Slow Food USA hosted the first ever Slow Food Nation conference last weekend. You can find coverage at the Ethicurean and Slow Food’s Blog (among others). I finally got around to reading Wendell Berry (forthcoming post on Jayber Crow) and was excited to hear that he came out of seclusion to speak at the conference. Here’s some excerpts reported by Ethicurean:

“I’m not enthusiastic about any presidential candidate…on principle, because there’s too little we can expect from them. If we get a large enough voice, they’ll do the right thing because they have to,” said the poet-philosopher-farmer who “started this whole [movement] thing,” as Schlosser teased him on stage. We should seek out things that rely on the cooperative principle instead, like farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. “If you trade with your local hardware store rather than going to Wal-Mart, you’ll be saying, ‘I want you to exist. You and I are neighbors, and I accept responsibility for that connection.’”

I appreciate hearing about the struggles of people of faith and heroes that I look up to. Maybe it’s my dark side that wants to bring people down to my level, but I thought this was nice.

Well, it turns out he’s had his dark moments too. “I gave up on this movement about 1990,” he said. He figured he, his brother, and a few other mavericks like Gene Logsdon would just keep on doing that they did, isolated voices in the wilderness as America shopped itself into a stupor. “But then about about 1994, 1995 I began to look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Wendell, there are people out there doing what you want them to do! You better go and help them.’” And by “people” he meant regular folks, people “who are farming well, or purchasing intelligently and cooperatively.” While the people on stage with him had acted as catalysts, it’s been virtually a leaderless movement, he pointed out approvingly.

And the hook for the faithful…

Berry refers often to his Christian faith when he writes, but usually in pragmatic rather than dogmatic terms. He ended with his “favorite joke from the Sermon on the Mount — I always love the Gospels for their humor,” the idea that “to love thy neighbor as thyself” is an act of selflessness. Rather, he said, a person becomes a “neighbor” not just because they live next to you, but because they can help you and you them.

The money quote I from what I read was from Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation.

Responding to Slow Food Nation’s slogan, “Come to the Table,” he pointed out that the people who picked and packed and processed all that lovely lovely food had not been invited, and that most conscious eaters in the audience were probably more concerned with animal rights than human. “Workers need to have a place at the table,” he said. “I don’t care if the tomato is heirloom, if it’s a product of slavery.”


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