In October, three Central Oregonians hopped a flight to Torino, Italy. But this wasn't a vacation or a trip to the 2006 Olympics site. Instead, they met up with like-minded people from over 150 countries for Slow Food International's bi-annual conference called Terra Madre.
Started in 1989 as a response to the trend of fast food and unsustainable large-scale farming, Slow Food has become an international movement to inform local farmers, chefs and educators on how to nurture local, sustainable agriculture and retain local food traditions. Six years ago, Terra Madre began bringing delegates from around the world together to share farming practices and attend lectures on incorporating Slow Food practices into their everyday lives.
This year, local farmer and author Sarahlee Lawrence of Rainshadow Organics, chef Dave Hatfield from Café 3456 and Judith O'Keefe from Slow Food High Desert - the local chapter of Slow Food USA - were the three delegates from Central Oregon. On Tuesday, Dec. 14, the trio will share their experiences from Terra Madre at the Oxford Hotel.
"It was pretty overwhelming. I have always supported the local movement here, but I want to do it more. I want to be more of an advocate to support our local agriculture here in Central Oregon," said Hatfield who, in addition to being a chef, raises Café 3456's pork and summer greens on a few acres near his restaurant at the Bend airport.
Hatfield says he was most impressed with the support that some small farmers receive from their governments.
"In a lot of Europe, governments are trying to support the small farmers. They are trying to write legislation and laws that apply to the small producers instead of big industrial producers. To hear how their governments are being proactive with the Slow Food movement made me realize how far behind we are in the U.S. and how much our government needs to change," says Hatfield.
Terra Madre (mother earth in Italian) featured presentations from experts on topics including genetically modified foods, organic food and the impact of globalization on traditional food cultures. Presenters spoke in their native languages, with delegates listening to translations through headsets, la the United Nations.
For Hatfield, Lawrence and O'Keefe, Terra Madre was more than just lectures and discussions. It was also about experiencing other countries' farming practices first-hand. For Hatfield and Lawrence, this meant spending a few days on a small farm in the Italian Alps. The farm included a small restaurant, which was completely sustained by produce and meats grown on the premises. It was also a chance for Hatfield and Lawrence to interact with Italian farmers.
"It was phenomenal," says Hatfield, "The Italian mother would cook these huge lunches and dinners for us every day. Even though she didn't speak any English and I didn't speak any Italian, we got along great."
The Oxford Hotel event will feature 20-minute presentations by Lawrence, Hatfield and O'Keefe, who will expound upon what they learned, as well as how they plan on cultivating Slow Food practices into their respective professions. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the presentation begins at 7 p.m.