Since 2017, we have honored individuals and communities that are furthering the mission of Slow Food throughout the country. The Snailblazer Award is an official honor given to the most dedicated leaders in our community, who are deeply committed to local, sustainable and fair food systems. They’re the heart and soul of change-making in the world of food, and each is a true example of what it means to bring good, clean and fair food to all.
Here, we celebrate those Snailblazers.
Michelle is a young leader who stands out for her passion for Native seeds and traditions and her ability to connect with and support other (often BIPOC) farmers. Michelle focuses on seeds, food sovereignty and the restorative, community building work of farming and nourishing her community in a way that truly inspires. Michelle is of Sinixt ancestry and part of the Colville Confederated Tribes. Good Rain Farm believes that through connection to a place, we can rebuild a culture of respect, honor, gratitude and reciprocity. The Farm has always held food sovereignty, empowerment, concern for community and honorable stewardship of the land as their founding principles. Good Rain Farm explores their relationship with this land, as they decolonize and question notions of ‘food” and ‘nourishment.’
Mimi Edelman provides organic, biodynamic produce to chef partners on Long Island’s East End and New York City from her farm, I&Me Farm. She has led chapters in the Upper and Lower Hudson Valley regions and is one of the founders of Slow Food New York State, where she developed the Biodiversity Council. Mimi is currently on the board of Slow Food East End, leading the Sustainable Food Committe, and co-chair of the Northeast/New England Ark of Taste Committee. Her farm is the springboard for community action in food inequality, farm-based education and horticulture therapy.
David Shields, the “Flavor Saver,” is on the Slow Food national Ark of Taste committee to preserve heritage grains in the South. His efforts and research have helped restore many regional historic crops. He serves as the Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina and was a finalist for a James Beard Foundation book award.
Gerry Warren joined Slow food in 1996 and founded the Seattle chapter in 1997. He has been continuously involved since, as a chapter leader, board member, chairs of multiple committees and a mentor. His passion has always been Biodiversity, and has been a contributor to many national committees and initiatives over the years.
He has successfully nominated many NW products for the Ark of Taste, is the project coordinator of the Makah Ozette Potato Presidium and is pursuing development of new NW Presidia. As Regional Governor he currently coordinates and supports four chapters in Washington.
Gerry is a retired Clinical Professor in Rehabilitation Medicine and Bioengineering at the University of Washington Medical School. He and his wife, Diane, organic garden, enjoy cooking, and have been making better wine than they could afford to buy for nearly 50 years.
Children and Food
Neha Shah is an elementary educator and has been teaching in the Ann Arbor Public Schools for 15 years. Neha’s particular passions lie in environmental education, school gardening, and farm to school advocacy. She is a school garden coordinator at Burns Park Elementary School where she teaches. Neha currently co-chair’s the AAPS Farm to School Steering Committee where she supports local procurement efforts, district school gardens, and education around locally grown food. She also serves on the AAPS Wellness Policy Committee for her district. Neha absolutely loves teaching and has a deep passion for environmental education and advocacy. She believes students have exceptional voices and focuses on empowering students as solutionaries. Neha guides their learning by providing students with real and authentic teaching experiences that intersect EcoJustice, Place-Based, and Community Centered education with the public school curriculum.
Slow Food NYC
Slow Food NYC’s Urban Harvest program offers urban farming education programs to public school children throughout New York City. The in-school program supports educators with microgrants covering expenses related to school gardens, student-led farm stands, culinary and nutrition education, food justice, and on-site support. SFNYC’s innovative Ujima garden program runs over the summer and offers free community garden and cooking classed for children to learn about growing and eating based on Slow Food’s three pillars: good, clean and fair.
Andy Nowak was awarded the Slow Food Snail Blazer award at Slow Food Nations in Denver 2017 for his amibtious work in creating school garden programs. Nowak was the Project Director for Slow Food Denver’s “Seed to Table” (STT) school food program from 2001-2012, growing the program from four school gardens to more than 60 school sites. For the past five years, Andrew has been the community partner for Denver Public School’s School Food Learning Lab, helping the District source local foods for the cafeteria, to train the school kitchen staff how to scratch cook and to implement salad bars throughout the district’s cafeterias. On the National level, Andrew is a “Hall of Fame Chef” with Share Our Strength’s “Cooking Matters” program and was one of six chefs invited to the White House in 2010 to help develop the “Chefs Move to Schools Program.”
Cooking and Community
Photo by Cybelle Codish
Phil is a seasoned chef and activist. He is known and well-respected across the country, and through Slow Food has been making connections with chefs in Africa and throughout the African diaspora. Phil is committed to the transformation of community through food — mentoring young black men in the food world; working with local growers creating phenomenal dishes with what they have grown (and growing himself); curating events in the ‘hood that rival any high-end downtown restaurant; partnering with some of everybody to do food rescue and distribution; always sharing rarely lifted history of a food item or dish, especially if it has African or roots throughout the diaspora; and speaking truth to power with regard to racism, classism, and justice. He recently launched Farmacy Food to bring attention to the healing power of food to address so many of the health issues facing our community-particularly black communities. He does all of this to uplift community, and give attention to the important work happening in community — never for personal accolades or gain.
Lauren Nelson helped revitalize the Slow Food Youth Network USA to engage youth across the country in the Slow Food Movement. Through her work as a farmer, food policy consultant and volunteer, Lauren works to improve food sovereignty and access to good, clean and fair food. As a grassroots organizer of SFYN USA, Lauren advocates for youth to become leaders in their local food communities. With dreams of an equitable, accessible, biodiverse and delicious future of food, Lauren looks forward to the many ways SFYN USA will grow and aid youth in changing our food system.
Madi’s role with Slow Food Portland builds projects and partnerships to develop a food system that is socially just, with the goal of dismantling the barriers of racism, classism, gender discrimination, and other systemic oppression. Madi is at the helm of the activities like Market Scouts and Market Discos, which take place at a farmers market that prioritizes support for immigrant farmers. She has also focused on inclusion and equity in Slow Food Portland’s Social Impact Experiences, which largely showcased and supported BIPOC people and businesses. She has helped to integrate and support the activities of the Slow Food Portland Youth Network. Madi currently works at Salmon Nation, an organization that exists to accelerate a vibrant and growing movement towards healthier, localized, more regenerative economies and communities.
Laura Luciano has been a passionate and dedicated volunteer leader of the Slow Food movement since 2013. She is a professional graphic designer and author of the blog “Out East Foodie.” She regularly writes for Edible Long Island and Edible East End. Laura serves as State Governor for the New York chapters and recently joined the board of Slow Food USA.
Cory is one of the leaders of a movement of cattle ranchers practicing regenerative agriculture. Carman Ranch follows holistic management practices that integrate social, economic, and environmental factors to help the ranch succeed economically, improve the health of the land, and provide local communities more nutritious food. It is Cory’s hope that the work she and her producer group are doing will help others raise and market authentic grassfed beef.
Other regenerative farms and ranches in rural Oregon and Washington are building their businesses in the Pacific Northwest thanks to the trail she and her collaborating producers have helped to blaze. Cory is a woman in the male-dominated field of ranching. Women constitute much of her team, several of the members of the Carman Ranch board are women, women comprise half her investors and some of her most innovative customers.
Greg Gunthorp is a fourth generation hog farmer in northeastern Indiana, where he raises pasture-based hogs and poultry with his wife and daughters. Greg has been active in sustainable agriculture and his farm supplies some of the top restaurants in the Chicago area with ethical, sustainable meat and poultry.
Fishing & Waterways
Photo by Elizabeth Robertson, Philadephia Inquirer
Dr. Talia Young
Talia is the founder and director of Fishadelphia, a dock-to-dish community-supported fishery (CSF) program located in Philadelphia, PA. The mission of Fishadelphia is to connect communities by bringing high quality, fresh seafood from regional harvesters and processors to economically and culturally diverse consumers in Philadelphia at reasonable prices. Fishadelphia fuses Talia’s creativity and expertise as a researcher, devotion as teacher and mentor, and her dedication to social justice and sustainable food systems. Close, personal connections that Talia and her students maintain with their customers and their fishermen make Fishadelphia a thriving and successful example of sustainable and accessible food systems.
Talia is inspiring the next generation of fisheries biologists and conservation scientists to prioritize community needs, food justice, and inclusive practices in the slow-food movement that simultaneously benefit the community and local sustainable fisheries and fishing families.
In 2018, Fishadelphia’s pilot year, their customer base was 60 families. Two years later, in the midst of a pandemic, FIshadelphia is now serving 275 families and has distributed 5,000 lbs. of fish and 25,000 shellfish. This equates to over $25,000 in direct revenue to local seafood harvesters and producers, and thousands of fresh, healthy dinners for Philadelphian families.
Food & Ag Advocacy
Adrian has worked tirelessly to make a place for Black history at the food table. Adrian has launched 40 Acres Project with the mission to create opportunities for Black land ownership in the midwest and across the nation. In Wisconsin, there are over 65,000 farmers, but only 65 are recognized as Black, and zero are located in Adrian’s region. Adrian operates Uptowne Cafe + Bakery, the only sit-down restaurant in the region that is Blacked-owned, and she has developed relationships with diverse farmers within her region to provide fruits, vegetables, and protein for her restaurant. She has helped revitalize the Northside of La Crosse through community organizing and neighborhood revitalization projects. She created opportunities like the “Farmer to the Table” by holding events for the farmer to meet who is eating their food at the restaurant and help close the food chain supply gap. Her word this year is “Legacy” and often says, “Everything we do must be for our future for all.” She carries this with all the work she does as she makes sure it is sustainable and equitable to everyone.
Brenda Ruiz is a chef, educator, and activist from California and a board member of Slow Food Sacramento. Brenda’s grassroots activism has created lasting urban agricultural reform in her city by going to the source and teaching local policy makers about land use issues. Brenda and her son converted their front yard to a thriving vegetable garden to promote Slow Food and local eating in their community.
Ed Yowell has been a member of Slow Food since 2000. Presently, on the Slow Food NYC Board, he: co-chairs the Urban Harvest Committee, supporting good food education in 15 New York City schools and on a tuition-free, educational, urban farm in East New York, Brooklyn; serves on the Development Committee; and volunteers regularly with the SLOW U committee, that produces “slow” educational events. He also serves on the advisory committee of the New York City Greenmarket and on the American Farmland Trust New York Advisory Council. He is a Co-Chair of the Slow Food USA Food and Farm Policy Steering Committee and served as the Slow Food USA Northeast Regional Governor from 2005 to 2015.
Chef with NATIFS, The Sioux Chef, Indigenous Food Lab
Sean Sherman shows us how healing foodways and reclaiming culture is inseparable from the values of Slow Food. He has built community to an enormous extent, and created a place for Indigenous chefs to collaborate and innovate. It’s positive and empowered work centered around healing the food community by teaching people how to cook, grow, and interact with Native ingredients so that communities have greater access to good food. Sean’s work is bringing Indigenous food to a broad community to foster acceptance and celebration of food native to this land and uplifting the work of so many in the Indigenous Slow Food community by giving them the space and community to interact.
As Indigenous people, we are reclaiming and regaining our identity through our traditional healthy food….Don’t exist to make a living. Exist to make a difference.
Denisa Livingston is a tribal member of the Navajo Nation. She is currently one of ten 2016-2017 Empowered-to-Serve National Ambassadors for the American Heart Association. She is committed to addressing the diabetes epidemic, the dominant culture of unhealthy foods, and the lack of healthy food access on the Navajo Nation. Denisa is a community health advocate for the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA). DCAA have been globally recognized for the successful passage of several laws, the first of its kind in a food desert: Elimination of Tax on Healthy Foods, the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 or Unhealthy Foods Tax, and a tax revenue allocation for Community Wellness Projects for all 110 Navajo Chapters.
From UNLV, Denisa received a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Public Health degree. She is an alumna of Leadership San Juan and Leadership New Mexico Connect program. She was a W.K. Kellogg Foundation nominee and a Slow Food International delegate of the International Indigenous Terra Madre event in Northeast India and Salone del Gusto Terra Madre in Italy. She is a member of the Slow Food Turtle Island Association, National Young Farmers Coalition, a national Sugar Action Group, and an advisory member of Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions. She was featured in the Washington Post live event – America Answers: Changing the Menu, Gourmet News Magazine, TV Tokyo, Mother Jones, Civil Eats, Al-Jazeera America, NPR, and others.
Jim Embry has been a lifelong social activist. His work began more than 50 years ago when he joined the Civil Rights movement as part of the Congress of Racial Equality. In 2007, he founded the Sustainable Communities Network, an organization dedicated to contributing to the development of the theory and practice of sustainable living in his community in Lexington, KY. He has been an active participant in Slow Food’s Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee.
Charity Kenyon is a founding member of the Slow Food California Board and formerly the Governor for the Central Valley of California and an International Councilor. She serves on the Slow Food California Policy Committee and Slow Food USA Food and Agriculture Task Force and is a policy activist with other state and national nonprofits including the Sierra Club. Charity co-chairs the Slow Food USA Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Working Group and has coordinated food justice programming for Slow Food Nations 2017 and 2018.