December 12, 2008

Terra Madre: Through the Farmers' Eyes: Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm

sites/default/files/terra_madre1_0.jpgTerra Madre is a biennial meeting of Slow Food International that takes place in Turin, Italy. This year, CUESA worked with the local and international branches of Slow Food to help send Greg Massa and Raquel Krach from Massa Organics and Armen and John Carlon from Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm to the conference.

Terra Madre is a biennial meeting of Slow Food International that takes place in Turin, Italy. This year, CUESA worked with the local and international branches of Slow Food to help send Greg Massa and Raquel Krach from Massa Organics and Armen and John Carlon from Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm to the conference.

Everyone at Terra Madre was somehow involved in a food community, whether it was as a farmer, food producer, food advocate, chef, or student.  The conference itself was an amazing feat given the sheer number of attendees, and the many topics discussed — from climate change to education to tradition and technology. Each session was translated into eight languages!! The focus of this year’s conference was youth involvement; it was so uplifting and inspiring to meet young people from all over the world with new energy and passion for something that we’ve been involved with for most of our adult lives. 

But the experiences we’ll remember most happened in the hours between the official programming — when we had the chance to get to know and learn from our fellow delegates.

We were housed with approximately 30 other Americans (the best group of people!)  in a small hotel in the town of Fossano, 45 minutes southwest of Torino. We ate breakfast and dinner and traveled to and from the conference together every day. Over the course of the week, our interests melded and overlapped, and we all learned so much from each other. John and I had never been on a bus where everyone was looking out the window and discussing the food growing along the roads!   

The Salone del Gusto exhibition, the giant product fair adjacent to the conference, had literally miles of cheeses, meats (walls of prosciutto!), preserves, wine, bread, chocolate, 50-year-old balsamic vinegars, etc., and all were produced on small family or community farms or facilities. At the end of every day, we’d reconvene with our hotelmates to share our discoveries and discuss every delicacy.

In Italy, Slow Food isn’t a fad or club; it’s a way of life. Whole communities live the Slow Food way, regardless of whether they call it that. 

The highlight for us came when our whole group was invited to attend a dinner in Fossano on the fourth  night we were there.  It was a regional Slow Food dinner, located in the gymnasium of a Catholic elementary school.  There were tables set for 300, and the place was full of Italians from the area, along with our group of Americans and about 50 or 60 French Terra Madre participants (who had apparently been to the conference two years before and were welcomed back by the local folks).

The menu was incredible. Before each course, the local dignitaries — Fossano’s mayor and regional agricultural director — introduced the farmer or artisan responsible for the food we were eating, or the wine we were drinking.  We met the growers, and shared the meal with them. In addition to the food, everyone from babies to old folks enjoyed local music, singing and dancing. We had no idea what to expect when we sat down to eat at 8:30 pm; when someone mentioned that it was 2:00 am we looked up from our dessert surprised! 

We have returned home inspired to increase our activity in our local food community, and look forward to sharing the Slow Food experience with others. 

Thank you again, CUESA, for this most excellent opportunity.

Armen & John Carlon
Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm

About CUESA

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Learn More »