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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lessons learned from Terra Madre...

So a while back I went to Italy. And then I came home to process turkeys and the whirlwind at the end of the season--let's just say reflection at that point was not a priority. But while I was away I did keep a journal and take lots of pictures as promised. Here's a few of the lessons learned from talking to farmers from all over the world, in no particular order:

A. Italy, though often romanticized as being culturally ideal when it comes to food, suffers just as much from the encroachment of a globalized, industrailized food system as we do: fast food, confinement operations, strip malls--they got 'em, too. The fight is on at home and abroad.

B. Traveling out into the world is mostly a journey into one's self. You may go many places but ultimately what you find

C. I'm definitely not crazy. There are plenty madly passionate people out there working in their communities for an honest living in exchange for honest work. I'm not alone, and the further I continue, the more potential I have for liberating others to pursue farm dreams.

D. Visit farmers you admire on a regular basis--it will do wonders for strengthening your march.

E. Keep up a discerning vision--it's a strength. We have a right to high expectations for our communities.

F. Next to keeping our hands dirty--actually farming--education is our best and most important function. Find a way to turn education into sales.

G. A business makes money when it profits from all products and byproducts of its production. Find a way to turn a profit on waste or unwanted items.

H. BUY YOUR OWN LAND. There are a multitude of different ways to make it happen, but it is your best option for farming long term.

I. No model is too "out there" for financing your business. Don't be afraid to dream big or different.

J. While I'm thankful for Slow Food (International, USA, & Atlanta), what I'm doing is good and strong with or without the above affiliations--that is, whether or not I'm officially recognized by an organization.

K. Ask and ye shall receive! Don't be afraid to tell the people in your community you're working hard for them, and that you need their help. You have to start the conversation by asking--they will help.

L. A woman farmer is rare and beautiful.

M. Smoking is a waste. I don't care if you're European and "it's just what you do." My culture tells me to do plenty of things that are wasteful and destructive, but I take responsibility for myself and my actions at the end of the day. Quit smoking, Europe! It's not cool anymore.

N. There's nothing like a little turbulence over the Swiss Alps to get the blood pumping. I decided I definitely don't like planes--and in the future will trust my land-dweller instincts and avoid them.

O. Italian friends are extremely helpful when you don't speak the language. They're also great at making pizza.

P. Be intentional about community-building. Your job is irresistible--everybody wins when they join you.

Thanks again to Slow Food USA, Coastal Organic Growers, and Slow Food Atlanta for sponsoring my trip. I wouldn't have been able to go without your assistance.


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