October 27, 2010 terra madre wrap up

today, all i can do is laugh as i realize how impossible it is for me to share my terra madre experience with you in any sort of coherent or informative manner.  it has altered my life, my point of view, and my future course as a farmer, entrepreneur, and activist in deeply personal ways—in ways that shall not be understood in a blog post anytime soon.  this first attempt at wrapping up last weekend will flow from brain to finger with passion—yes—but with directness—not.

half way into terra madre and i was convinced it was how life actually is.  brothers and sisters of the earth from all corners, hills, valleys, rifts, seas, and pockets of this planet sharing, learning, teaching, and eating with one another.  sounds nice?  it was.

carlo pertrini, father, mother, and pounding heart of slow foods international, echoed these sentiments at the closing ceremony:  “being here at terra madre, i was wondering:  what crisis?”  but, alas, the truth is much darker, and far less witty.  for we are, in fact, in a crisis. 

the industrialization of living things—vegetables, fruits, pigs, cows, chickens, etc—and the industrialization of the human cogs that keep this system turning—has resulted in a sick, sick world.  one in every six human beings is dangerously under nourished and under fed.  for us americans, this statistic might seem hard to believe as our countrymen suck down frappuccinos and deep fried anythings as part of a daily routine, but at home, and far more commonly, abroad, people are dying. 

indigenous populations from the amazon to the northern reaches of scandinavia have lived clean, healthy, happy lives for generations upon generations.  the crushing force of “modernization” is literally killing these people.  their languages are being swallowed, their traditions stripped and clear-cut, and their access to food and water diminished. 

proponents of the green revolution will argue that our technology has exported the ability to produce xyz more bushels of corn and abc more kilos of grain per acre per year.  but to zoom in on the truth reveals a far different story.  yes, planting thousands of acres of mother earth to genetically modified soy beans, spraying them with chemicals that kills all life besides the bean, and tearing them from the earth with huge machines, will produce a lot of soy beans.  congratulations monsanto.  congratulations green revolution.

what about biodiversity?  what about soil fertility?  what about the fact that this approach to “agriculture” generates famine and death around the world?  people need balanced diets.  people need fresh food.  people need diversity.  people need to eat the foods that their people have evolved with for millennia.  good luck feeding babies with sacks of soy beans and rice that have sat in a warehouse for three years before entering a human stomach.   

so, i know this does little for you, reader, to understand my time at terra madre, but as i pondered my experience, the ache in my heart for the billion people word wide who know not a healthy diet, but know well hunger pains and death, i found it difficult to write about much else.  i am so thankful to have been exposed to this crisis and to these people so i can begin fighting for those who have already been beaten down.  for those without voice. 

farmer’s from peru, and from uganda, and from all corners of the world were begging us to speak for them.  begging us to change.  begging us to stop.  to turn a deaf ear, to do nothing, to pretend—you are killing human beings. 

wendell berry said, “eating is an agricultural act.”  when you buy packaged processed food you are also out there in the huge soy field, in the endless monocultures.  you are drinking crude oil and shitting toxic waste into waterways around the world.  you are killing indigenous cultures.  you are killing living beings.  you are killing the earth. 

support local farmers.  support biodiversity.  share this knowledge and change the world.  the president of slow foods usa paraphrased gandhi and said:  “when you fight for transformation, four things will happen.  first, they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, and then you win.”  the overwhelming feeling, is that our time has come.  the time for change is upon us—upon all of us—and it is time to do something more about it.

it is exactly one year to the day since i told my boss on the floor of the new york stock exchange that i would be leaving at the year’s end to become a farmer.  one year to the day and i was representing my country—as a farmer.  this year has been a lifetime for my soul, but it is just the tip.  when i return from italy i will return to my land with a new appreciation, and a new thankfulness for what i have—and an new understanding for what others do not.  and i promise to do more for both.

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oh….and she said yes!

for all my new terra madre friends, please excuse my sporadic posts as personal life trumps bloginal life.  ihoc will return with a renewed vigor, inspired by you, in two weeks time.  see you soon. 


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