For more than a decade, Slow Food International's Terra Madre project has been empowering small-scale food producers. Slow Food International was founded nearly three decades ago by Carlo Petrini in response to the proposed opening of a McDonald’s in one of Rome’s most historic spots. Since 1989, it has grown into an international organization with a wide range of objectives, including preserving food cultures and traditions, increasing people’s interest in the food they eat and where it comes from, and working towards a world with good, clean, and fair food for all.
Each year on December 10th, the Slow Food international community – which is made up of people in more than 160 countries – celebrates Terra Madre Day: an opportunity for promoting local food, sustainable production, and conscientious consumption. Terra Made Day also highlights the importance of biodiversity and aims to connect consumers and producers.
Food Tank is highlighting a list of activities to celebrate on Terra Madre Day and every day.
- Learn a traditional cooking method. Make a loaf of bread by hand by following the Alliance for Better Food and Farming’s Real Bread Campaign. Be inspired by Edie Mukiibi, the Vice President of Slow Food International, who waged war on instant coffee in Uganda. Preparing your morning coffee over the stove might remind you that there are hundreds of years of history in this ritual. Michael Pollan, in his book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, writes that “cooking is all about connection…between us and other species, other times, other cultures.” Make this your motto for Terra Madre Day.
- Cook with an endangered food. Check out Slow Food's endangered food list. The list includes the Baru Nut from Brazil, the Sheboygan Tomato from Wisconsin, and the Kholmogory Goose from Russia’s Vladimirskiy region. If the one you have in mind isn't listed, nominate it for saving on the Ark of Taste, Slow Food International’s online catalog of foods at risk of extinction.
- Seek out and purchase local foods at farmers markets and supermarkets. Not only will buying local get you the freshest food, but, according to Dan Houston of the economic analytics firm Civic Economics, it also bolsters your local economy. Use the Eat Well Guide, a growing list of sustainable restaurants, markets, stores, and farms, to help you support local food production.
- Buy extra of your favorite in-season foods to preserve. Try canning, drying, or other methods. The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers seasonal ideas, like new cranberry recipes for the holidays and instructions for freezing winter soups and stews, as well as tips for safe home canning, pickling, freezing, and drying.
- Celebrate with a community meal. Invite friends, family, neighbors, co-workers. Give your meal a theme, or challenge your guests to prepare or purchase their contribution using the ideas from this list.
- Educate yourself. Watch a documentary on food production or agriculture, such as Food Fight or The Fruit Hunters, or schedule a visit to a local farm. For ideas, reference this Food Tank list of videos on building a better food system, which are all available on Netflix.
- Host a food tasting and feature foods that are in-season and locally grown. Skip the imported vegetables and instead include a variety of local winter squash. Use this opportunity to learn about what is in season in your area. If you’re looking for resources, refer to university and state Departments of Agriculture guides to seasonal crops. See North Carolina's as an example.
- Cook something with your grandma. Preparing a meal with someone who traditionally cooks is a unique and invaluable learning experience and helps to maintain and spread the legacy of that dish, food, or culture. According to the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation, individuals value “culture and traditions that preserve the cumulative knowledge and experience” and are important elements in man’s relationship to food.
The Barilla Center’s article, The Cultural Dimension of Food, suggests that retaining ritual and tradition in our food is important for maintaining, or returning to, a “healthy, positive approach to food and eating.”
- Plant something edible. Your Terra Madre Day plant will be both local and sustainable, and may teach you something more personal about food production.
- Make a donation to an organization that supports sustainable agriculture. Consider a contribution to grassroots organizations like Groundswell International, which spreads successful practices for healthy food and farming in rural communities, and Project Disc, working towards the creation of positive, interest-oriented environments for food and agriculture in Uganda and Africa through school and community gardening. For more ideas, refer to the list of Food Tank partner organizations.
According to Slow Food International Vice President Edie Mukiibi, “Food is not just what is on your plate. It’s a process.” Remembering that process is what Terra Madre Day is about.