I have just returned from a morning spent at the first annual Slow Money Alliance Conference and am bursting with energy and enthusiasm! What a fabulous event and what a fabulous movement this is.
In July I posted about the upcoming conference and provided some information about the Slow Money Alliance organization and it’s mission. The conference began yesterday and will continue through this evening with a variety of events scheduled – movie screenings, discussion panels, some live music and (what I am most excited for!) a farm to table dinner this evening which I will be attending – check back tomorrow for updates on that!
This morning something came up which I really wanted to talk about and so I have popped home between discussions not only to feed my son and make sure he is doing okay without mom, but also to review the salient points of today’s discussion and write about how attending this conference has really re-energized certain aspects of my commitment to sustainable local agriculture and real food.
One of the most moving speeches was by Ari Derfel, founder of Terrain and Back to Earth, Inc.. He talked about how he wished people would appreciate the privilege of sitting down to meal – not just because of the abundance of the food, but also because of our ability to take the time. He even encouraged people to appreciate the bowls we ate from, the chairs we sat in, and the tables we sat at. This level of appreciation is a theme which I have been thinking about and have written about from time to time. And additionally, that people don’t have a proper understanding of the value of our food and our food experiences. By making food a commodity, our culture has devalued the whole experience and this is directly related to the way food is financed – which is a primary focus of the Slow Money Alliance movement.
To quote Judy Wicks, founder of BALLE – Business Alliance for Local Living Economies:
At it’s heart the movement for local living economies is about love.
Love. Love translates into appreciation, which translates to value.
I think the biggest problem for teaching this value to the consumer is that it is something that comes so viscerally – food is perhaps one of the most personal experiences an individual can have. Our connection to food is literally our connection to our life, and if we are disconnected from one, it only follows that we will be disconnected from the other.
During the panel discussion this morning, several local business entrepreneurs talked about their struggles and successes as well as their commitment to their work. The questions turned, understandably, to inquiries into the ways in which these business men and women had found capital to both sustain and grow their businesses. The struggle seems to be endemic to the whole community, as each and every one, as well as several audience members, admitted to struggling regularly with the problem of finding continued resources so as to produce sustainable meats, vegetables and dairy products.
So I posed a question – How can you educate the community about the value of the work that goes into the production of sustainable agriculture?
Granted, this was the final minutes of the panel discussion, but I have to admit to being slightly disappointed by the responses. The ideas were important – such as making the face to face connection with your farmer, and developing a personal relationship with the man or woman who produces your food. Additionally the panel felt it was important to educate people who worked in the food industry; chefs especially, so that they can understand and learn about the desirability of using local foods. But I still felt as though ideas just won’t be enough to really make the changes we need.
I can’t help but think that the visceral connection we all have to food requires something other than ideas – it requires presence. And I don’t know how to encourage people to be present. It was only through having my own garden and tending to my own life this way that my intellectual ideas were really cemented.
I wonder how we can bring this same sense to everyone.
Sadly I don’t have the answer. But I am hoping that through communities such as Slow Money, Slow Food, even the blog carnivals hosted by people like Kristen of Food Renegade will slowly trickle out into the general population and the ideas will spread, followed by the presence required to turn those ideas into a living reality.
This has been my weekly contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.