I liken Terra Madre as sort of the Olympics/U.N. of food and sustainable agriculture. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were especially powerful: uniting with a global sea of people who are in solidarity about remolding our food system left me with indescribable feelings of inspiration, validation, and hopefulness. During the actual conference activities, I was struck by great conversations and friendships found in long lunch lines, long bus rides, and happenstance encounters. Over 1,300 of the 6,000 delegates were youth (people under age 30) including myself, and everywhere I turned there were young faces. I felt like we brought incredible energy directed towards renewing and revitalizing sustainable and traditional agriculture.
Many of the young people I got to know at Terra Madre were actively working on social justice issues within the food system. I was most blown away through talking to some organizers for Immokalee, Florida tomato workers. Immokalee workers have been getting paid the same wage since 1978, just 45 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes they pick! A wage so horrendous I could barely believe it was true, even in '78. Although they are legally prevented from unionizing, they have formed a coaltion: Coaltion of Immokalee Workers, and they are currently in a wicked battle to get the Florida Tomato Growers Association to agree to a pay raise of 1 cent per hour that Food Giants like McDonalds, Subway, and Taco Johns already agreed to pay for!!! Go to CIW's website to see the incredible work they are doing to end modern-day slavery in this country: www.ciw-online.org.
Other youngsters I met were working to get CSA shares to food shelves and poor neighborhoods in New York City, setting up farmers markets in urban food deserts, or saving nearly extinct indigenous seed varieties in Ecuador. Those social justice projects inspired me to try to move forward on similar social justice issues in our local MN communities, and to find a way for our farm to provide organic and local food to all. How to do that and keep our farm financially sustainable is the balancing act, but many creative farmers and non-profits have found a way, and I talked to many of them to get ideas and impetus to move forward.
Notable speakers included Carlo Petrini, Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva, HRH Prince Charles of Wales (in video), and the youngest star, 15-year-old Sam Levin from Massachusetts who started a garden at his school, got the cafeteria to serve their garden's salad, thereby increasing salad eating in the lunchroom by 80%. He was just an inspiring kid, and I think we were all wowed by his presence to speak eloquently to over 6,000 people. There were not many dry eyes by the end of his inspiring speech. Vandana Shiva rocked in every single session and speech I saw her at. She was hands-down the most succinct and intelligent person I've ever heard address food security, climate change, and GMOs. Best of all, she'll be at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in February.
To see my photos from Terra Madre and Italy, go here
I think I need another post just to address the food....
One of my favorite photos