Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Slowing Down for Slow Food Nation

A friend and I had planned this day months in advance. Still, when it arrived, I felt unsure, overwhelmed, and hurried. My schedule was too full. My life was too fast. I had a child finishing their first week of kindergarten. Another child home with a shared sitter. We peeled into the elementary school parking lot, nearly late, and sprinted to the classroom door. Then, my friend and I raced to the school's Welcome Breakfast, smiling, chatting, and frantically eyeing our watches. On our fast paced walk to the parking lot, another parent stopped to ask if I was interested in starting a Green Team at the school. Yes!! I told her emphatically but I've got to run. I'm on my way to Slow Food Nation.

We piled into my friend's car and hit the road. Digging through my purse, I realized that I printed out the wrong tickets so the driver slammed on the breaks and flipped a U turn. Finally, on the freeway, carpooling up to the City and squeezing into a City-sized parking spot, we breathed.

Stepping out of the parking structure, we blinked. City Hall was lined with sparkling white tents. Every car we passed was loaded with Organic Farmers and Eat Local bumper stickers. People wore stickers proclaiming Vote YES on Prop 2, were clothed in tee shirts boasting the ubiquitous Slow Food snail logo and toted canvas totes. Sliding in between passersby, we arrived at City Hall - ground zero.

The victory garden, where last month volunteers tore up the lawn in front of San Francisco's City Hall, yawned before us. Scarlet runner beans stretched. Three sisters gardens adorned. Pollinator gardens welcomed winged visitors. Keyhole gardens welcomed human visitors. In the center, before a giant windmill, stood the soap box. Speaker after speaker stood before the microphone to denounce GMO seeds, to urge the visitors milling by to take an interest in their local food sheds.

Slow Food Nation was a plastic free event (though bio-plastic lurked everywhere). Water stations, readily identifiable by the long lines of Kleen Kanteen and Sigg holding visitors, were placed between the tents. Take Back the Tap, they proclaimed, and sold Kleen Kanteens boasting that same slogan for half the normal price. My friend bought one for every member of her extended family. Merrrrry Christmas!

Compostable and recycling containers stood proudly next to a trash can, which warned tossers-in that it was for "landfill only." A demonstration center visually explained the benefits of composting (Slow Food Nation strove to be a zero waste event) and offered visitors bars of Black Gold to take home for their gardens. We wandered through the stalls. Tasted local cheese. Ogled local produce. And stood in the mother of all lines to get a scoop of local ice cream.

And then it was time to go. To rush over to the un-air conditioned Herbst Theater to listen to two sessions of Food for Thought in 90 degree heat. We were unable to buy tickets for World Food Crises, sold out months ahead due to its blinding brilliant international panel, but listened intently to Building a New Food System: Policy and Planning and smiled through the discussion of Re-Localizing Food. (I'll write about this discussions later this week. The ideas shared in those panels are too important to be glossed over as part of a larger post.)

As we headed home, after a whirl wind tour of a slow event, our brains buzzed with what we'd learned, what we'd encountered, seen, thought and felt. Slow Food Nation was everything it should have been. Beautiful. Welcoming. Plastic-free. Open.

I did wish it was a bit slower but then I realized that was me. As a mother of two little ones, that day was simply a luxury carved out of a busy mother-filled week. A bit of slowness to muddle over in my brain as I pick peppers in the front yard, chop up homegrown banana squash, swap recipes with farmers' market friends, gear up for the school Green Team.

Slow Food Nation wasn't too fast. Or too slow. It was just right.

One thing that was hammered home during the Food For Thought sessions was the importance of schools and institutional lunch programs, like school lunches. We were urged to speak out and help build better programs like these and we have a rare opportunity to do just that. Check out Eco Burban Mom's post about the The Child Nutrition Act. Speak out and be heard by clicking, cutting and pasting. It could not be easier OR more important.

Also, mosey on over, to read and sign the Declaration for Healthy Food & Agriculture. Help take back our food system!


Heather @ SGF said...

What a great event!

Joyce said...

Is the lawn permanently a veggie garden now? Or will it become a lawn again?

GB- you would enjoy the book I just reviewed, if you are interested in the Farm Bill and other ag related issues, because it gives you the history of the problem.

Bobbi said...

Great post! Was that a gazbo type structure with the plastic bottles on the roof? Kind of gives me an idea for recycling plastic bottles from the school system!

Green Bean said...

Heather: It was!

Joyce: Unfortunately, it will revert back to lawn after the food is harvested at the end of the month and donated to local food pantries (or something like that). It's a shame, really, but it has sparked a lot of ideas. And yes, I plan to read your book. I've been looking for something like that lately. Thanks for such a prompt review of the book - after only minor prodding. ;-)

Bobbi: The plastic bottles was the "roof" for one of the water stations. Pretty cool, huh?

Verde said...

I saw that event was coming when we were there on vacation last month. I was sorry to have missed it and so am pleased to see your pictures - thanks!

Melinda said...

Man, I so wanted to go! I was looking forward to it all last year, and then... we moved. Bummer. I'm glad we moved, but I do wish I'd been able to attend. But thank you for sharing your experience will all of us who couldn't go.

Just read your comment. I didn't realize it would revert back to lawn. That's really sad!

eco 'burban mom said...

That sounds like a wonderful event and wonderful "me" time! You must take that time to slow down and enjoy life. Now, I just need to practice what I preach!

And, thanks for the link to The Child Nutrition Act post. I appreciate that and hope that many, many people comment. How will we ever teach our children the value of making sound food choices if they are forced to choose between a "taco hot pocket" and "cheesy nachos"??? We've got to get them young, before they get used to eating this way! It's getting harder and harder the older my boys get!

Jennifer said...

What a fabulous event! I, too, wish they would leave it as a garden.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I so wish I could have gone to this event. Thank you so much for posting about it, so we can experience it viacriously through you.

I look forward to your expanded thoughts on the conference as well.

Stephanie said...

I can't believe how expensive it was though. I wanted to send my family there so they could tell me all about it, but with such a large entry fee, it wasn't possible.

I guess you really needed to be planning this for months in advance. But it seems so exclusive to have a high entry fee.

The lawn is going to go back to being a lawn?? Oh no! I never made it there to see it, and your pictures look so good. If only it could stay...

Green Bean said...

Verde: Glad to share. Everyone should have an event like this by them. :)

Melinda: Yes. I was initially very sad about them lawn reverting to lawn but I take comfort in this - it is a step in the right direction, it was a huge education opportunity and, well, we're just not there yet as a society. We will get there though!

EcoBurbs: School lunches came up over and over again at the conference. We really need to work to provide our kids with better food and not just junk food. Hopefully everyone comments over at the Child Nutrition Act.

Jennifer: Yes, I agree. See my comments to Melinda, though. Someday . . .

Stephanie: Were you looking at entry fees for the tastings or something? I didn't go to any of those or to the dinners (which were very pricey!). The farmers' market and victory garden were free. The two panels that I went to were $20/each. You bring up a good point. Being considered "elitist" is a problem for Slow Food movement. It was discussed on one of the panels and I think the good food doesn't have to be just for the rich. That is where working with schools (school gardens and school lunch programs) can help. So can community gardens and programs where we help the poor have access to farmers' markets and such (Pollan, I believe it was, suggested double WIC dollars when spent at the farmers' market or something like that).

Abbie said...

How cool!

There's a "Green Expo" here in CT coming up in a few weeks, but I know it won't be as awesome as your day with Slow Food!

Stephanie said...

I'm talking about everything -- the web site didn't explain that, while the tastings and dinners and music were very expensive, there were also a farmers' market and Victory Garden to go to. I looked and looked and came to the conclusion that you couldn't do anything without paying a fee. And that probably turned a lot of people off.

I agree that good food shouldn't be for the rich. There are studies showing that violent people, when they eat good food, tend to be less aggressive. I read an article in a newspaper about how kids should eat wholesome meals on days of tests so they could perform better (and then I stared incredulously, trying to figure out why just test days were important for eating good food for brain power).

Good food should definitely be shared with everyone.

Bobbi said...

Loved the pix. Am sooo jealous. Looking forward to the next posts. I'm glad more people are caring about food and the food systems. Thanks for sharing what you learned.

Simply Authentic said...

wow! it sounds great! i'll be looking forward to more posts about it this week...thanks for sharing it with all of us.

Robj98168 said...

Sounds like a great event! I am glad to hear about the the take back the tap! program, It only makes sense that events and workshops that proclaim themselves a green event do this.

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Ha! I feel like I'm reading one of my own posts! Familiar photos. I'm glad you went and reported back. I debated to and fro and ended up having a Slow Sleep Nation weekend on the couch.

Not even up to writing my own blog post tonight. Ah well. You have done the plastic blogging world proud.

Green Bean said...

Vegan Jennifer: More posts coming up next week (maybe this week if I get organized).

Abbie: I bet it will still be super cool! Looking forward to reading about it. :)

Stephanie: Well that stinks!! I agree that they should have done a better job promoting it for people who don't have oodles of money laying around. I guess I figured the Victory Garden would be free bc it is in front of City Hall. I had no idea about the other stuff until we got there. And I know what you mean!!!! Kids should eat healthy - but only when they're testing. Certainly not every day, though, because that would be . . . um . . . healthy.

Bobbi: It was a great conference. Exciting to feel the energy - though I will say most people attending the sessions I went to were youngish (20s and early 30s) and women. Ironically, no one seemed to have a laptop or any sort of electronic media. They all handwrote their notes on pads of paper. Don't know what that has to do with anything but I thought it was interesting.

Simply Authentic: More to come indeed. I'll report on the panels soon.

Rob: I know! It's downright strange when "green events" shovel out the bottled water - in "eco bottles" though! Rolling eyes. Loved Take Back the Tap!

Beth: I must confess I felt a bit Beth-ish taking my photos of trash cans and tents and then loading them. I didn't think you were going and so someone needed to spread the word of a finally (mostly) plastic free event.

CindyW said...

Hey, thanks for the pictures. I thought about going when I saw the poster in a local grocery store.

But, I didn't quite make it, not sure why. Perhaps the Green Fest last year sorted stunted my enthusiasm. I know Slow Food is different. Still.

Anyway I am so glad that you went and brought the stories back here.

kale for sale said...

Thanks for all the photos. I feel like I'm there again and it did feel good being there. I don't know the last time I talked to so many people I'd never met before. But we were all instant friends because we were at the garden. Gardens are magic.

Green Bean said...

Great news! San Francisco City Hall Victory Garden to remain in place through November - two months longer than initially planned. :)

Going Crunchy said...

I'm catching up, and so loving your posts! What an excellent entry, wish they had this by me. Shan


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