Natural Foods Merchandiser

How slow can we go for good food?

Produce Perspectives

When you read the following values, do they remind you of something—something from your past?

  • Recognizing people?s interdependence with one another and with our environment
  • Caring for the land and protecting biodiversity for today?s communities and future generations
  • Promoting pure food that is local, seasonal and organically grown
  • Recognizing food as a language that expresses cultural diversity
  • Preserving the myriad traditions of the table
  • Cultivating and reinvigorating a sense of community and place
  • Celebrating the diverse expressions of our earth?s bounty
  • Appreciating and encouraging creativity, passion and beauty
  • Respecting and supporting artisans who grow, produce, market, prepare and serve wholesome food
  • Dedicating ourselves to local cooperation and global collaboration

When I first read that credo, I was taken back to when I started in the organic industry some 20 years ago. These values were the whisper that many of us couldn?t ignore as we learned about industrial agriculture and its toxic legacy.

Yet these values aren?t a manifesto from our industry, but are taken from the Web site of the Slow Food movement.

Slow Food was founded by Carlo Petrini nearly 20 years ago as a way ?to reach out to consumers and demonstrate to them that they have choices over fast food and supermarket homogenization,? according to Through local chapters around the world (called Convivia), today Slow Food has a worldwide membership of more than 65,000 people.

Again, the Slow Foods credo sounds a lot like what many of us believe. It makes me wonder, why aren?t we working together toward this common cause?

At the Terra Madre Slow Food conference in Turin, Italy, last October, Prince Charles asked this same question: ?It does seem to me that the ... organic movement has so much in common with the Slow Food movement, and this communality of purpose and direction ought to be a source of cooperation and, also of course, celebration! So I do hope that we may see ever-closer links between these two important movements.

?... After all, the food you produce is far more than just food, for it represents an entire culture—the culture of the family farm. It represents the ancient tapestry of rural life; the dedicated animal husbandry, the struggle with the natural elements, the love of landscape, the childhood memories, the knowledge and wisdom learnt from parents and grandparents, the intimate understanding of local climate and conditions, the hopes and fears of succeeding generations.?

To see if local Convivia exist in your area, go to the Web site and click on ?Local Convivia? to find out. If there isn?t one in your area, consider starting one. Just think of all the benefits it has to offer:

  • It can attract customers
  • It creates opportunities to promote these ideals at store events
  • It keeps small- to medium-sized organic growers on the land
  • It connects us to an even wider array of locally grown products we can sell
  • It provides valuable opportunities to educate our staff and customers about where their food comes from and how it is grown

Why not consider interviewing a local Slow Food member for your newsletter, or allow the group to post information about how to get in touch with the local chapter? Even better, set up a Slow Food evening so your customers can find out what it?s all about. It would fit in perfectly with the promotion of your locally grown program.

For that matter, why not join yourself? With the hectic life a produce manager leads, this could be the very opportunity to stay connected to the values we try to project in our stores.

I salute both the organic and Slow Food movements. May they live long and prosper together for years to come.

Mark Mulcahy runs an organic education and produce consulting firm. He can be reached at 707.939.8355 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 2/p. 30

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