Spirit of Terra Madre

Reflections on last year’s Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre event in Turin from the Australians who attended this global Slow Food gathering…

When Victorian cattle farmers Allen and Lizette Snaith set off to Slow Food’s Terra Madre event in 2006, they were looking for inspiration. “For us Terra Madre was an eye opening experience. It gave us the opportunity to be inspired by food creators from all over the world.” On returning they launched a smallgoods range to increase their ‘nose-to-tail’ usage and nine years later are winning awards for their dry-aged beef that they sell directly to chefs and at farmers’ markets.

Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre event has been an important stimulus for thousands of people striving to bring good, clean and fair food to their communities, and Australian delegates from a range of backgrounds – chefs, farmers, producers, academics, Slow Food members – have been participating in this biennial gathering since 2004.

“Last October, 26 Australians were once again thrilled to have the opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and food cultures in conferences and workshops, and, perhaps most poignantly, in the mingling of worlds that happens in the International Marketplace, a kaleidoscope of sustainable small-scale farmers, fishermen and artisan producers from 160 countries,” said Amorelle Dempster, Slow Food Councilor for Australia.

“The International pavilion was my favourite stomping ground,” said Pam Johnston of Porkery Hill Produce, Nowra Hills, NSW. “The atmosphere was amazing, from the Ark of Taste exhibit to Africans with small offerings of grain proudly presented in tiny hand woven bowls. It truly was a humble melting pot of cultures and like minded people who believe that good, clean and fair food, along with local producers, is our future.”

The Ark of Taste was a key theme, and everyone was invited to contribute a forgotten food from their home to the 600 square meter exhibit that became the centrepiece of the event, and a standout for many. “I listened to people speak about locating, preserving and sometimes just protecting indigenous foods and wanted to return home and seek out these foods in my own backyard,” said Michelle Moon, a farmers’ market manager from Slow Food Hunter Valley. “The sheer volume of products submitted for the Ark of Taste proved that there is so much we need to save, to work for and to preserve.”

Indigenous Australians, Pat Torres and Valerie Sibosado, of Mayiharvests, Broome, brought a selection of native Australian foods with them, including the Ark-listed Pindan walnut, and spoke in conferences about protecting indigenous foods into the future as a crucial part of their local food supply and cultural identity. Pat and Val offered a daily tasting of gabiny and rosella jam, pindan walnut paste, gabiny and fig jams and gabiny and guwarl chutney.

Clive Crossley and Lynne Uptin from Tasmania’s Red Sails Ciders, who manage 100-year-old heritage orchards, and Sally Hookey and Peter Heineger from Hinterland Feijoas, Queensland also spent time on the stand each day, greeting some of the more than 200,000 visitors to the event.

“Each day we settled into the routine of working on the Australian stand in the afternoons, catching up with contacts through the day, tasting an unimaginable range of foods from all around the world, and going to cooking classes and talks,” said Sally. ”The highlight during this time was that we somehow managed to have in-depth conversations with farmers from all corners of the world about our crops and issues. Meeting the Uruguayan delegates was really special, as feijoas are indigenous to their country and we had been friends through social media for many years.”

The opportunity to meet others in their craft was also a highlight for Clive and Lynne. “We formed relationships for the future with other international cider makers from USA, Hungary and Slovakia and it was wonderful to see the top artisan cider makers gathered together during the cider Taste Workshop. The audience tasted ciders by each producer as they spoke about their approaches, the traditions they were coming from, and the fruit they used, often preserving old varieties.”

For Noosa chef Matt Golinski, the Italian Pavilion, with its vast array of specialist foods and beverages from each of the twenty regions, held a very important lesson to bring home to Australia. “Terra Madre was a great illustration of the importance of regionalism in creating diversity and a culinary identity for each area. To be able to bring the experience home to Australia, where regionalism is starting to be recognised as an important part of our own culture, and encourage that development using Italy as an example, to me was the most valuable lesson I learned from my trip.”

For most delegates, it is the enthusiasm for the future – despite the serious discussions about shared problems like the loss of food biodiversity, aging farmers and low youth interest, economic hardship for small-scale farmers, legislative obstacles, land grabbing and GMOs – that sees them leaving Turin with a renewed sense of hope and determination.

For Slow Food Melbourne members Lucy and Adrian, visitors to the event, Terra Madre was both a time for reflection and a celebration of the world’s staggering edible biodiversity. “It offered reflection on the fragility of traditional food systems when faced with the threat of industrialised agriculture, but Terra Madre offers an alternative that if we can unite and take action by preserving traditions, knowledge will not be lost.”

Terra Madre delegates that represent Australia’s good, clean and fair food system at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre event are self-funded or assisted by convivium fundraising efforts. If you are interested in participating in the next edition to be held in Turin in October 2016, speak to your convivium leader.

Slow Food Australia would like to thank all delegates for their participation, the conviva who assisted with fundraising and organization and the Tasmanian Government for their support for the Australia stand.

For more information on the event, visit www.salonedelgusto.com

Find out more about Slow Food’s Terra Madre network at www.terramadre.info

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