Over the weekend, Slow Food USA President Joshua Viertel spoke at the annual Slow Food Indy meeting. The event was open to the public and featured an enormous (and very delicious!) potluck with a crowd 80+ strong.
I found two aspects of the meeting most impacting. First were the significant “food milestones of 2010” (see below), and secondly, I was drawn to Viertel’s character, background and words of encouragement for the Hoosier state.
As a literature and philosophy student at Harvard, Viertel found himself farming while on a quest to investigate a philosophy thesis. There he learned “how to be truly engaged,” which, in his words, requires the collective synthesis of seeing with the eyes, touching with the hands and thinking with the mind. The 33-year-old humanities scholar and food-fanatic has served the role of teacher, farmer, activist and now president of Slow Food USA, an organization that seeks to “work nationally and globally to create a just, sustainable food system.”
Viertel’s speech highlighted the power of the heartland, hope for Indiana and the importance of civil discourse within the food community. I admired his enthusiasm for engaging in meaningful conversation within adversities and searching for common ground in lieu of angry disputation. This tone echoed our own Food for Thought mission and theme of celebrating Indiana’s food culture within the realms of civility and each individual’s ability to bring something unique to the table.
Josh’s visit to Indy follows on the heels of a year of some great milestones in Indianapolis’ Slow Food and local food community, and it speaks to the exciting momentum with which we’re rolling into 2011. I have been asked to take us through a brief Year in Review of some of these notable Food Community Milestones:
1) 2010 truly was the year of “Food for Thought” in Indianapolis. It was the theme for the city wide Spirit & Place Festival, as well as the theme for two-year statewide programming of the Indiana Humanities Council. Throughout the year both created countless opportunities to bring new people together, in new forums to think in new ways about food matters and WHY food matters in our lives and our communities. And they brought national leaders to engage in conversation with us, and provoke our way of thinking about food. Will Allen, Dan Barber, Michael Pollan and Frances Moore-Lappe are just a few.
And from start to finish there was so much more in 2010.
2) Earth Charter Indiana formed the Indianapolis Food, Farm & Family Coalition and hired a coordinator who has worked tirelessly this year to bring people together in meaningful ways.
3) Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology started the first Campus Farm, offering students the opportunity to be the farm managers themselves.
4) The Slow Food Garden was planted at White River State Park, grew new food stewards through a summer internship program, and took root as a beacon of the commitment of our local and Slow Food community.
5) All over town, from Devington to Concord to Mapleton Fall Creek to the Near West, and more, community groups and CDCs began ambitious community garden and food initiatives.
6) The Harrison Center for the Arts, with a wide array of community partners (including the Indiana Humanities Council) hosted the first Food Con, bringing in over 2000 attendees.
7) Indy’s Kitchen, the first rent-by-the-hour commercial kitchen opened, bringing the possibility of food entrepreneurship into reach for more people.
8) The Mayor of Indianapolis issued a challenge for 50 new urban gardens by the end of 2011 and 100 City lots were made publically available for urban gardening.
9) Dig IN – A Taste of Indiana returned to White River State Park with a “Born Again Slow Food” intention for vastly enhanced “taste.”
10) The Indianapolis City Market worked diligently to enter a new era of food vendors in the historic Market Hall: Circle City Sweets & Soups, Natural Born Juicers, Tomlinson Tap Room, 3 Days in Paris, Valentine Hill Farm & more.
11) And again, the Spirit & Place Festival, wow! From the speakers already mentioned, to the remarkable Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, to the hugely successful Irvington Skill Share Feast-ival bringing new leaders and resources to public awareness.
12) The Food Cart scene finally made it’s way to Indy, including the fabulous vegetarian chef Becky Hostetter with her truck Duos promising Slow Food Fast.
13) Craftedspoon.com was formed by two young and incredibly talented videographers with a passion for Good, Clean, Fair food. If you haven’t seen their work, you must. They produce bite-size, but exquisitely poetic video stories of our local food community.
14) And no review would be complete without acknowledging the end of year opening of Indy’s first food coop, Pogues Run Green Grocer, bravely committing to moving the path of accessibility eastward.
*This post was written by Kristin Hess, Indiana Humanities Council’s Food for Thought ambassador and graphic designer.