through personal interactions and social media, and also in my writings. They are amazing keys that unlock doors to understanding the larger context of our food system and food production around the world.

In a less tangible way, those experiences have given me opportunities and tools to make connections that would have been difficult or impossible before, and that in turn allow me to help create new connections for others doing the same work.

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

I think for everyone who goes the strongest initial reaction to (and memory of) the event is just how overwhelming it is. This is not going to be like any other conference you go to – it’s more of like going to a trade show, the largest trade show you’ve ever been to, and one where there are literally languages from all over the world being spoken. There’s too much for any one person to take in so on my second trip to Terra Madre I found it really helpful to go with a few goals in mind and to realize that I really needed to take advantage of my time there to work towards collecting the information I was most interested in, making the connections that were most important to me, taking care of myself, and that there were some things I just had to realize I wasn’t going to get to do or see because there just wasn’t enough time or energy in the week.

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Kevin Scribner

Kevin ScribnerHow are you involved in the food community?

In addition to being vice-chair of the Slow Food Portland steering committee, I am participating in a nationwide effort to launch Slow Fish USA. Once afloat, Slow Fish USA will join Slow Fish International, Canada, Istanbul, Europe and many more Slow Fish initiatives to bring our good, clean, fair values to seafood systems. I am also working to translate my 20 years as a commercial salmon fisherman into generating a community-supporting seafood marketplace called the Forever Wild Seafood Club, which will celebrate good, clean, fair seafood.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

Fellowship is food for the soul, and I salivate at the prospect of joining kindred spirits from around the world. Too, joining fellow Slow Fish-ers will be illuminative and inspiring. I hope to encapsulate the spirit and energy of Terra Madre into forms that are relevant to Slow Food Portland. And I look to gain insights on how to help further Slow Fish USA.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

As a child in a small town north of Seattle, WA, I lived next door to an archetypal character our family called “Uncle Herb.” Herb’s life spanned many marine eras, from shipping-under-sail to coal-fired steamers. And he ran a Southeast Alaska salmon canning plant when I knew him. Herb served us stories and many, many cans of salmon. If we truly are what we eat, my body was shaped by salmon from the outset. Salmon are in my cells.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

I have come to look and learn of my surroundings via the lens of systems. And I very much appreciate Slow Food’s recognition that the consumer is a co-producer and hence is within the food system. I believe this underscores both an opportunity and obligation for the consumer—an opportunity to legitimately engage with food production, and an obligation to do so, to become a responsible eater. It is equally important for me, as a cog in a supply chain, to acknowledge and honor this character in the seafood consumer.

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Lane Selman

Lane SelmanHow are you involved in the food community?

I am an agricultural researcher at Oregon State University. I work with organic farmers and plant breeders to develop new vegetable varieties. I created the Culinary Breeding Network (CBN) made up of plant breeders, seed growers, farmers, chefs and others focused on developing vegetable varieties with superior culinary and nutritional quality. Through the CBN, I educate and expand awareness of organic seed created by public and independent plant breeders that use traditional plant breeding techniques.

My passion for educating others about farming and food production has led me to take on additional roles in the food community, including an education and outreach contractor for the Organic Seed Alliance, farmers’ market manager for Gathering Together Farm and partner at Get Dirty Farm Tours. I am also on the steering committee for the Portland Chefs Collaborative.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

Katherine Deumling encouraged me to apply! In addition to wanting to see the Italian culinary culture firsthand, the conference will give me a unique opportunity to build relationships and solidarity with people from all over the world working toward a common goal. I believe gathering with so many others of similar mindset at an international level will be an incredible source of inspiration and energy to me for my work.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

I had the great fortune of growing up on a citrus farm with my extended Italian family. Being Italian (although never having visited Italy!), food has always had a paramount role in my life. From a young age, I spent my time raising animals and vegetables and spending Sundays making the weekly tomato sauce with my Sicilian grandmother. In my life, food has always been symbolic of love, family and connection to people, land and tradition.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

My primary concern is chemical use in our food system. With that in mind, I try to work through a wide lens hoping my small efforts can make an impact globally. Within my community, my goal is helping to create a secure food system by increasing access to quality, organic seed in the public domain.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

 The overwhelming amount of knowledge and expertise from all over the world in one place; and having the incredible opportunity to interact with them.

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

Italy is the perfect place for Terra Madre to be held. I was completely inspired by the Italian way of life. Their appreciation and respect for food and its preparation. The same goes for the Terra Madre event – every person was connected through this reverence and the spirit of sharing and connecting through food. Even after a year, I still think about this fact every day. This is something I come back to when challenged by people with the false perception that quality food (i.e. good tasting, organic, handcrafted food) is elitist. And the Slow Food motto of food being about both “joy and justice”.

In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

I was able to create relationships with people that have provided me with insight on farming techniques that I can now share with farmers I work with here. Much of this is knowledge very specific to crops that are not traditional in our part of the world and that expertise could be found at Terra Madre.

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

Apply!  Many people put it off thinking they are not qualified. Also, arrive a few days ahead of time to get over the jet lag. And bring items from home to share with Terra Madre delegates.

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Leah Rodgers

Leah RodgersHow are you involved in the food community?

I am an advocate, an organizer, an urban farmer, and a householder. Currently, I am the Deputy Director of Friends of Family Farmers a grassroots non-profit that advocates for and provides resources to, Oregon’s socially responsible farmers and ranchers. Through this work, I consider myself a “Small Farm Agent.” I help to relay what is needed from the ground up and work to translate what is going on from the top down. Sometimes, I dress up and lobby at the State Capitol but most times I help to make connections; farmer to farmer, farmer to eater, farmer to policymaker, farmer to opportunity and more. Sometimes, I am just a compassionate ear.

As a farmer, I am able to satisfy the direct-action activist in me as well as the nerd. Farming is a way for me to walk the walk, knit my community together through food, cultivate knowledge and understand loss. I sell vegetables and fruit direct to my “co-producers” via the CSA model plus wholesale to restaurants, and a farm stand will be new this year. I also grow good, clean, and fair flowers!

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

Terra Madre was calling me. I feel like I am at a point in my food evolution to really absorb all that TerraMadre is and stands for. I want to feel the power of the global food community; to supercharge, if you will. My aim is to meet as many people as possible and to remain as open-minded as possible. I’d also love to bring back some seeds and adapt them to my farm here in Oregon.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

Agriculture and I found each other 10 years ago. I was looking for better food and in lieu of paying money for a CSA share, I committed 25 hours a week to Cromwell Valley CSA Farm. It was part of a county park in Maryland.

As an intern, I was a sowing, growing and hoeing fool. I also was there on harvest days. My very first task was to take a mini-machete and harvest asparagus from a two-acre field.  I loved everything about it. So many times throughout the season my heart would just burst with joy and other emotions. I knew without a doubt I was intended for agrarian pursuits. I just didn’t know that up until these moments. I am ever grateful that organic vegetables led me to discover my true passion. Being on that farm, for one season, changed my entire course in the most significant way. The following year I moved to Oregon. The rest we’ll have to share over some Italian wines.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

Personally, right now as an urban farmer, I am really interested in the potential and beauty of urban agriculture. The soil we work, considered prime ag land less than 20 years ago, is surrounded by high-density development. I see urban farms as a positive force to reclaim soil and keep productive lands as close as possible to the community; to fill our neighbors kitchens with quality ingredients and to create oases. Granted the radius of urban farms are small but the connections of those within reach are extremely meaningful.

To me, producing food for ourselves and for others is the most direct way to take on the industrialized food system. It won’t go away until it is forced to, so we might as well prepare ourselves in the meantime.

On a professional level, I am propelled by the power of grassroots organizing. In my short time in the non-profit world (two and a half years and counting), I have witnessed significant people power in action. Namely, Jackson County’s recent win at the ballot and last year’s fight to protect the Willamette Valley from commercial rapeseed production.

I participate with food and farming from the big picture down to the microbes.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

For me, the most enjoyable parts of Terra Madre were getting to know the generous family that hosted me for the week, connecting with people from all over the world and having more pride in being a farmer and an activist. (Never would I imagine I would have friends in Jordan, Madagascar, Iceland or Italy!)
Also, I was impressed with Slow Food’s impact on a global scale. Being at Terra Madre, made me appreciate Slow Food’s mission and values on a much deeper level. My home chapter in Portland, Oregon is largely composed of people with ample privilege. We get to choose what aspects to engage in where as in other chapters in other countries, it seemed there was less choice in defending food cultures, for some, it’s a true matter of survival and relieved that Slow Food was there as an organizing/advocacy force. I was also made aware that in the US- our food traditions are comparatively young and undenaibly built upon the devastating reality of injustice and loss of many first nation peoples. I found myself chewing on how to reconcile this fact a lot.
Terra Madre was bigger and better than I ever could’ve imagined.

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

Terra Madre made me more aware of the issues facing indigenous peoples and provided me with the insight to be more compassionate and fierce to defend food and farming cultures and biodiversity around the world.
 
I met an indigenous woman from a very small village in Alaska who’s way of life was undeniably impacted by climate change.  Her people do not have farmland or gardens. The geography does not allow for that. Instead, they subsist by and large on hunting and gathering from the ocean and the forests.  Because of higher global temperatures, one staple berry did not bear fruit that summer. It was a frightening indicator and reminder of her people’s dependency on a healthy ecosystem. Her story hit me very profoundly. 
I also came back home and decided to quit my job in the non-profit sector and focus solely on farming full time. I felt empowered and encouraged to dedicate myself to being a producer only with more pride.
Further, I am still hunting for pizza here at home that can measure up the the pies I had in Italy. :)

In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

I’m not sure I have really done a good job at this, or maybe this is happening in subtle ways. I am more inquisitive about culture and tradition, as well as finding creative ways to marry modern life with agrarian roots. For example, I decided to get involved with Outgrowing Hunger because they are a force of good in my direct community, but also because they work with a large population of Bhutanese refugees who find some peace and security in growing food in community. They can grow familiar crops and prepare dishes that taste like home even when they are very much strangers in a strange land. 

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

I would tell them to taste everything! Bring an extra bag for all the goodies you will want to take home. Take pictures. Take notes. Be sure to get contact info of interesting people you meet- you may not see them again. Don’t be shy!  Stay with a host family if you want a quieter experience. Drink lots of water and try to avoid jet lag by adjusting your sleep a few days before. 

…………………

Linda Ziedrich

Linda ZiedrichHow are you involved in the food community?

I am a member of the Slow Food Corvallis board, a member of the Ark of Taste committee for the Pacific and Northwest, and a founder of a new local-food organization, the Santiam Food Alliance. For over 20 years I’ve lived on a farm near Scio, where I grow, cook, preserve and write about a large variety of fruits and vegetables. I am the author of The Joy of Pickling, The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, and Cold Soups, and I teach preserving classes.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

I considered applying only after the president of Slow Food Corvallis, Marilyn Henderson, asked me to do so. But soon I was convinced that the trip would deepen my understanding of Slow Food as an international organization and movement, allow me to meet like-minded people from around the world, and fill my mind with ideas and inspiration that I could use here in Oregon.

I plan to write about my experience and take photos, and to report about Terra Madre on my blog and in public presentations.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

I remember the first time I tasted rose gelato, thirty years ago. I was stunned. The stuff reminded me of a kind of hand lotion, called Rose Milk, that my mother used when I was a child. The flavor and texture both seemed soapy, and simply wrong for food. By the time I’d licked the little dish clean, though, I loved rose gelato.

Today roses are among my favorite foods. I’m always trying—and usually failing—to get people to try roses in cooking. We deny ourselves so much pleasure when we refuse to taste what’s new and strange.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

My focus is on foods that are easy for the householder to grow or gather, especially those that are under appreciated, such as quinces, currants, flowers and weeds. But I’m always thinking about how the needs of householders are intertwined with those of commercial farmers, and how elevating good food as a cultural value can benefit everyone, by improving social cohesion, the local economy and public health.

Connect with Linda on her blog: A Gardener’s Table.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

The home stay was amazing; it put everything else into context. I can’t tell you how much I learned from my host family and community about Italian society and the importance of food in family and village life.

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

Terra Madre strengthened my view that food traditions can be essential to family and community identity and, by extension, to the development of personal identity and to the maintenance of mental as well as physical health.

In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

I have given three slide presentations, which I publicized through the Internet and newspapers. From these efforts, a lot of people in my region have learned what Slow Food and the Ark of Taste are.

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

I’d say, Do it! Don’t sign up for many paid workshops; you may not be able to attend them, and you’ll find plenty of free learning opportunities. And definitely consider a home stay.

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Mickey Clayton

Mickey ClaytonHow are you involved in the food community?

I am the owner-operator of Dot Ranch, a small sustainable ranch that specializes in products and breeding stock of rare heritage breeds of livestock. I raise Navajo-Churro Sheep, Irish Dexter Cattle, and Mottled Java Chickens. My ranch produces wool, fiber and taxidermy items such as hand tanned trophy quality pelts, skulls, horns, and bones, and of course grass-fed, pasture-raised meats.

I’m also a member of the Oregon Friends of Family Farmers, a Bob Woodruff Farming Fellow of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a participant in The Java Recovery Project of The Livestock Conservancy, active member of the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association, an active supporter of Diné Be’ Iiná (The Navajo Lifeways Organization), and I’m the Oregon lead representative of the Women’s Farmer Veteran Network. I work towards sponsoring sustainable and humane livestock management among beginning ranchers, and fostering relationships between veterans interested in agricultural careers and existing agricultural networks.

Why did you apply to be a delegate and what do you hope to achieve by attending?

Members of the Women’s Farmer Veteran Network (WFVN) encouraged me to apply as part of a Farmer-Veteran delegation, and when I started to suggest the possibility to other members of rancher and AgriActivist communities, I was surprised and humbled by the amount of people who encouraged me to apply. They all told me that as a sustainable rancher from a deep rural background, a disabled veteran of OIF, and a woman of multi-ethnic heritage, I would represent communities that might otherwise not have a voice in this venue. I realized there might be a place for my voice at Slow Food’s table after all.

The WFVN hopes to communicate to an international community our stories of redemption and healing through a reconnection to the Earth. We hope to show other communities, particularly those in conflict-stricken regions, that they can find both a way to reintegrate their communities and to feed their children at the same time by building partnerships between former warfighters and survivors of war. My personal goal is to also assist the members of Slow Food’s Navajo-Churro Sheep Presidium communicate the vast inequity of prices given to Navajo producers for products from these sheep, and that given to non-Navajo producers. Food sovereignty for indigenous communities means more than being able to provide bare subsistence levels of food security, it also means being able to receive a fair and equitable price for our goods and products. When I return from TerraMadre, I hope to present my findings and experiences to the communities I’m involved in, showing that there IS a way to be small, sustainable, and profitable enough for long-term survival.

Can you share a personal anecdote about food?

As a child raised in a multi-ethnic household, dinner was the one time when all aspects of my heritage could be honored and respected. I had a deep relationship to the act of producing food from infancy on, for my paternal grandparents were farmers, and even after they retired and moved to the city, they continued to raise chickens and grow produce and vegetables. The best moments of my childhood were spent on a sheep ranch. For me, happiness is sheep sounds and the scent of my mother’s spices.

What concerns or interests you most about food or food producing?

Having both experienced deep poverty in my own childhood, and having witnessed it in other countries during my military service, I have a keen awareness of the importance of both food security and food sovereignty. Indigenous communities are particularly struck by a lack of both, and the need to right this disparity is one of the strongest driving forces behind my AgriActivism. Having experienced the rigors of combat, and witnessing the devastation that war commits on communities, I have a further need towards helping both former warfighters and war survivors come back to peace. I believe that the only way to bring peace back to conflict torn communities is by reconnecting people to the resources of survival and the healing power of our Earth. Over the toil of agriculture and the fruit of the table, a new balance can be attained.

After Terra Madre …

What were some of the most enjoyable and/or surprising aspects of attending the event?

For me, the most enjoyable aspect of this event was getting to meet other sheep herders from across the world.  While it did take some extra effort to track them all down, I was able to build genuine and long lasting relationships with a handful of like-minded producers from Europe, the Virgin Islands, and the Mediterranean.  Between this and the wide range of presentations given in multiple languages, there was never a dull moment at this event.

The most surprising thing to me was just how few pastoralists were featured, as opposed to farmers.  While there were many panels dedicated to ways to improve farming in both developed and undeveloped countries, there was very little emphasis on animal welfare in pastoral communities (versus developed countries with their “factory farms”), or on communities that rely on migrational herding.  This lack of emphasis did not go unnoticed, I was pleased and proud when a woman from Kenya spoke up at one of the keynote conference meetings decrying the lack of perspective from pastoral people who rely on animals, not plants, to make their living.   Given that a good portion of the world still relies on their herds for survival, I was really dismayed to see so little representation presented at Slow Food’s events.

How did Terra Madre impact you personally—your beliefs, career, outlooks?

Terre Madre was an eye opening experience, because it showed me just how fragile our hold on genetic diversity within livestock really is.  One recurring theme that came up when I spoke to both livestock producers and chefs at the conference, was that there is an ever growing trend for all of our meat and dairy products to be sourced from just a handful of breeds and producers, in just a handful of production methods, and we are in real danger of losing not only genetically unique and diverse animals, but a myriad of diverse ways of life that are suited to each environment and culture.  As our food becomes homogenized, so too do our cultures, and yet our physical environments remain diverse.

This trend can very easily be shown as unsustainable, both in human health and environmentally devastating effects.   There are a startling number of cases where just a handful of individuals, often faced with ridicule and legal difficulty, are holding the last repository of entire livestock breeds on their farms and stewarded lands.   In the case of sheep and goats, almost all of these individuals are women, and they’re nearly unanimously faced with changing social conditions that devalue women’s power and social worth.  This is more than just a food issue, a genetics issue, or an environmental issue, it’s also a social issue.

In what ways have you been able to “give back” some of learning and experiences you encountered at Terra Madre?

This is a continuing saga for me, as I’ve been able to build long term relationships with many of the people whom I met at Terra Madre and the Salone del Gusto.  I’ve become deeply involved with helping other small heritage breed livestock producers work on genetic conservation programs, and become more effective at rallying social media to their causes.   I’m also continuing to work on documenting pastoral life in America, for a surprising number of people here still rely on subsistence agriculture, and their story goes largely untold.

How would you advise those who have an interest in attending Terra Madre in the future?

This event is essentially an entirely self guided experience.  Each delegate had a widely varying view and take on what was available from a dizzying array of panels to a massive and sprawling walk through the world’s cuisines.  This is truly one of those events where you get what you put in, and if you don’t go out of your way to search for things, you can very easily miss just how much there really is to see.  From a delegate standpoint, it wasn’t necessarily organized, but from an engaged participants point of view, you were able to find everything that you expended the energy to find, but you had to be willing to search.   One other piece of advice I would offer is this:  It may be comfortable to hang out with the other Americans, but you don’t learn anything new from it that you couldn’t learn right here in the United States.  Go out.  Get curious.  Invite yourself into other people’s conversations.  Embrace your place in the global community.