Co-op Center embraces slow food concept

Founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986, Slow Food is an international association boasting 83,000 members. It promotes food and wine culture, but also defends food and agricultural biodiversity worldwide. It opposes the standardization of taste, defends the need for consumer information, protects cultural identities tied to food and gastronomic traditions, safeguards foods and cultivation and processing techniques inherited from tradition, and defends domestic and wild animal and vegetable species.

Slow Food held Terra Madre, a world meeting of food communities in Italy in October, 2004. Terra Madre is a forum for those who seek to grow, raise, catch, create, distribute and promote food in ways that respect the environment, defend human dignity and protect the health of consumers.

Terra Madre drew 5,000 people from dozens of nations. Every participant represented a ‘food community’ – which means they are part of a chain of production, linked by a common product, ethnic identity, region, history, or approach.

Dan Hobbs, cooperative specialist with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center, attended as a farmers market food community delegate. A number of other producers from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming also attended.

At Terra Madre, connections between individuals and communities working in sustainable agriculture from around the world were created. The four-day conference provided a meeting place for a California apricot grower to speak with a Peruvian orchardist, for Italian and Spanish coastal fishermen to share ideas, and for Canadian and Ethiopian wheat growers to share meals, discussions, and friendships.

Hobbs attended workshops on high altitude farming, agriculture in arid regions, mixed vegetable production, identity preserved products and labeling, and was a presenter/facilitator for a seed production workshop.

Perhaps the highlight of the Terra Madre experience was a home-stay with the Dutto family of Cuneo, a small farming village in the foothills of the Alps. The village is known for its yellow bell peppers and pole beans. The first night with the Duttos consisted of a five course, four hour, meal with homemade bread, cheese, butter, wine, meats and marinated peppers.

Slow Food chapters are popping up around the United States. In Colorado, Slow Foods members have become vital partners in the formation of cooperatives and other community food projects and enterprises. In Colorado Springs, for example, Slow Food members were instrumental in helping to educate the public and promote the Colorado Farm and Art Market Cooperative—a one year old cooperative that has both producer and consumer members.