Slow Food Nation

This weekend in San Francisco, Slow Food Nation will bring artisans, farmers, cooks, chefs, groupies and food connoisseurs together with apples, goat cheese, melons, pears, and heirloom tomatoes. The Slow Food movement started in the 1980’s as Italians, who have been cultivating and farming for centuries and centuries, saw a sudden shift to industrial agriculture that homogenized their food choices and harmed the environment. The event is considered to be the Slow Food movement’s American Coming Out Party and a celebration of more the twenty years of resisting industrial agriculture.

Slow Food Nation, along with Slow Food USA , promotes a food system based on principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice. The movement calls attention to the schism between our plate and planet and supports hard working, passionate and struggling family farmers across the country.

In college one of my favorite volunteer experiences was working on a sheep cheese farm, Shepherd’s Way, in rural Minnesota. Earlier in the year a fire destroyed most of a barn and killed many of the sheep and when their insurance refused to cover all of the damages, the family, whose cheeses were award winning, was struggling to pay the bills. Through the help of the community they were able to get volunteers to help out with the day to day work, but even though their cheese was sold at high prices in expensive stores across Minneapolis and St. Paul, they continue to struggle.

It’s easy to dismiss the Slow Food movement as an elite pastime to complain about subtle differences in olive oils or fruit chutneys, but the movement is focused on fighting industrial agriculture practices that are bad for the environment and communities. Companies like AMD and Cargill make a ton of money by treating people and land merely as profits and make no consideration for the long term effects of their decisions on soil, water, food, nutrients, or communities. The Slow Food Nation event this weekend will do exactly the opposite of that. It will celebrate the people, the soil, the animals, air and environment that all come together to create the very essence of survival: food.