“Regener-action” at Terra Madre: From Microbiomes to International Activism

By: Dylan Heuer

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is the largest international event dedicated to good, clean and fair food hosted by Slow Food. More than 3,000 people, including farmers, cooks and food activists, from 150 countries gathered in Torino, Italy from September 22-26 to discuss the politics of what we eat. Hosted in a post-industrial park previously home to automobile factories, the festival revolved around the theme of “regener-action“

Tents filled with vinegar, chocolate, cheese, pasta and a myriad of other bites were lined up in what felt like endless rows. Each was manned by a maker with a rich story to tell (often one spanning generations). Tucked between areas for sampling was an activism square, a garden, and gathering spaces for panels and presentations. 

Sitting down with featured speakers, organizers, and participants for interviews on Heritage Radio Network on Tour was an opportunity to enjoy their bright spirits and hone in on their bold ideas. These conversations both challenged and enlightened me; they broadened my perspective and focused my attention; led to fear about the future of our food system and instilled me with hope. I hope listening to them - with all the messiness and magic that accompanies on-site live recordings - imparts some of these feelings to you too.

Deep Medicine and Decolonization at Terra Madre: Rupa Marya is a physician, activist, artist, and writer. She is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, founder and director of the Deep Medicine Circle, and co-author of Inflamed: Deep Medicine and The Anatomy of Injustice. She sits down with Dylan Heuer to discuss the connections she sees between colonization and contemporary afflictions like the disproportionate harm caused by Covid-19. She draws on Indigenous knowledge to advocate for a more holistic approach to wellbeing that includes treating farmers as stewards of our health and involving doctors in social justice organizing.

Contrasting Corn's Sacred Uses and Industrial Production at Terra Madre: Karina Ocampo is a Buenos Aires-based journalist and the author of La Ruta Del Maíz, a book documenting her journey, and the journey of corn, through Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. She joins Dylan Heuer to unpack the juxtaposition at the center of her recent work: in the Americas corn is the cornerstone of the industrial food system and a sacred, traditional ingredient to many Indigenous people. She talks about how these two worlds collide, shares stories from her year of traveling, and discusses the intersection of food and feminism.

Fermentation and the Food System at Terra Madre: Carlo Nesler was born and raised in Bolzano, Italy. He has been interested in cooking and fermenting food since he was a boy, but what started as a hobby became an expertise. Carlo hosts workshops on fermented foods in Italy and abroad, collaborates with chefs, restaurants and food producers to create fermented food products, and he translated Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz into Italian. He sits down with Dylan Heuer for a conversation about biodiversity, regeneration, and microbiomes. Plus he talks about Italian fermented foods, shares why he thinks fermentation can’t be taught on Zoom, and describes the satisfaction that comes along with making something with your hands.

Indigenous Shepherds and the Struggle for Food Sovereignty at Terra Madre: Umar Bashir Ochen is a young activist and member of the Karamojong tribe of Indigenous shepherds located in north-east Uganda. The Karamojong people face daily challenges including hunger caused by climate change, land grabbing, and a lack of food sovereignty. In conversation with Dylan Heuer, he talks about his culture and how it’s been threatened over the course of his lifetime. He discusses the organizing efforts he has led to introduce agroecology practices, start a farmers' market, and create local, national, and even international connections. 

Defending “Real” Italian Food at Terra Madre: Beatrice Ughi founded Gustiamo more than 20 years ago in The Bronx with the goal of introducing New Yorkers to “real” Italian food. Her importing business disrupted existing models by serving consumers directly (in addition to retailers and restaurants). She talks with Dylan Heuer about why it took until later in life to appreciate her native country’s foodways, how sharing the stories of Italian makers helps differentiate authentic products from misleading labels, and what her four year quest to find the perfect pasta entailed.

Making Connections with Slow Food USA at Terra Madre: The Slow Food USA team made their first trek back to the nonprofit’s roots in Italy since the onset of the pandemic for Terra Madre Salon Del Gusto. The organization’s Executive Director, Anna Mulè and Communications Director, Brian Solem join Dylan Heuer to talk about their thematic focal point for this year’s festival: joy and justice. They reflect on how joy, justice, and food intersect in their own lives and discuss what programs in service of this goal are capturing their attention right now. Plus, they share stories of memorable exchanges and great bites at Terra Made this year. 

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