Bringing Terra Madre Home: Slow Food Youth at Quillisascut Farm School

Youth Workshop at Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts

August 6-12, 2009

Posted by Amy Grondin, Slow Food Seattle Board and Sustainable Seafood Consultant

Terra Madre, mother Earth. The place we all live yet often we take our Mother for granted. Terra Madre is also the name chosen by Slow Food International for their biennial meeting that brings together international food communities, cooks, academics and youth delegates for four days to work towards increasing small-scale, traditional, and sustainable food production. In Turino, Italy during the fourth week of October 2008, the third edition of Terra Madre hosted representatives from over 150 countries. The guests together were human links in the food chain, supporting sustainable agriculture, fishing, and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity. If you were lucky enough to attend Terra Madre, you left the meeting and Italy with a renewed appreciation of what is under your feet and all around you, inspired by the of sustainable foods and rich traditions of every smiling person who shared the experience with you, all 6,300 of them.

Assembly at Terra Madre 2008 in Turin

Assembly at Terra Madre 2008 in Turin

I was lucky enough to attend Terra Madre this past October, representing the fleet of hook and line salmon fishermen I work side by side with on the water in Southeast Alaska. As in the past (I also attended Terra Madre in 2004 and 2006!) I had no idea who I would meet, what I would learn or how the experience would forever make me smile while recalling the experience to others.

Who I met was Kim Bast, a former chef and current goat farmer from Lopez Island, and Lora Lea Misterly, owner and cheese maker at the Quillisascut Farm School of Domestic Arts in Rice, Washington. It is incredible to me that we had to travel half way around the world to meet each other but somehow I can’t imagine a more powerful way to form a bond with likeminded individuals, never mind that I catch salmon and they make cheese. That is the underlying theme and rich beauty of Terra Madre. People from different countries with different cultures, traditions, religions and language are all so happy to be together in our goal of sustainable food production. It is our differences that make us unique and our common goal of sustainability that makes us one, farmer or fisher, no matter if you gather medicinal herbs in the Kalahari Desert or bob around on waves in Alaska, wishing for fish.

In the way of travelers, a fast and fun camaraderie was struck between Kim, Lora Lea and me. We each had our own sense of wonder to share at what we saw. Each of us had a different passion of the palette to explore so we all learned to appreciate tastes that might have been passed by if we had been on our own. It was the same with the people we were drawn to in conversation while attending the sessions at Terra Madre. A magnet for all, Kim had a way of drawing people to her and a knack for drawing their story out of them. She laughed when she said she inherited this trait from her grandmother. It was the thing that used caused simple trips to the market with her Gran to take hours.

It's all about Good, Clean and Fair

It's all about Good, Clean and Fair

I swear we were channeling the energy of our much younger selves as not much sleep was had. There were too many conversations to be had while sipping sharp Italian espresso with other food producers from other countries or later in the day over glasses of Barolo. Meals never tasted better than when shared with those who appreciate the simple pleasures of the table and equally care about how the food we were eating got there.

A few weeks after returning from Terra Madre to our lives that spread us out over Washington State, Lora Lea emailed Kim and me with a thought. In Italy, Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA, suggested during the meeting of the US Delegates that we each bringing home the message of Terra Madre. He also asked us to consider how we could support the Slow Food Youth Movement.

What Lora Lea suggested was that Kim and I come to Rice, Washington to assist in a week long class on the Quillisascut Farm that would bring the message of Terra Madre home to Washington State. We would share the lessons we have learned as Slow Food members who are sustainable food producers with others who are starting on their own path towards sustainable food production. As at Terra Madre, while at the Slow Food Youth Workshop we would share what we knew about our own work and learn from others in the process.

It was decided that week long Slow Food Youth Workshop at Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts would be offered in the second week of August. While at Quillisascut Farm, the participants of the Slow Food Youth Workshop would be immersed in a working farm experience that includes caring for goats, poultry and honeybees. Students would learn about gardening with a focus on species recognized by RAFT and the Slow Food Ark of Taste. They would participate in cheese making with farm fresh goat milk. All at the farm would together cook meals using the fruits, vegetables and meat raised on the farm and harvested with their hands.

There would be daily discussions with all on the farm to help each participant build their own value system based on Slow Food’s principle that food should be “good, clean and fair”. Why are GMOs a risk to the biodiversity that is needed to maintain sustainable food systems? This too will be part of the discussion. First hand observation of nature’s operating systems and time spent in a rural farm community would demonstrate the value of organic farming and orcharding.

The Slow Food Youth Workshop at Quillisascut is set to host 12 participants. Participants must be between the ages of 18 and 29 to qualify as a youth. It was decided that the students need not be Slow Food members as they would most likely be inspired to join by the end of the week!

In planning the event, Lora Lea sought keep the expenses of attending the week to a manageable level. With youth often comes the tight purse strings that we all experienced as we set out to find our own path in life. In a supportive and generous gesture, the DeVlieg Family Foundation donated half of funds for the Slow Food Youth Workshop at Quillisascut.

A letter and fact sheet was sent out to the eleven Slow Food Chapters in Washington to request that they help to sponsor the other half of the cost for the week. They were invited to send a member of their own community out to the Quillisascut Farm for the Slow Food Youth Workshop. This would assure that the message of Terra Madre spread across our State, back to the Slow Food Chapters via the scholarship recipients they sponsored.

Slow Food Seattle responded to the call for sponsorship with not one but two student scholarships! Attending from Seattle will be Danny Barksdale, a chef and instructor at FareStart, and Ariana Rose Taylor-Stanley, a UW Urban Farm member. As part of the agreement, when Danny and Ariana accepted the scholarships, they were asked to make a presentation about their experience on the farm for the Slow Food Seattle membership. The message of Terra Madre would spread even further, from Turino, Italy to Rice, Washington and on to Seattle, Washington.

So here we are, just one week until the Slow Food Youth Workshop at the Quillisascut Farm for the Domestic Arts!  Danny is working daily in the kitchen at FareStart and Ariana is apprenticing with a farm on Bainbridge Island while I am on a 46 foot fishing boat just north to Alaska fishing for wild salmon. Our work places are different but our calendars all are marked for the day we drop out sauté pans, shovels and fishing lines to carpool out to Rice, Washington. As our hands are at work, our thoughts are mulling over what we will learn, see and do on the farm. Much anticipation is in the air to get to the Quillisascut Farm and feel the heat and dust of summer in Eastern Washington.

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Here are some links for further reading:

Terra Madre: www.terramadre.info
Quillisascut Farm: quillisascut.com
FareStart: farestart.org
UW Urban Farm: students.washington.edu/uwfarm

STAY TUNED!

Planning is underway for an community event presentation featuring slides from the Slow Food Youth Workshop and a delicious seasonal meal prepared by Chef Karen Jurgensen from the Quillisascut Farm. Watch for future updates about the presentation that Danny, Ariana and Amy will make in November at FareStart in Seattle. Proceeds from the event will go towards scholarships for the 2010 Slow Food Youth Workshop at the Quillisascut Farm School for the Domestic Arts.