Next summer, delegates from a worldwide effort to preserve and celebrate small-scale and indigenous farming in the face of corporate agribusiness conglomerates will address the very officials who represent the evils of globalization.
The international organization Slow Food, founded in 1986 by former journalist Carlo Petrini with the goal of saving artisan and heritage foods and the traditions and communities that produce them, announced at Terra Madre, its biennial conference held last month, that the Italian government, who will host the next G8 summit in July, has formally invited Slow Food delegates to attend and address the event.
We're not talking about protesting in the streets, but high-powered talks with esteemed Slow Food leaders. Slow Food publicist Michele Mesmain says it is uncertain exactly who the delegates will be at this time, but they will certainly be the most powerful and well-spoken that the movement can garner, such as Petrini himself or possibly Vandana Shiva, an internationally renowned defender of biodiversity who spoke at the recent conference. Shiva is a likely choice as a beacon of another movement, too — called "alter-globalization," it seeks not to fight against multinational corporations or inter-governmental free-trade agreements, but instead to ensure that as the world shrinks, all parties pay special attention to respect human rights, the environment, and democracy.
This could be a sign that a more just and sustainable world is coming — and is certainly a signal of the growing power of Slow Food members. (Six thousand people, including me, attended the convention, in Turin, Italy; each attendee represented a community of as many as 100 people back home, whether in Maine, or Iowa, or near Lake Tanganyika.)
Depending on how the best and brightest of the Slow Food delegates are received next year, we could see more international support for sustainable farming as more of a legitimate occupation and less of a martyred vocation. The time has come to look forward to communities in which we can easily and affordably buy what we need to feed ourselves directly from local producers.
Maine is already a leader in this effort. We have one of the oldest and best-organized organic certifying organizations in the country in this state, the estimable MOFGA. Because of its excellent educational programs and its innovative Farmlink program, one of just 16 in the nation (helping connect young would-be farmers with land they can work), ours is one of the only states that has begun to see the average age of our farmers (hovering somewhere in the mid-50s for years) actually go down, and our number of farms go up. We have a budding school garden network. We have an organization, Farm Fresh Connection, that's dedicated to helping connect local farmers and institutional buyers. We have an ever-expanding farmer's market system. We have a growing, sustainable food system with sophisticated programs to meet modern needs.
And now the movement has a chance to get on an even bigger stage. I'm seeing a juicy glimmer of hope, and it tastes like fine, free-range Prosciutto di Parma.