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Exploring the food chain, one job at a time.

Hi everybody! It's been some time since I last informed you about my travels. To be honest, I've been a little too busy exploring the food chain to actually process properly what I encountered. I've been cycling through Europe, visiting different farmers along the way, gone to a major food event in Italy, and worked two weeks at an assembly line packaging potatoes. But now I'm back, well rested and ready to piece together and share what I've seen and learned.

Traveling the food chain in September meant cycling from Maastricht to Turin with nine fellow Slow Food Youth Network members, visiting ten Slow Food producers along the way, to finally arrive at the major Slow Food event
Terra Madre - Salone del Gusto.

So why were we doing this? Or why was I? There’s a few reasons.

Reason 1: I am imperfect
First, and most importantly, this trip was a statement, to others but mostly to myself. Terra Madre - Salone del Gusto is one of the biggest global gatherings of people working towards a more sustainable food system. It is an amazing and empowering place to be. But there is something not right about flying across the world to talk about sustainability.

I’ve been wondering for a long time about how difficult it is to be a morally consistent consumer. How is it that I care about the sourcing of my food, but less about the sourcing of my clothes or furniture? How come I’ve not considered the impact of the rubber production that make up the tires of my bike, until someone else on this trip brought this up?


Of course I have a my ideas about this. For one, I like being a consumer. I like the time and place I’m living in. I like to be able to travel, to live through experiences. I am very happy to be able to try a new craft beer every week (I am a cliché of a hipster in some regards).

But my brain is built for efficiency, not for evaluating the social and environmental impact of every single purchase, even though I feel I should. To transit from a mindless consumer to a consistent, mindful allround consumer takes so much more time and energy than I expected.

This trip, hopefully, is one of many steps in the right direction.

Reason 2 - I love Slow people
A second reason to go along on this trip this is the people. I love the courage, the persistence, the insanity of food producers in our Slow Food network. To be able to travel across Europe to meet a few of them, in remote places I wouldn’t or couldn’t normally visit, is a privilege and a real boost of confidence for the future of food. 

Reason 3: I like scaring myself
The third and final reason I wanted to go along on this trip. I like the adventure, and I like doing things that scare me a little before I do it. I’ve always thought of cycling as a hobby for old white men with beer bellies, and I’ve been resisting my slow but inevitable progression into that category. This was the adventure that gave me the final push.

I don’t know if and how I will travel to Terra Madre - Salone del Gusto 2020. My opinion so far is that we do need these global networks of changemakers to meet in real life, to boost each individual’s confidence, to feel for a few days that they are not alone in their endeavour, to come up with solutions not reached in seclusion. I do hope that we will stay reflective and self critical, to stay consistent.

Things to read, watch and consider
How do farmers across the world deal with the effects of climate change on food production? 

This afternoon I'll moderate a talkshow, interviewing three farmers, from Zimbabwe, from Peru and from the Netherlands, as part of the World Food Day Festival in Den Bosch. If you happen to be in the area, please come by! More information can be found on the website of World Food Day.
More and more videos of the MAD Symposium are coming online. I recommend especially this talk by Dan Giusti, former head chef at NOMA, talking about his mission to improve school lunch programs in the United States.

I just finished reading ‘The Harvest Gypsies’ a series of essays by John Steinbeck on the struggles of migrant farm workers during the Dust Bowl, the period of extreme drought in the American mid-west in the late thirties. Some of the quotes could be written in 2018. I hope to reflect on this theme more in the next months.

... we find a curious attitude toward a group that makes our agriculture successful. The migrants are needed, and they are hated. [...] Wanderers in fact, they are never allowed to feel at home in the communities that demand their services.

If you are also seeking to challenge yourself to be a little more sustainable in the choices you make as a consumer, sign up for the #foodforchange challenge, starting October 16th. Can you go one week eating only locally produced food, without eating meat or with zero food waste? 
Up next
In October I'm working on the assembly line in Flevoland, harvesting and processing potatoes. Later this month I'll sail along with the Nordlys, a fairtransport emissionfree cargo ship, from Den Helder to Bremerhaven. 

What's up after that I don't know yet, but I'll keep you posted. Thanks for exploring along!
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