The United Nations of Young Farmers

“Never in my life have I felt the sense and force of such an extraordinary energy as during this meeting. Thank you. Thank you for coming, thank you for having worked so intensely for these three days.” With this emotional expression of gratitude, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini addressed the young present for the closing ceremony of Terra Madre Giovani – We Feed the Planet.


“Anyone who still imagines the stereotype of a miserable old farmer is very wrong!” he said. “Being a farmer is not a hangover from the past. You are the future of the land.” Petrini reminded the delegates that many of them were small children when Slow Food was created. “The greatest joy for a person is seeing the continuation of something they have constructed. Remember this: When you construct something, there must be satisfaction in what you are doing, but at the same time you must create the conditions that ensure your work has continuity…We have stubbornly constructed an idea and now it has the legs, the hands, the heart of a new generation, present here in this audience. And even if I don’t know you all personally, I know that you will continue along this path, and remember: You will do better than the founders.”


Petrini then thanked the Slow Food Youth Network for its work creating the impressive organizational machine that brought 2,500 young producers from over 120 countries to Milan.  Terra Madre Giovani, he said, is the United Nations of young farmers. He appealed to the audience: “Make Terra Madre at home. Create Terra Madre in your villages. The network grows by spreading, and in this way we can construct an organization that is not oligarchical, pyramidal. We can construct an organization that spreads. With fewer structures and more ideas we will be healthier and happier.”


A special thanks went to Milan, which had opened its homes to delegates from around the world. The city responded to this affection with gratitude, through the words of its mayor, Giuliano Pisapia: “Milan says goodbye to the farmers and fishers who have come to the city for Terra Madre Giovani, from the north and south of the world, in the year of the Expo dedicated to food security and sustainable development. Milan says arrivederci—goodbye and see you again—because we want to have them at our side, with their dreams, their vital energy and their passion, for the development of more intelligent food policies being undertaken by the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. This pact between mayors from 100 international cities will be signed on October 15, as a concrete legacy of Expo 2015. An ambitious challenge, which only be met by all of us working together. The contribution of the young farmers 3.0, with their store of new knowledge, will be very precious, in Milan as well as in their own countries.”


Milan welcomed the delegates and the event, but so too did Expo, which hosted the closing meeting in its Auditorium. The Commissioner of the Government for Expo Milano 2015, Giuseppe Sala, paid tribute to the young delegates, emphasizing how the presence of so many young workers of the land had filled a gap, the absence of local producers at the Universal Exposition. “With Terra Madre Giovani, the Universal Exposition has once again shown that it can be a unique platform for dialog and debate. The experiences that the young farmers and fishers have described here today, as well as their very presence at Expo, are concrete, real evidence of how one can and one must practice agriculture with progress. We need their contribution.”


The delegates also received a warm salutation from the Italian Minister for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Maurizio Martina, who underlined the value of the work done over the past days: “The experiences and the ideas of thousands of farmers under 40 who have come to Expo today with Slow Food for Terra Madre Giovani have increased even further the strength of the message coming from Milan: Beating hunger by 2030 is possible….I very much believe in the idea that the Expo generation, thanks also to Terra Madre Giovani, can become the first Zero Hunger generation.”


The Italian Foreign Affairs Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, picked up on similar references. In his speech, he talked about the close link between the challenge of hunger and others, like global warming and the control of migratory flows. He reasserted the specific meaning of the presence of the farmers inside Expo. “I think that this event is one of the greatest demonstrations of Expo’s success. Here you can see that it was not just a showcase, but had a soul. For this, I thank all of the young people who have come here from 120 countries. Our results depend on your work and your enthusiasm, and I assure you that Italy’s commitment will not end when Expo comes to a close. This is a huge challenge, which concerns all the governments and all the citizens of the world and which can be overcome only with everyone’s contribution. You are and you will be the protagonists of this extraordinary change. You could be the generation that manages to reconcile Mother Earth with humanity.”


The meeting concluded with thanks to the authorities and delegates from Joris Lohman, chairman of the Slow Food Youth Network and leader of the Terra Madre Giovani – We Feed the Planet project. His words reflected the end of one stage of a long journey, one that will now be continued in the communities of those present. “When you return to your countries, know that you have the support of this network, but also know that it is time to start to act, to move on to the next level.” 


Never Waste a Food Crisis: A Letter to the World is a manifeso of the joyous revolution begun here in Milan over these past few days, with an open letter to the whole world, structured around four themes: natural equilibrium, fairness in the food system, political and institutional action and individual responsibility. The manifesto highlights how today is not just about celebrating the fundamental importance of the work of young farmers for the future and well-being of everyone. Instead, the seeds have been planted for a revolution destined to involve every corner of the world.


The event was organized by Slow Food, the Slow Food Youth Network, the Terra Madre Foundation and the University of Gastronomic Sciences, in collaboration with the Italian Ministry for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Fondazione Cariplo and Compagnia di San Paolo, with the support of the City of Milan. The event’s Official Partners are UniCredit Foundation, Unaproa, Coldiretti Giovani Impresa and Lavazza.

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