by Ariane Lotti
At the closing ceremony of Terra Madre, a spontaneous protest broke out. As a pre-recorded message by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, played on-screen, delegates in the audience stood and turned their backs on him.
For four days, thousands of producers, cooks, students, activists and academics from 153 countries shared stories, exchanged information and compared notes on topics ranging from starting a school garden and producing quality honey to using agro-ecological principles to address climate change and finding ways to make food more affordable while paying farmers a fair price.
During those four days, it was impossible to meet someone not doing something really cool and unique. In line for lunch, I met a Kenyan woman who started an organization that educates street girls about organic farming and environmental conservation and connecting them with farmers in need of these services. At lunch another day, I sat across from a man who works with indigenous communities in North America and uses permaculture techniques to establish food security in those communities. On the bus, I sat next to two young farmers from Oregon who have run a Community-Supported Agriculture farm for three years and are beginning to experiment with ways to be completely energy self sufficient.
Apart from the informal and spontaneous conversations with people, there were workshops and regional meetings where delegates spoke about how they had started an urban community garden, gotten sustainably-grown food in schools and cafeterias, and achieved a wage raise for farmworkers against political, economic, and cultural odds. All these stories shared a narrative: there were problems in my community; I believed things could be different and better; and I worked to translate that belief into a reality.