’Good, clean and fair food’ – the philosophy behind Slow Food. Italy, especially Turin, is often considered as the centre of Slow Food. People from all over the world go there in the search of traditional Italian food, but Slow Food has much more to offer.
Officially founded in 1989, the Slow Food movement has expanded from just a protest against fast food to a world-wide movement not only concentrating on delicious food, but for the ethical background work and sustainability, too. Slow Food concentrates on some specific topics, like animal welfare and GMOs. All of these topics are affecting the food system and are something that Slow Food thinks people should be aware of.
Guido Cortese, the convivium (local Slow Food organization) leader of Slow Food Torino Citta, is a beekeeper, like many of the other active members in Turin convivium. Although all the beekeepers in Turin are not members of the convivium, they often take part in the events, especially events and activities considering biodiversity. Cortese himself works in the IT field, so beekeeping and non-profit activities are the way to do his deeds.
”Urban beekeeping is a trend now and it plays an important role in Slow Food movement,” Cortese tells.
One of the most important missions of Slow Food organization is maintaining biodiversity, and a part of preserving biodiversity is to help preventing the dramatic decrease of bee population. Bees play a crucial role on biodiversity, since they form an integral part of the food system by pollinating crops that end up on dinner tables. For example, annual honey bee losses in the USA were more than 42% in 2014-2015.
From biodiversity to everyday skills
Increasing awareness of food production is another of the main tasks of the organization. Cortese thinks that they will also concentrate more on PR in the future. If even one of his goals is reached, Cortese will be satisfied.
”We can do a lot more work than just activities and events.”
The activities are an important form of fundraising. Their main fundraising target is Africa, where the international Slow Food organization has set a goal of 10,000 orchards. Building an orchard costs about 900 € and they have already built about 1,000 of them. Two members of Slow Food Torino Città have been in Senegal during the Spring, helping the local people build the orchards and educating people.
Although biodiversity and saving the world orchard by orchard are key topics in Slow Food organization, educating people is important too. For example, Slow Food Torino Città arranged an event for 400 people where they could learn how to bake homemade bread.
”There is demand for this kind of events. People want to go back to basics, learn how make their own bread like their ancestors did,” Cortese states.
But not all the events are as popular as the bread-making event. Cortese estimates that the events usually have about 50-80 participants.
”The important thing now is first to keep all our existing members and then gain more active members to the association,” he tells.
Getting young people involved is especially difficult, but Cortese has already made some plans for the future. The association is educating kids in high schools and organizing events for children too, so that Slow Food can be a part of their lives from a young age. Cortese finds young people problematic because of the lack of interest and their changing life situations. Slow Food has an international youth network and the University of Gastronomic Sciences educates students together with young farmers, fishers, artisans, chefs and activists.
Dream of a Slow Food Market
The background of food is an important aspect when defining if food is Slow Food or not. Producers, often farmers, should really make a living and some real profit with their products. The farmers do not approach Slow Food organization, so the organization has to do a lot of work to get farmers committed to their rules. For Slow Food association, it is extremely important for the farmer to get a proper benefit for the product they are selling.
”Big supermarkets sell the same products as our farmers do but for a lot smaller price. It is obvious that the farmers do not get enough of income from that.”
Even avoiding huge supermarkets is not always the way to support the farmers and buy Slow Food. Cortese highlights that going to a marketplace doesn’t guarantee that the products are fresh or that the farmer has grown all of them themselves.
”When a farmer is selling potatoes, bananas and pineapples, they obviously haven’t produced all these different fruits and vegetables themselves.”
Most of the farmers belong to an association which helps them to sell their products in large units, usually for supermarkets. But Slow Food is not about large units or volume, it’s about the quality and fairness.
”It’s genuine food,” Cortese adds.
Porta Palazzo is the largest open air market in Europe with about 800 stalls, swarming with people from different backgrounds, young and old, locals and tourists, every day. Only a fraction of them are farmers selling their own production. One of the people selling their products in the market is Marco. He sells fruits and vegetables, but you can find anything from sausages and fish to nuts and clothes from Porta Palazzo.
“I don’t produce these fruits and vegetables myself, I just order them from wholesale,” Marco admits.
He also praises that people often delusively believe that products displayed nicely on a table are more fresh or local than the products sold in a supermarket. But in the end, they usually are the same.
One of Cortese’s dreams is to build their own Slow Food market in Turin.
”It’s difficult to start from a scratch, since all the existing markets have established traditions,” Cortese explains.
”The problem is the city. You would think that Turin is a big city with plenty of space for new markets, but each district already has their own market.”
But the dream lives and the association continues working on the market dream until it comes true.