Slow Food National Leadership Conference

Last month Carolyn Swabek and I had the wonderful opportunity to be able to attend the national Slow Food Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The conference opened with an energetic and promising discussion by Katherine Deumling, Chair of the Slow Food USA Board of Directors and Richard McCarthy, the new Executive Director of Slow Food USA.  They discussed the refocusing of Slow Food’s mission to better serve local chapters and to focus on equity and inclusion in all programs. They also cautioned us to “Slow the Fork Down.”  “We have been suffering from ‘shiny object syndrome,” said Kate Krauss, Managing Director. New ideas capture our imagination and attention so that we have gotten distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on our goals. With more defined goals, over 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.

Besides the many discussions and question and answer sessions offered by Slow Food USA leadership, on Friday we attended workshops geared towards specific topics led by Slow Food leaders in chapters throughout the United States. Carolyn learned about making changes in food policy and justice, finding meaningful partnerships with other organizations, and about Snail of Approval programs, something we hope to begin here in Southeastern Wisconsin at some point! I attended sessions on using events to engage our audience (YOU!), updates on Slow Food USA’s membership program and incentives (more details to follow in upcoming months), and had the wonderful opportunity to hear Alice Waters speak about her ideas for edible education, teaching slow food in a fast food world. We even spent that night in New Orleans’s own Edible Schoolyard while tasting New Orleans’s local food including a very messy crawfish boil!

The next day we also were able to attend a food community tour to learn more about New Orleans’ rich food culture. Afterwards we attended the Bayou Boogaloo Festival to taste more of New Orleans’ local delicacies while listening to music and enjoying entertainment led by the Slow Food NOLA chapter.

Our last day, we were able to attend regional meetings to meet with chapter leaders in surrounding states. We are excited to be hosting a regional meeting this October for our surrounding Upper Midwest Chapters including other chapters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. 

Additionally, Jennifer Casey, our Biodiversity guru, flew in to New Orleans to attend the national Ark of Taste committee meeting. They aim to increase the list of Ark of Taste products over the next four years. We look forward to helping in this project.

Overall the event was very fruitful both in terms of food and knowledge. It was amazing to hear the stories of people around the country all working towards the same goal of good, clean, and fair food for all. We hope that together, with your help, we will one day reach this goal!  In the words of our Regional Governor, Martha Davis Kipcak: “Onward Together.”

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