Slow Food: pastoralism saves the meadows, guarantees regeneration

A network built on solidarity, emotional attachment to the land, and care for animals at the heart of Cheese 2023, the world’s largest event dedicated to artisanal cheese organized by Slow Food and the City of Bra

Development and regeneration: these are the key words of the 14th edition of Cheese, which comes to a close on Monday, September 18. These concepts resonate through the streets of Bra, the Piedmontese town where exhibitors from across Italy and 14 other countries have shared the wonderful diversity of raw milk cheese. The hundreds of herders, cheesemakers, experts and researchers, institutional representatives, anthropologists, veterinarians and filmmakers here find common ground in their shared efforts to save permanent meadows, native animal breeds and cultural landscapes. And they take inspiration from the pastoral way of life, characterized by the way herders manage their animals, care for the land they love on, and the products that not only provide a livelihood, but a reason for living.

 

Cheese is politics

Franceso Sottile, Slow Food board member: “The message that has come through loud and clear over the four days of the event is that there’s a need to change the narrative regarding the world of pastoralism. We must see the prospective progress in it, from an economic and social point of view, and support those who invest in both culturally and politically. This is not a bucolic or nostalgic vision; quite the contrary. It’s forward-looking and progressive. Herding is a profession linked to tradition, but it also provides ecosystem services, and represents a balanced relationship between humans, animals and the rest of nature that is more vital than ever.”

As film director Anna Kauber recalled in one of the conferences: “the herding community is among the most marginalized. Their voices often go unheard, particularly in the case of women herders. But Cheese heralds a new era: we can measure the value of pastoralism by the investments it attracts, including in terms of training for the next generation. There are now several schools for herders and cheesemakers springing up in Italy and beyond, offering an alternative perspective on life to young people, many of whom are interested in livestock farming and cheese production. Often these young people have enormous drive and motivation, but don’t have the opportunity to acquire the right skills. It’s time to change that.”

 

Cheese is emotion

Cheese is first and foremost a celebration, an emotional occasion where the voices of artisans are allowed to resonate: “Making cheese is my life,” said Christian Grones, a young producer of the new Italian Slow Food Presidium of fodóm, a cheese whose origins stretch back to the meadows of the Belluno Dolomites, 2000 meters above sea level. 

The war in Ukraine and its effect on cheesemakers and herders was not forgotten at the Slow Cheese Awards, where we heard from Tetyana Stramnova. She has decided to stay in her country, finding the courage to start a new life through a small goat farm, and Ekaterina Prichodko, who was forced to abandon her bombed-out town and, after crossing Europe with her children, started over in the Marche region of Italy, where she found refuge with Eros Scarafoni of Fontegranne. 

Giampaolo Gaiarin, a cheesemaking expert who has been working with Slow Food to promote natural cheesemaking techniques and the people behind them for many years, thanked Slow Food ” for giving me the opportunity to meet so many people who have given so much to my life.”

The next edition will be held in Bra, Italy from September 19-22, 2025!

Cheese 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the City of Bra with the support of the Piedmont region and various partners who believe in the project, including Main Partners: BBBell, BPER Banca, Confartigianato Cuneo, E-viso, Parmigiano Reggiano, Pastificio Di Martino, Quality Beer Academy, Reale Mutua. In-Kind Partners: Liebherr, Bormioli Luigi & Bormioli Rocco, Acqua San Bernardo. Green Partners: Pool Pack and Ricrea. Area Partner: Baratti&Milano e Pepino.The event is made possible with the contribution of Fondazione CRC & Fondazione CRT, ATL Langhe Monferrato Roero, the Cuneo Chamber of Commerce & Ascom Bra. Our cultural partner is the Central Institute for Immaterial Heritage.

 

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