Slow Food’s Kemang convivium holds a food gardening workshop for school children. (Courtesy of Helianti Hilman)
Pampered by fast food and comforted by imported and industrial food commodities, many customers no longer question the food they buy or serve at the table. Slow Food aims to change that.
The international movement, founded by Carlo Petriniback in 1986 in the small town of Bra in Northern Italy, encourages a sustainable and eco-friendly food system — bringing good, clean and fair food to the table.
“Slow Food is about good, clean and fair food, meaning that [the food] is good for our health as well as tasting good; it’s clean for the environment and people; and it offers a fair price to both producers and consumers,” said Elena Anière, Slow Food program director for Asia and Oceania.
Although the movement is about providing pleasure through food, it is also gradually pushing for changes in the industrial food system.
“[The industrial food system] clearly does not work and there are many examples around the world showing it does not work,” she says.
Through its extensive campaigns, projects and activities dedicated to safeguarding food biodiversity and promoting a sustainable eco-friendly food production and consumption system, the movement has drawn millions of supporters from some 150 countries.
It hosts two large biannual events — the Salonedel Gusto and Terra Madre (Mother Earth) World Meeting, both held in Turin, Italy — to foster good, clean and fair food.
The Salonedel Gusto, first held in 1996, is now known as one of the world’s most recognized exhibitions for small-scale food and wine producers from all continents. Meanwhile, the Terra Madre World Meeting brings together world food communities to share knowledge, experiences and discuss the latest food issues.
With members spread in around 1,500 convivia (chapters) worldwide and a network of some 2,000 Terra Madre food communities, the organization has also expanded its reach to Indonesia.
Currently, the country is home to four Slow Food convivia — local chapters that also serve as food communities.
The Slow Food Convivium Bali was launched in late 2009. Last year, both Kemang and Jabodetabek convivia were founded. In April this year, the Yogyakarta convivium was set up.
Members of these convivia range from food producers, activists and journalists to business professionals, families and students.
Slow Food members buy fresh produces at Sadaya organic farm in Bogor, West Java. (Courtesy of Bibong Widyarti)
Bibong Widyarti, who co-founded the Jabodetabek convivium with some friends who shared similar principles — the need for good, clean and fair food — said the convivium serves as a friendly forum for people to exchange information and experiences related to Slow Food. It now has 61 active members
“We want to inspire people to be able to implement Slow Food values in their daily lives whatever their profession is,” said the convivium leader, whose family has been dedicated to living the organic way of life since 1997.
As the movement campaigns on supporting local food for local consumption, these convivia serve as communicators in sharing information on Slow Food with interested people through projects and campaigns, highlighting local food producers and flavors in the process.
“Slow Food works to boost the local economy, to be able to work with local farmers and to educate consumers to be able to sustain their local food culture in comparison to industrial food,” Anière said.
Food education activities, such as on gluten-free products and food coloring, and guided tasting workshops with food experts are among the regular programs of the convivia.
“The tasting workshops aim mostly for children. For us, children must know natural food’s real taste before their palate is exposed to artificial processed foods,” said Helianti Hilman, the Kemang convivium leader.
And as defender of food biodiversity, Slow Food implements various programs to preserve local food culture through its convivia and Terra Madre food communities.
One of them is the Ark of Taste project — a worldwide conservation program aimed at protecting heritage foods on the brink of extinction through a sustainable and eco-friendly production and consumption system.
“As most of the country’s food biodiversity is on the verge of vanishing these days, the Ark of Taste instantly became one of the priority programs for us in Kemang,” Helianti said. “Last year, we successfully listed Kusamba sea salt in the Ark of Taste international catalog.”
Since becoming a Slow Food member, Puji Sumedi Hanggarawati said she had been able to support local food producers, including farmers, in developing food diversification.
Basically, she said they helped producers create quality food products based on Slow Food principles that attracted consumers and were easily sold on the market.
“That way food producers can receive a better income while still preserving the ecology and the local food biodiversity,” said Puji, who works as agro ecosystem officer at the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Kehati).
Slow Food also provides other benefits for food producers — allowing them to gain greater insight into producing quality local food and exposing them to a global network of food communities.
Several local food producers have even taken part in the Salonedel Gusto and Terra Madre World Meetings.
“Last year, we invited a nutmeg grower from Sangihe Islands in North Sulawesi and a farmer from Kasepuhan Sirnaresmi in Mount Halimun, West Java, to both events. And it was such a great experience for them,” Puji says.
As another way of endorsing quality local produces, the Jabodetabek convivium recently arranged a field trip to an organic farm.
“We visited Sadaya farm in Cijeruk, Bogor to purchase a variety of fresh naturally grown produce while discussing organic farming issues with the growers, such as how to make botanical pesticides,” Bibong said.
“We also held a tea workshop presented by our friends from Harendong green farm,” she added, referring to one of the local premium organic tea producers.
For the next four years, Slow Food aims to develop 10,000 Ark of Taste listings, 10,000 food gardens and 10,000 food communities worldwide.
In Indonesia alone, they hope to set up 1,000 Ark of Taste listings, 1,000 food gardens and 1,000 food communities.
Anière believes it will not be hard to meet the 1,000 Ark of Taste listings in Indonesia.
“From the biodiversity perspective, the potential in Indonesia is just mind-blowing,” she said. “For example, I visited a traditional village here and met farmers who admit to owning around 125 varieties of natural rice seeds.”
Currently, they have selected several heritage foods for the Ark of Taste listings.
“They include muntok white pepper from Bangka Island and sorghum from Flores Island,” said Helianti.
For the 1,000 food gardens campaign, the Convivium Kemang is set to focus its work with less fortunate urban communities in Jakarta.
“We want to provide food access for less fortunate communities. The food garden will help them reduce their food spending and even provide them with extra income by selling the fresh produce,” said Helianti.
“In the end, our wish is to have many farmers’ markets in Jakarta — with produce coming from the city’s food gardeners and urban farmers — providing affordable quality local products to urban consumers.” Membership is available online via slowfood.com or you can contact [email protected] or [email protected] for further details.
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