Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto 2014 Opening Cermenony

Me after checking in at Terra Madre
in Torino Italy. Oct. 22, 2014
Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp
After months of planning, two long days of international flights, and some of the best airport cuisine that I had ever tasted, I finally arrived at the Oval Lingotto to check-in for the opening day of the 2014 Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto on Oct. 22, 2014. 

Just as I had experienced it in 2010, I was overwhelmed by the showing of the international Slow Food community. Hearing the many various languages from all corners of the world, and seeing how happy everyone was to be able to attend the conference in Torino was an incredibly emotional and fulfilling experience.

The Wifi wasn't quite set up yet for the conference, so I waited in the cantina for my childhood friend Elizabeth Hoover to arrive. I was so excited when I found out that Liz would be coming to Terra Madre. I hadn't seen her since I moved to California in 2005, but I had met her back when I was in middle school and she was a college student, and had remained connected via Facebook. Liz is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, an advocate for native health and food issues, and she writes about her experiences working with Native American food sovereignty projects on her blog "From Garden Warriors to Good Seeds: Indigenizing the Local Food Movement."

Once Liz and her friend Franco Lee (a chef from the White Mountain Apache Nation) had arrived and had lunch, we headed over to the Palasport Izozaki for the opening ceremony.

Highlights from the Opening Ceremonies

At Terra Madre 2014, there were 3,000 delegates present that represented 175 countries. The opening ceremony began as flag bearers from each of those countries marched in with their colors to take their places on stage. The main themes for this year were family farming and the Ark of Taste - a project to "preserve endangered tastes" by collecting and protecting food staples and dishes from around the world (a list of the American Ark of Taste foods can be found on the Slow Food USA website).

"I just want to say thank you for everything you are doing to promote healthy eating and good nutrition in our families and communities," American First Lady Michelle Obama said in a video message. 

"I am particularly excited about your 10,000 Food Gardens in Africa initiative," said Obama, adding "I know how important it is to produce healthy food right in our own communities."

Joei Asari, a delegate
and keynote speaker 
from Japan before
the opening cerem-
ony for Terra Madre
on Oct. 22, 2014.
Photo Credit:
Lauren J. Mapp
Joei Asari - a Japanese keynote speaker and flag bearer - spoke of the traditional values of koji and miso during his speech.

"Made with heart and soul to nourish our bodies and our communities," Joei stated that miso has been used to help detoxify people in Japan after exposure to radiation during the Fukushima disaster in 2011.  He is pictured on the right before the Opening Ceremony in Torino, Italy on Oct. 22, 2014. 

"The end of Apartheid [in South Africa] was supposed to free people from poverty, but small scale fishers were prevented from accessing the oceans," said Naseegh Jaffer, General Secretary of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples and a South African delegate.

Those same small-scale fishers and community members from South Africa were eventually able to change the law in order to gain access to the sea and bring down another entity of "systematic oppression."

One of the most moving speakers of the evening was Ibrahim Mansaray, a speaker from the Republic of Côte D'Ivore who spoke on behalf of Patrick Mansaray and Father Maurizio - two Sierra Leonean men who were unable to attend Terra Madre 2014 due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Prior to the 2014 Terra Madre conference, Daniele Buttignol (Secretary General of Slow Food Italy) announced that delegates from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia - as well as delegtes from Syrian villages occupied by ISIS - were asked not to attend in order to prevent any problems occurring with either the Ebola virus or ISIS issues. Instead, money was sent to those areas in order to purchase food and medicine for affected communities.
Ibrahim Mansaray speaks on behalf of
Patrick Mansaray and Father Maurizio
during the Terra Madre opening
ceremony in Torino on Oct. 22, 2014.
Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp

"Everyone lives in fear: there is only fear and waiting," said Mansaray, adding that "a child's embrace is [now] feared instead of welcome." The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is destroying their traditional culture. People are stopped at check points in their daily travels to have their temperatures checked, and everyone must wash their hands with bleach 5-10 times a day in order to limit contracting and spreading Ebola.

In an attempt to limit the reach of the virus, people no longer touch or embrace one another and groups of more than 5 people are not allowed to gather together - which is negatively affecting the traditional culture and harvesting practices in Sierra Leone.

With his powerfully energetic and motivational presence, Slow Food founder and President Carlo Petrini concluded the speeches at the opening ceremony.

"We have reached an entropic crisis and we cannot waste anymore," said Petrini. "The energy produced by food - the little energy produced - creates a lot of waste. To overcome this situation, we must change the paradigm, we must reject the idea of food as a commodity, we must reject any approach that gives no value to food and we must change this food system, because it is a criminal system."

Petrini and the Slow Food community as a whole are strong advocates for promoting biodiversity and seed saving. After stating that modern day society generally relies on only 30-40 species for most of our food supply, he reminded everyone of the importance of seed saving and continuing to promote a community diet based on biodiversity.

"You are the fierce defenders of biodiversity," said Petrini, "you can preserve [these foods]. The future is in your seeds."

Additionally, Petrini spoke of the importance of family and small scale farming, which is one of the major influences for the 10,000 Gardens in Africa. This Slow Food project aims to create 10,000 "good, clean and fair" gardens in African communities in order to help diminish malnutrition and increase food sovereignty throughout the continent.

"Without family farming, there would be no way to feed the world." said Petrini, adding that "by 2016, 10,000 gardens will all be there [in Africa]."

Slow Food founder and President Carlo Petrini speaks about
biodiversity, seed saving and family gardens during the
opening ceremony for Terra Madre in Torino, Italy on
Oct. 22, 2014.
Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp


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