|Toki Oshima illustration.
By JoAnne Bander
Mixed in the crowded aisles of the biennial Slow Food jamboree called Terra Madre, where thousands of farmers, food producers and activists gathered in Turin, Italy, in October 2012, were three Maine women. Sarah Bostick of Brunswick, Heather Chandler of Portland and Holli Cederholm of Washington were among the 250 official U.S. delegates appointed by regional selection committees to represent the food and farming issues of their communities.
Terra Madre’s first rendition in 2004 gathered more than 5,000 from 130 countries, including about 10 from Maine. Now integrated with Salone del Gusto, Slow Food’s biennial food show highlighting artisan products, it remains a world gathering of food communities – farmers, fishermen, chefs, producers, writers, sustainable food activists – convened to build connections and thinking around the “increasingly interconnected fields of food, agriculture, sustainable development, gastronomy, globalization, and economics.”
This year Terra Madre is striving to energize and mobilize the diverse food communities at the forefront of the grassroots battle against industrial food production with the theme The Future of Food.
Bostick, who began farming on her own land this year, has an advanced permaculture design certificate and is the refugee farmer specialist for Cultivating Community in Portland. She was seeking new inspiration in Turin, wanting “horizons expanded and new ideas percolating in my imagination ... lost in an ocean of other farmers, producers, seed savers, teachers and cooks from every corner of the world.” It’s all here in the displays, workshops and informal meetings of Terra Madre.
Cederholm, a writer and storyteller, who was a MOFGA apprentice in 2005 and a farmer-in-residence at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity for two years, founded Proud Peasant Farm with Brian St. Laurent in 2010. They are growing heirloom vegetables and producing organic seed in Washington, Maine, and Cederholm is general manager of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA).
For her, Terra Madre was a chance to exchange stories about farming with other farmers and producers from around the world. In her view “farmers and food activists are all inherently organizers” and Terra Madre is a huge caldron of organizing opportunities and information exchange.
Heather Chandler, publisher of The Sunrise Guide, a guide book and directory on sustainable living, applied as a delegate because she “is interested in food issues and wanted to know more about how others around the world are approaching issues of sustainability.” She is reveling in the informal conversations that evolve from “just being here, sitting next to the food policy director of the European Union in the Internet café, chatting with the third-generation Portuguese farmer I stood in the cafeteria line with, an Alice Waters type, who constantly diversifies her products to keep viable.”
For all, it is about the future of food – clean, safe, fairly raised, healthy food – and bringing the lessons of Terra Madre back to Maine.