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Posted on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 9 a.m.

Ann Arbor representatives head to Terra Madre 2012 in Turin, Italy

By Kim Bayer


Megan DeLeeuw of Handsown Farm at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market

Kim Bayer | Contributor

Like the TED conference for luminaries in technology, entertainment and design, Slow Food International's bi-annual Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy gathers thousands of regional rockstars in fair and sustainable food systems from around the world. At Terra Madre, each farmer, fisher, chef, educator, miller, beekeeper, winemaker, bread baker, or cheese maker is selected to attend based on an application demonstrating efforts to uphold Slow Food principles in creating a "good, clean and fair" food system. This year's Terra Madre (and Salone del Gusto "hall of taste") starts this week, from Oct. 25-29.

It's an honor to be invited to attend and to have the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the world's most committed food system advocates hailing from Australia to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between. With the growing food movement in Michigan, Ann Arbor has sent delegates to Terra Madre for the past 10 years, each time joining more than 2,000 others from more than 150 countries.

At the last Terra Madre in 2010, Brandon Johns of Grange Kitchen and Bar, John Savanna of Mill Pond Bread, Kris and Casey Hirth of Old Pine Farm and Deirdra Stockmann (and I) as leaders of Slow Food Huron Valley represented the Ann Arbor area.

This year, in spite of tremendous funding cuts in support for the event, more than a half dozen Terra Madre representatives from Michigan have been invited to attend. The 2012 Terra Madre delegates from the Ann Arbor area include Silvio Medoro of Silvio's Organic Ristorante e Pizza, Megan DeLeeuw young farmer/owner of Hand Sown Farm in Sharon Township, and Lauren Maloney, project manager for City Farm in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

I asked Megan, Lauren and Silvio about Slow Food and why they are excited about attending Terra Madre for the first time. Silvio, who grew up in Chieti, Italy in the Abruzzo region, is excited in part to be returning to his homeland — this time with well-deserved honor and acclaim for the passion he has (and the long hours he puts in) for the seasonal and traditional food he prepares.

Silvio Medoro, owner/pizzaiola of Silvio's Organic Ristorante e Pizzeria, Ann Arbor

How would you describe Slow Food?
Slow Food means getting the most satisfaction out of a meal. It's when you make friends with your hard-working organic farmers and you cherish taking the time to prepare their ingredients and employing methods developed over centuries for taste and nourishment. It makes each bite special.

Why did you apply to be a Terra Madre delegate?
Terra Madre is a great gathering for chefs and farmers from all over the world, eating together and sharing fresh ideas to adapt in our kitchens for food-lovers back home.I personally am excited to have a chance to return to Italy and tour a vineyard that produces some of the wine I carry in the restaurant, as well as see family and friends!

What are examples of how you try to live a "slow food" life?
I enjoy serious food gardening in my own yard and inside the restaurant. I was trained in the traditional arts of Italian food philosophy working at my father's bakery in Abruzzo, and now draw inspiration seasonally from amazing organic Michigan ingredients in my cooking. My breads and pizza crusts are properly slow cultured.

What "slow food" things do you see happening in our area?
Silvio's Organic Ristorante e Pizzeria had the pleasure to participate in some very popular slow food events happening around Ann Arbor. Throughout the year we saw a successful Homegrown Festival, a musical weekend at Frog Holler Organic Farm, dinners with Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, the Mayor's Green Fair downtown and a showcase at Leslie Science Center. We're also happy to help feed a promising movement across the street at the University of Michigan toward building a sustainable local food system.

Megan DeLeeuw, farmer/owner of Hand Sown Farm in Sharon Tonwship (Manchester area)

How would you describe Slow Food?
Slow Food is a movement to preserve cultural and biological diversity in food and agriculture. This movement is an affirmation of unique, authentic and sustainable ways of producing and consuming food all over the world.

Why did you apply to be a Terra Madre delegate?
As a new, small farmer, I saw Terra Madre as a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to connect with others in this movement from all over the world. I hope to exchange ideas, stories and inspiration that will lead to more sustainable local food systems here and abroad. And the food is pretty exciting.

What are examples of how you try to live a "slow food" life?
Our farm adheres to principles of production that are environmentally sustainable: we utilize traditional methods, grow heirloom varietiesof seed from our region whenever possible, share recipes with our customers and celebrate flavor, and share food with one another on the farm every week through our farm lunches.

What "slow food" things do you see happening in our area?
Washtenaw County has a lot of great energy and people power behind Slow Food. The Local Food Summit has been a great success, bringing farmers, eaters, educators, chefs and other advocates together to network, plan projects and combine our efforts tostrengthenour local food system. The HomeGrown Festival has been a huge success every year — celebrating the bounty of Washtenaw County.

In a broader sense, I see many new farmers like us getting started and leasing and purchasing land. With new farmers come more markets, more customers, more local food, stronger networks (such as the new Food Hub project) and the sky is the limit!

Lauren Maloney, project manager for City Farm, Ann Arbor and Detroit

How would you describe Slow Food?
I think Slow Food is about conservation of food that was grown without chemicals and in a sustainable way. It's about building a culture around those methods and educating others about the benefits of Slow Food for our environment and health. Slow Food is about the preservation of many different varieties that make up our food system by planting, sharing and eating heirloom varieties.

Why did you apply to be a Terra Madre delegate?
I applied to Terra Madre because I wanted to meet delegates from all around the world and learn about their agricultural practices and food culture. I wanted to explore Turin while exchanging slow food ideals. And of course I wanted to eat amazing food and drink wine!

What are examples of how you try to live a "slow food" life?
Beyond being involved in Slow Food Huron Valley (Ann Arbor's local Slow Food chapter) and working in the field of urban farming, I try to live a slow food lifestyle by eating local food, supporting local farms and restaurants that use local food on their menu.

What "slow food" things do you see happening in our area?
Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan has a vibrant Slow Food community because they support businesses that promote good, clean and fair food. We have a booming farmers market, an incubator farm and many grocery stores and restaurants that buy local food from our hardworking farmers. Our community loves to be involved in gardening, farming, heritage foods and the environment.

Michael Pollan recently wrote in "Vote for the Dinner Party" that so far "the food movement is an economic and a social movement" that has come about much in reaction to Big Food's "corporate control of the regulatory process; lack of transparency (for consumers) and lack of choice (for farmers); an intensifying rain of pesticides on ever-expanding monocultures; and the monopolization of seeds, which is to say, of the genetic resource on which all of humanity depends." And while many people are now making more thoughtful food choices, Pollan observes that we must vote to change policies in addition to voting with our forks in order to bring about systemic and democratizing change.

So while the economic and social change around food still have far to go toward the goals of a "good, clean and fair" food system for all, both Michael Pollan and former Slow Food President Josh Viertel have described the same scenario for food and agriculture policy change at the highest levels — that President Obama says, "If you want change, show me a movement. If you can show me a movement, I'll support it." Perhaps he needs to come to Turin to see part of what the worldwide food movement looks like."

Kim Bayer is a freelance writer and culinary researcher. Email her at kimbayer at gmail dot com.