Slow loving!

Imagine a gathering that stretches over six kilometres in one of Italy’s most beautiful parks with exhibitors from all over the world congregating to eat, drink, laugh and talk passionately about one subject that units them all - food! John Caruso meets the delegates from Slow Food Noosa who were part of the pilgrimage to the place that started the international Slow Food movement.

by @JohnCaruso on Wednesday, 07 Dec, 2016

Local producers and food specialists from Noosa were part of the Aussie contingent to Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016, an event held every two years where more than half a million foodies from 160 countries explored countless food stalls, workshops, demonstrations and tasting areas in Turin.

Representatives from Cooloola Berries, Buchi Kombucha and Kin Kin’s Black Ant Gourmet were amongst the representatives taking a taste of Australia to the world in a whirlwind trip funded by the Slow Food Noosa convivium as part of their fundraising initiatives.

Over the five day period, delegates explored the festival, participated in workshops, forums and events as well as manning the Slow Food Australia stand with information and samples from Australian food producers including local products from Suncoast Lime Salt; finger limes from The Caviar Lime Co; strawberry jam from Cooloola Berries; Lirah Balsamic Vinegar; and Rosella Jam from CC’s Kitchen.

Tourism Noosa assisted with funding to transport local products to be part of the Slow Food Australia stand as well as providing banners and collateral to promote Noosa and the Noosa Food & Wine Festival to the world.

For Kim and Jason Lewis from Cooloola Berries it was their first trip to Italy and they discovered that while other producers spoke of similar issues of food labelling, fair prices and access to transport, there was a stronger connection between producers and consumers in Italy than what was experienced at home.

Living local and using sustainable farming principles has always been an important mantra for the third-generation farmers and their experience at Terra Madre only strengthened their resolve in implementing the practice in their own community.

“Good, clean and fair is how we want to run our strawberry farm and as these are the key principles of Slow Food, we were thrilled to meet farmers from all over the world who shared this approach.

“We’ve got to be more vocal about what we do and we have to talk more openly and honestly about farming practices in Australia and the impact that has on our food, community and economy. We’ve got to enlighten and educate consumers in Australia to how much better relationships between producers and consumers can be.”

The Lewis’s believe that collaborating with Slow Food Noosa has helped Cooloola Berries to promote the value of sustainable food and shortening the value chain for producers.

“This trip has given us the opportunity to experience a true local food culture, a better way to eat and a better way to live,” said Kim, who is now working with Slow Food Noosa on a new project to help link producers and consumers.

For 18-year-old Sally Higgs, the trip was an experience of a lifetime and she is passionate about getting more youth to join the international Slow Food Youth Network. The apprentice chef with Kin Kin’s Black Ant Gourmet was a guest speaker for Slow Food Noosa last year due to her excellence in both Agricultural Science and Rural Operations at Noosa District State High School where she was a regular award winner as part of the Noosa High Beef Cattle Show team.

“It was my first time out of Queensland and I remember landing in Milan and seeing snow-capped mountains in the distance,” she says. “It was amazing seeing people from all over the world arrive and set up their stalls and once they opened their white tents up, all their country’s rich history and culture was on display.

“I have learnt so much and my head is still spinning,” she said.

Since returning Sally is working on a special project with Slow Food Noosa to help encourage people to eat local and is keen to start a Slow Food Youth Network in Noosa and has held an initial meeting to gather interest.

After receiving notification of her successful application to Terra Madre, Dr Sarah Lantz from Buchi Kombucha was invited to be one of five expert panellists who spoke at a sold-out forum, ‘Bacteria as Friends’, about fermentation and building relationships with bacteria.

“I was on a panel of five along with two Italians, a Swede and a Japanese representative discussing bacteria which was an experience for me as the presentation was translated into three different languages simultaneously.”

For Sarah, the size and enormity of the event surprised her and it was great to see that the work she was doing back home was part of something much bigger outside her home town.

“What we changed when we returned from Italy was the decision to be a different fermentation brand compared to others. We need to know and understand exactly what is in our kombucha,” she said.

“As a business grows it’s easy to introduce ingredients like syrups, for example, from overseas and we decided that we didn’t want to do that. Shipping to Western Australia, simply because of the distance is problematic so we’re going to set up microbreweries in WA and Melbourne for consumers in those areas and we’ll be utilising local farmers to supply those microbreweries.”

According to Sarah Lantz, 95% of people that attend her workshops in Australia don’t understand where their food comes from.

“I’m talking about the origins of our food. Is the asparagus I’m buying from Peru? Are the mangoes from Mexico? It’s a shame because we live in a country where we can grow an abundance of food and there’s so much cool stuff happening like urban forages and guerrilla gardeners yet Aussies aren’t linked into that stuff,” she says.

“We don’t have a clear, direct relationship with our farmers here, whereas in Italy it’s the very opposite and the farmers are very vocal about it.”

Terra Madra Salone del Gusto 2016 was an eye opener for our local delegates, all returning home with new ideas and a renewed passion for what they do. With just under two years until the next event, it’s worth considering your own contribution to the local foodie scene and maybe, just maybe, you could be jetting off to Turin in 2018!

Watch this plate. I mean space!

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