Grace Before Dinner

The way author Deborah Madison describes it, Terra Madre
resembles a big business networking event: business people get
together, talk shop, and make connections. The difference here is
that the entrepreneurs are small-scale, locally-committed farmers
and food producers from around the world. Or, as Vandana Shiva, an
Indian small-farm advocate, told those at the gathering, ‘If this
were an agribusiness meeting, the faces would be white and the
clothes black. But you are full of beauty and color, the colors of
the earth.’

At Terra Madre, some 5,000 farmers from 130 countries converged
on the Palazzo del Lavoro in Turin, Italy, to meet and exchange
ideas on how to support a vital worldwide community of small
farmers. These are the producers of foods ‘that don’t lend
themselves easily to industrial processes and therefore are most
distinctive for their quality,’ Madison writes. If the cardboard
tomatoes at the grocery store are any indication, they’re also the
people who can still keep food alive with flavor.

Madison returned to the United States inspired, and the feeling
is contagious. Reading about the Hawaiian honey producer, Italian
gourd growers, and Chinese organic tea maker all in one place isn’t
just mouth-watering, it’s hope inducing. One can’t help but feel
that small farmers might have a fighting chance against
agribusiness. But then Madison reminds readers about ‘the
homogenizing pressures of globalization; the power of the World
Trade Organization to pursue corporate control and standardization;
the lack of a holistic integrity in industrial food production; and
the concomitant decline of human health, soil fertility, water
quality, and water itself.’ And it becomes clear that small farmers
will need consumers’ help to nurture the ideas germinated at Terra
Hannah Lobel

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Before Dinner

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