A mushroom farmer abroad: ten reasons Terra Madre 2016 was ace.
It was basically a weeklong special United Nations meeting on biodiversity. Every (packed) forum and conference talk was live translated into multiple languages straight into your headset. Simply listen and marvel as Italian, German, Japanese and more are rendered accessible to you. All to discuss sustainable food futures. It still blows my mind (even the audience questions, people, the AUDIENCE QUESTIONS).
Wicked food from all three branches of life: plant, animal, fungi (sometimes all three together; there were some inventive gelato combinations happening).
The sheer volume of immediately insightful, thoughtful conversations I had with total strangers – at the Great Hall over meals, on the tram, in and out of forums. Instant solidarity with a handshake and the question ‘how are you involved with growing/working towards a better future?” For example, one evening I discussed agriculture, the refugee crisis and the need for localized diets with an Irish raw-vegan-turned-omnivore and an American nomadic food truck manager for five hours straight, while snacking on Icelandic seaweed produced from someone’s pocket.
Feeling solidarity with a dozing, elderly Armenian woman rocking traditional dress in the soporific, muggy opening ceremony where one of the Australian delegates had her nail scissors confiscated but another smuggled in a brand new chef’s knife, and the Italian president had a retinue bigger than any king in Game of Thrones.
Meeting rad mushroom growers from Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands and Kuwait, trading photos and troubleshooting sagas (turns out mushroom foraging is big in Latvia; during the season there’s a fiercely contested newspaper competition for the best mushroom photo).
Within a 20m stretch it was possible to cover the gastronomic entirety of Asia and Oceania (spanning miso to nasi goreng) while Italy’s myriad regions sprawled for kilometres, with whole sections dedicated to pesto, mozzarella; you name it, it was there, and it had fan clubs as eloquent as Kevin McCloud and Nigella Lawson combined.
Getting goosebumps watching Yann Arthus-Bertrand narrate his aerial agricultural documentary and admiring his many-pocketed-vest (check out his oasis-garden shot at the top of this post).
No one believed I was Australian (Austrian maybe, but not Australian; particularly disputed by the Kazhakstan delegates).
Meeting the incredible people from Australian Slow Food convivia who hauled kilograms of finger lime marmalade, kangaroo meat, sandalwood dukkah and buchi fire cider across the equator to showcase our incredible indigenous heritage and environment. It was a joy to meet and work alongside you.
Coming home inspired and hopeful that this year’s slogan “Love the Earth, defend the Future” is a conviction shared by millions and positive steps forward are achievable in my lifetime.