Italy Mark II: Terra Madre 2018

I’m a big believer that if you open yourself up to opportunities and focus your energy in a chosen direction, the universe will provide. The trick is to recognise those opportunities when they float past and grab them with both hands. Take Italy Mark II for example.

I’d thought my plans for moving my family to Italy in 2020 and studying for a Master degree at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) were dead in the water when my contract ended early a few months ago (the source of my financial pond). I had reluctantly and sadly accepted the new status quo. I even admit to being somewhat relieved in the face of what was a momentously complicated and stressful undertaking. However, a new Italian plan has surfaced in a most unexpected and rapid way.

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2018

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is the Slow Food network’s principal showcase for its activities, projects and policies and the biggest international event dedicated to food. It’s held in Turin every two years. It’s the highlight of the UNISG calendar and would have been mine too in 2020. But a chance invitation to a Slow Food Long Table Lunch at the local Gidgegannup Small Farm Field Day recently led to a chain of events that has brought forward this magnificent opportunity by two years.

I recently became a member of the Slow Food Swan Valley and Eastern Regions convivium, which is headed up by the delightful, bear-like Italian chef, Vincenzo Velletri, who I had met earlier at the ECU Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities workshop in February. He is leading a group of eight people from the convivium over to Terra Madre in September 2018 and casually invited me to join. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to say “Si, grazie!”

I’m determined to leverage the hell out of this trip from a business / career perspective and also just for pure pleasure. There are a few things rolling around in my head:

  • Don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the 1 million+ people that attend this global food event and try to simply soak up the Italian atmosphere.
  • I’m going to apply for a press pass as the attending journalist with the group and write, write, write. I plan to submit some pitches for freelance articles for publication before and after I go. I see plenty of different story angles in this adventure.
  • Already my food-related contacts are expanding and, if I work it, this will be a fantastic networking opportunity where I can meet international and Australian people working in the sustainable food industry. Who knows where this could lead?
  • There are myriad workshops, seminars, presentations, exhibitions, stalls and more I’m itching to attend. Who needs to sleep?
  • I will do a little work on our convivium’s stall (see more below).
  • Vincenzo is going to make some introductions at UNISG for me and organise a tour. Perhaps I will need to get creative and figure out a way to study there after all.

So, what is Slow Food Swan Valley doing at Terra Madre?

Slow Food Swan Valley and Eastern Regions is Western Australia’s only remaining Slow Food convivium and is also the only Australian convivium that will be having a stall at Terra Madre representing the indigenous food and producers of our local region.

The purpose of Swan Valley attending Terra Madre is two-fold.

Creating opportunities in food for indigenous students

The profits Slow Food Swan Valley makes from selling tickets to its food events each year are used for a wonderfully charitable purpose. Through partnerships with local Aboriginal Elders and non-profit organisations, Slow Food Swan Valley is partly sponsoring two disadvantaged teenage indigenous students to attend Terra Madre on a cultural food journey of discovery. The students are from Kununurra and Karratha and both are deeply interested in food. Vincenzo is planning a tour of UNISG (nicknamed Slow Food University) in the hopes these students may be able to study there. They may also run an indigenous bush foods cooking demonstration at the school for staff and students.

Indigenous bush foods commercial stall

The group will also be running a WA stall promoting our local producers, and selling and cooking a range of indigenous bush foods including kangaroo meat. I haven’t been involved with or used a lot of indigenous bush foods before, so I’m very interested to learn more, especially from the three Aboriginal Elder delegates Slow Food Swan Valley is also part sponsoring to attend Terra Madre:

  1. Dale Tilbrook is the owner of Maalinup Aboriginal Art Gallery in the Swan Valley and a retailer of bush food products.
  2. Tahn Donovan works for WAITOC and is co-owner of Max Black bush food products.
  3. Dr Noel Nannup is ECU’s Lead Elder-in-Residence and Cultural Ambassador and is also a Heritage Consultant for Indigenous Tours WA.

It’s going to be an incredible cultural learning experience; I’m so excited. So, while a two-week business / pleasure trip is an entirely different prospect from moving my family to Italy to live for a year and study a Masters, I’m certainly not complaining about second place. Better yet, it’s infinitely more achievable. If I’m going to dust off my journalist hat, I have some serious work to do before I go.