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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.