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Bodega Global :: Fresh Eyes

This past fall, JJP from Bodega Chronicles traveled across the Mediterranean exploring food markets of every style and format as part of our Bodega Global Project.  Before hitting the road, he participated as a delegate at the Slow Food International Bi-annual Conference – Terra Madre – along with two colleagues from the States, Sarah Fleming from DEGC out of Detroit and Heather Wooten from PHLP in Oakland as part of the Food Justice delegation at the conference.

We ask Sarah and Heather to help launch the Bodega Global Project by providing their voices and perspective  to frame the issue of food access and healthy grocery vis-a-vis their experience at Terra Madre.  Sarah is first up to bat…

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As an urban planner the development of urban spaces, the stabilization of communities and the function and preservation of the built form of cities has always been my focus.  Traditionally “rural” issues such as farming and food production weren’t so much as a blip on my radar.  I am very new to the food world—outside of eating, of course—and until recently I had never put much thought into the “who what why where and how” of food, or the system that allows food to get from the farm (or in some cases the—ahem—factory) to my table. Now don’t get me wrong—I love to eat, and eat well for that matter, but really, (insert sarcastic voice here) what more could there possibly be to it than that?

Enter Terra Madre.

I have to admit that before attending the conference I really didn’t know much about the organization, the movement, or Slow Food in general. I was interested in anything that was for all intents and purposes called the “Yay Mother Earth and Boo Fast Food” conference. A gathering of over 6,000 people from across the globe who come together to discuss food? For 5 days? In Italy? Is this even really a question? Yes please.

The conference had two major components: the sessions which discussed slow food related topics such as sustainable agriculture and food justice, and the Salone del Gusto, a gigantic trade show that featured hundreds of food producers from various regions in Italy and various parts of the world—all ready and able to speak with you about their products and give you a sample of their wares. Now, while I did attend a few sessions to get a feel of what the Slow Food Movement is all about, I’ll give you one guess as to where I spent most of my time?

Ah yes, the Salone…

The great thing about the Salone (outside of the vast array of amazing food and the plethora of free samples) is it allowed me to see where my food comes from – up close and personal. I saw things like:

“Here is a picture of the exact cow that this cheese was made from, and the cave that it was aged in”;

“This is the exact area in the ocean that these oysters come from, and here’s what they feed on and how they’re harvested.”

And then, my favorite “Here’s where prosciutto comes from…” Whaaaaaaaaaat? No! Really?! Butt and hoof and all? Just a-hanging there? Jeez-o-peets, am I thrilled? Disgusted? Do I want to stare in awe? Run and cry? Honestly, I still don’t know, but what I can say is that I can’t believe that I didn’t know before these things about foods that I love and eat all the time. I mean, really–cheese can happen in a cave? Huh. So that’s how cheese works. Woah.

I really enjoyed how the Salone and the conference really highlighted for me just how disconnected we are from our source of life and vitality—our food. I consider myself to be a fairly educated individual—I mean, I’ve read Fast Food Nation, right? But honestly, I had no idea how separate I was from my food and how little I know about what it really is and how it gets from there—where ever that may be—to me.

Moving forward in my work I’d love to find a way to better inform shoppers about their food—where it comes from and how it gets there—so that they can make the best decisions about what they take home to their families.

And I’ve realized that this city girl needs to get out more often—to the farm. Because after having prosciutto that fresh, the shrink wrapped stuff at the store just won’t do. Bring me a leg!

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Sarah Fleming is Project Manager of the Green Grocer Project in Detroit – a program that combines dedicated financing, comprehensive operational technical assistance, and acts as a direct liaison to city and state government for Detroit’s grocery community. Sarah’s job is to help existing Detroit grocers become better entrepreneurs and better citizens by providing the highest quality of fresh foods to Detroiters.  Check out Sarah’s work and organization!

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