We Feed the Planet Puts Young Farmers in Control of Food Security

From foodtank.com
Philip Hanes

We Feed the Planet, also called Terra Madre Giovani, is an international food security conference in Milan, Italy. Terra Madre Giovani is the first of  Slow Food International's Terra Madre events to focus on youth. Over 2000 young farmers, small-scale food producers, and intellectuals from 120 countries converged on Milan to create a producer and practitioner directed event. According to Joris Lohman, of Slow Food, "A global discussion on the future of food would be senseless without the presence of young small-scale producers and food professionals." Joris explains to Food Tank the importance of Terra Madre Giovani.

Food Tank (FT): Explain what Terra Madre Giovani means.

Joris Lohman (JL): Terra Madre, meaning Mother Earth is a global network of small-scale producers, farmers, chefs, food producers, scholars, and activists founded by Slow Food. Every two years, a Terra Madre meeting is organized in Turin. This year, the Slow Food Youth Network, which brings together young farmers, chefs, fishers, students, and food professionals under 35, organized the first Terra Madre Giovani event focused on young people.

Hosting the 2015 event in Milan, is very important. This year, the World Expo also in Milan, revolves around the theme of feeding the planet. Feeding the planet in a just, healthy, and sustainable way may be the most important challenge our generation has to face. With the Expo focusing on this, the world is looking to Milan for answers. However, the Expo lacks the voice of young farmers, food producers, and food professionals, who will feed the planet in the future. Discussing the future of food and farming without them, is senseless which is why we have invited those who deserve to be in the spotlight most.

We have asked people to make a small donation to enable farmers and small-scale producers to travel to Milan and make their voices heard. With the support of partners like the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we were able to invite around 2500 young people from 120 countries. Many were accommodated by residents of Milan who offered to host visitors.

FT: What role does food justice play in the slow food movement?

JL: Food justice, the right to good, clean, and fair food for all, is at the core of Slow Food’s ideology. We want to live in a world where good (tasty, healthy), clean (sustainably produced) food is available for everyone, and where food producers earn a fair wage. Industrial agriculture does not feed the world in a good and sustainable way. It is small-scale producers that feed the majority of the population. We need to empower these young people who devote their lives to food production, and we need to listen to them.

FT: How is We Feed the Planet different from other agricultural conferences?

JL: Because of the delegates and participants this is an event like no other. We Feed the Planet is not just a listen and learn conference. We aimed to achieve two clear goals. Firstly, we created an online multimedia document out of quotes, tweets, video, and pictures of the event, that showcase a vision for the future of food. And we have participants working together to create a multitude of projects, ideas, start-ups, and businesses, that will allow them to take action when they get back to their home countries.

FT: What is the Slow Food Youth Network Food Academy?

JL: The food system is complex, and its issues need an interdisciplinary approach to find solutions. We believe that it is important to break down barriers between sectors, between farmers and retailers, between the policy sphere and the creative realm. The Academy program aims to break down these barriers by creating an interdisciplinary network of young change agents - chefs, farmers, fishers, food professionals, scholars, journalists, designers - that are changing the future of food. In the Academy, new connections and friendships are formed, and a new generation of critical thinking food professionals is formed. Participants get to know each other and be inspired by experts from the field like Alice Waters, Raj Patel, and Serge Latouche. Academy workshops put young innovators in the spotlight where they get the opportunity to collaborate on new projects and ideas.

FT: How can technology help improve communication so food thinkers can quickly share ideas and information seamlessly across great distances?

JL: The rise of the Slow Food Youth Network demonstrates the importance of new ways of communication in creating a global network of like-minded individuals. We have never had a big budget, but by making use of social media we have been able to grow. One example is our Disco Soupe movement which over the last three years has organized thousands of anti food waste events in over 80 countries. Now the network is expanding into Africa and South America.