The Hills are Alive with Diversity

Terra Madre Austria, the first national gathering of the Terra Madre network of small-scale farmers, artisan producers, cooks, researchers and young people opened yesterday in Vienna’s City Hall, to the theme of “sow diversity, cultivate diversity, taste diversity and distribute diversity!”

“This is a good way to approach the topic of biodiversity”, said Ulli Sima, Vienna’s Executive City Councilor for the environment, “as this is a practical approach which is also about our own nutrition. I saw many foods in the market here which I didn’t know before…. we are proud to host the event, as it makes biodiversity more accessible for people.”

“The loss of diversity has much to do with the loss of ‘crafting’ food,” said Barbara Van Melle, leader of Slow Food Vienna. “In Vienna 70 percent of the butchers had to close in the past 20 years, as well as thousands of bakers…. with this we lose family traditions and recipes and the diversity of taste. These products taste different to what you find in a supermarket.”

To improve the situation, Barbara said Terra Madre Austria was bringing together the various players in the food system to work towards a different mode of distribution, helping small farmers find alternatives, revive old market systems, and develop new methods such as internet-based sales.

Barbara then spoke about Slow Food Wien Cooks, a successful new project launched in Vienna in which young immigrants and asylum seekers are assisted to become professional cooks of their region’s cuisine, thus supporting them to adjust and settle into their new home, and bring their gift of food to the community.

Young cooks from India, Afghanistan and Lebanon prepared a special dinner to follow the opening ceremony. Imran Haidari, who has been in the program for two years, explained that they would each prepare and present a dish from their region. While not a trained cook in Afghanistan, Imran said he was using and perfecting knowledge that was passed down from his mother.

Slow Food President Carlo Petrini welcomed the project enthusiastically in his address, emphasizing that we need to make sure that more young people become involved in these issues, and that this initiative could be very useful in cities all around the world. “This is a battle of humanity in general,” he said. “We need to take little steps that will bring great change. We are now seeing developments of an agricultural system coming back to the local level, and this is good news.”

The Biodiversity Conference is being held today at Terra Madre Austria. 400 delegates – producers, farmers, cooks, students, and experts in the agricultural and food area – are participating in a series of discussions, with a focus on holistic strategies for the advancement and preservation of biodiversity, food diversity and nutritional sovereignty.

Terra Madre Austria is organized by the City of Vienna and Slow Food, with support from the Austrian Ark/Presidia Commission.

For more information on this, and the full program at Terra Madre Austria, including the Biodiversity Market, Taste Workshops and other educational activities, visit:

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