It will be good, clean fun when the Slow Food Australia National Meeting comes to Noosa in August this year. With a theme of “Good, Clean and Fair Food for All” the delegates will work together to address what they see as the major food issues facing the nation.
Expected to attract delegates from around the country and special guests from Italy - the home of Slow Food –, the conference will highlight the importance of positive food choices that promote good health, protect local environments, build social networks and support local growers.
The event begins on Thursday 7 August with a Hinterland Food Safari – a farmgate tour to some of the region’s local growers and producers, which will include tastings and the opportunity to participate in the Slow Food Australia Food Mapping Project.
The official conference runs from Friday 8 until Sunday 10 August with highlights including:
Guest speakers including Australia’s foremost expert on nutrition, Dr Rosemary Stanton; author of “Chemical Free Kids: Raising Healthy Kids in a Toxic World”, Dr Sarah Lantz; and the Chairman of Australian Organic, Dr Andrew Monk who will discuss the politics and future of food labelling.
Slow Food representatives from Italy and around Australia to speak on various projects including the international Ark of Taste and 10,000 Gardens in Africa initiatives and national Food Mapping and Indigenous Gardens projects. .
Panel and Q&A sessions featuring guest speakers.
Themed dinners in some of Noosa’s award-winning restaurants using local produce and foods prepared by notable Noosa chefs.
A Sunset Cruise on the Noosa River showcasing bush foods, prepared and introduced by Matt Golinski.
Meet the Growers tastings and talks throughout the conference.
A guided tour of Noosa Farmers’ Market with Shane Stanley - market founder and ambassador for Restaurant Australia.
Amongst the special guests from Italy will be the General Secretary of Slow Food International, Paolo di Croce and the Program Director of Asia/Australia/Oceania, Elena Aniere. There will also be video address from Slow Food founder and President Carlo Petrini.
Amorelle Dempster, Australian Councilor to Slow Food International and convivium leader for Slow Food Hunter Valley said the national meeting was an opportunity for members to think about the issues facing the food system in Australia and how members could make a difference and change things for the better.
“As part of an international network, Slow Food really offers the chance to make a difference in our own communities as well as on a global scale,” she said. “We are wanting to give Slow Food a bigger profile in Australia and are hoping that some of the outcomes include increasing the Slow Food membership – particularly the youth network.”
Nationally, Slow Food has around 1000 members, which has been growing in the past 12 months.
Mrs Dempster said that while member numbers may not seem that significant, the Slow Food Australia network had a very broad reach.
“When you look at the school programs we roll out in the community, the growers we support, the chefs and restaurants that we work with and the community gardens that we establish, our influence and involvement in positive food choices is quite extensive, from paddock to plate,” she said.
“Conferences such as this are important to ensure that our members reap the benefits of being part of a global movement and that they feel like they are part of an international organisation working on the big issues around the world while also maintaining our focus on what is happening in Australia.
“It is an opportunity for members to articulate and prioritise the issues as well as develop ideas on how we can work together to harness our influence and networks to be part of a positive outcome.”
She cited the recent ACCC fines on truth in labelling as an important part of future food security and providing certainty for consumers that they are purchasing food that meets certain criteria.
“We also would like to have a better understanding of who the small farmers and producers are in Australian and how we can link them in with the worldwide Terra Madre network. Delivering our Food Mapping Project will enable us to identify and assist them.
“Slow Food in many ways acts as the voice of the small farmer, who are the keepers of the genetic pool for biodiversity. If we don’t keep them look after and nurture them as well, then we lose biodiversity.”
Mrs Dempster said Slow Food Australia fed into big international goals such as the Ark of Taste, which lists endangered foods from around the world and establishes protocols and processes to preserve them and prevent them from becoming extinct.
“We currently have 17 foods from Australia listed on the international Ark of Taste including finger limes, Bunya nuts, Rosella jam and Leatherwood honey,” she said. “One of our main targets is to increase this to 200 listings in the next two years. That’s not to say that we want more native foods to become endangered but that we need to work harder to identify them now and to put measures in place to address the threat of losing our ability to produce that particular food.”
Tourism Noosa CEO Damien Massingham said the Slow Food Australia National Meeting offered the chance to showcase the region’s natural attributes as well as its food.
“Food tourism is a growing market and another string to Noosa’s impressive credentials as a desirable place to visit,” he said. “In fact, our research has shown that food is of the main attractions for visitors to Noosa and this conference will expose the region’s best food growers, producers and chefs to an international and national audience.
“We are proud to have such a proactive and strong local convivium supporting actively showcasing and bringing extra attention and support to this important industry.
“What people will discover is that as well as having the environmental and social credentials that come with being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, our community are actually strong advocates for the Slow Food philosophy through our support of local growers and our world-class chefs.”
Slow Food Noosa President Erika Hackett said they were pleased to be hosting this national event and to shine a light on local producers.
“A key part of our conference program is to showcase our local producers who encapsulate the key ingredients of the Slow Food philosophy – good, clean and fair food,” she said. “We want to highlight what we are doing in this region to our national and international guests and spread awareness of positive food choices.”
Mrs Hackett said the Hinterland Food Safari would quite literally place some local growers on the map.
“One of Slow Food Australia’s key projects is Food Mapping, where we are creating an online resource for people to pinpoint growers and producers throughout Australia,” she said. “Having the national meeting here provides the perfect opportunity to ensure our local growers are included.
“We feel that the area has such a wide product range of food so diverse from seafood to cheeses, and we are proud of the opportunity to showcase them and include them in the national and international efforts to help build their industry.”
Mrs Hackett said Slow Food Noosa Incorporated was a not-for-profit convivium run by volunteers who had worked hard to pull this event together.
“We would like to thank our members, volunteers, sponsors and supporters including Sunshine Coast Council, Noosa Biosphere Ltd Social Board, Noosa Farmers’ Market, Outrigger Little Hastings Street, Mantra French Quarter and Netanya Noosa,” she said. “We are looking forward to delivering this event and building more awareness of the critical role our local producers play in a healthy future for us all.”
Slow Food Noosa is one of Australia’s largest convivia with more than 100 members who regularly attend events and fundraise to support local projects.
While the event is restricted to Slow Food members, the local community is encouraged to support their local convivium through attending one of their events. Tickets for the dinners, cruises and farmgate tours may be available to the general public and will be promoted on the Slow Food Noosa Facebook page closer to the date.
Slow Food Noosa
15th of July 2014