| Dec 21, 2006


Feature Article - November 30, 2006

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December 2006

Slow Food delegates bring the message back from Turin.by Jeff Green----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Turin came to world attention this past winter as the host city for the winter Olympics, but in the alternative food production world it has another distinction - as the locale where the Slow Food movement was born some 20 years ago.At the end of October, the second biennial Terre Madre Conference was held at the Oval Lingotto in Turin, the venue where Cindy Klaussen won all of her speed skating medals last February. For one week, about 4,800 farmers, breeders, fishermen and artisan food producers from 150 nations, 1,000 cooks, 400 academics and 2300 observers and guides, met together to talk about food. The conference was devoted to celebrating the diversity of growing, preparing, and eating food, and stood in stark contrast to the focus on agri-business and large scale farming that has become dominant in the food production industry.

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The conference was the subject of a panel discussion at the Annual General Meeting of the National Farmers’ Union Kingston and Region local, which was held in Sydenham on December 7. Four enthusiastic attendees from this year’s conference made up the panel. They were maple syrup producers David Hahn and Marion Watkins from Bedford, who attended as delegates, and Suzie Osler and Cheryl Nash from Maberly, who have organised a slow food group, or “convivium” in LanarkCounty. The Slow Food movement is devoted to quality, fresh, local food, in all its variations. One of the characteristically Italian aspects of slow food is the preoccupation with eating well, in the company of other people.

“We think of slow food as more expensive,” David Hahn said, “but in Italy that is not the case.” David and Marion spent a week travelling around Italy before the conference, and they ate most of their meals in “Hosteria”, informal eateries that each serve their own range of dishes, reflecting the interests of the owner or the region where they are located.

Cheryl Nash said that the food traditions in Turin, and in other parts of the world, are very strong, in contrast to Ontario. “We don’t have the food tradition that they have in European countries. The average Canadian family spends 18 minutes a day preparing food, so we need to work with youth if we are going to bring an appreciation of food in our region.”

The Lanark Slow Food group has organized five events over the past 18 months, all designed to bring the producers and consumers of local, organic food together to share a meal. The concept of bridging the gap between food producers, whether they produce beef, maple syrup, eggs, or vegetables, and the eating public, is a major goal of both the Slow Food Movement and the National Farmer’s Union local (NFU local 316).

The Feast of Fields event, which has been running for three years, provides an opportunity for a mainly urban group of people to experience the reality of farm production by visiting a local farm, sampling food, and talking to a many of the small scale farmers in the region.

This summer a new initiative was unveiled. An “Eat from Kingston’s Countryside” logo was created to identify food that has been grown within 100 kilometres of the City of Kingston. Over the next year the NFU will be working on a project aimed at developing guidelines for a local food system. Again using the concept of a 100 kilometre radius from the City of Kingston, the project co-ordinator, who will be hired within the next few days, will be meeting with food producers, individuals and institutions to try and build a network that will make it possible for more quality food to be produced and consumed from local sources.

All of these activities are consistent with the insights of the Slow Food Movement, and they are complemented by the development last year of the weekly Frontenac Farmers’ Market, which joins with the market in Perth in providing the option of fresh produce, meat, eggs, and local baking and preserves to consumers on a regular basis.

Restaurants with a similar focus, such as the Fall River Pub and Grill in Maberly and the Mill Street Cafin Sydenham, have also sprung up in the last couple of years.

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