C is for Chicago Honey Co-Op and Becoming a Terra Madre Delegate

By
April 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I’ve already skipped “A”, and this post rather departs from the A-Z format (wait no it doesn’t – it’s my “C”), but I want to wrap up the Terra Madre thing. (Also, Michael Thompson is part of our farm’s community, so he’s my C even if this is mostly about things C inspired.  You can read B, for Butcher, here.

Michael Thompson is a founder of the Chicago HoneyCo-op. He vends honey and beeswax products at the same market our farm does. I’ve gotten to know him well over the past seven years – from the market as well as running into each other at various local food and farming functions through the Chicago region. Michael has been a leader in local foods, biological diversity, “slow food,” and urban agriculture for decades.
In 2008, Michael and his partner, Sydney, attended Terra Madre as delegates. When I asked him about his trip, he told me: “Jody, I generally don’t put a lot of stock in the phrase ‘a life changing experience,’ but I have to tell you; it (Terra Madre) changed my life.” Ever since that conversation, I’ve wanted to be a Terra Madre delegate.

You can read my application below, including the part where I mention Michael.

Slow Food Delegate Application

Tell us about yourself! How has your community’s food history, culture, and system shaped your identity, values, and sense of purpose? (Max. 150 words)
I grew up on a diverse grain and livestock farm in northern Illinois. This mid-sized farm (500 acres) provided a high standard of living for our family of six and two business partners.  Much of what we ate came from our farm. Grains and livestock were sold into competitive markets.  However, in 1987, I left the tradition of family farming for university when the farm credit bubble burst.


Leaving the farm left a void in my life. When we moved back to ancestral land ten years ago, farming was different from what I had known. It was no longer possible to make a living on a small (or medium sized) farm growing commodities. I could not come back and farm as my father. I had to reach back into my grandfathers’ heritages and produce food for sale directly to my community. Looking backward, I’ve become a 21st century farmer.


What is your vision for the food movement? How have you contributed to this vision locally, nationally, and globally? (Max. 150 words)

Just now, my youngest (5) asked me “What are you doing?”  I told him I was writing; but, the real answer is that I’m changing the world.  This would have been hubris when our family embarked on our sustainable farming adventure ten years ago. Over the past decade, I’ve learned that sustainability is as much about the support and involvement of community as it is about farming practices.

Just as we are feeling the effects of Norman Borlaug’s “green revolution” forty years hence, the eating and farming decisions we make today will ripple into tomorrow.  My vision is that I help to teach people to eat thoughtfully with import and a connection to their food and their grower.  My hope is that my small efforts combined with many others locally, nationally, and globally will reach Malcolm Gladwell’s “magic moment” when it “…tips, and spreads like wildfire.”



Why do you want to go to Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto? (Max. 150 words)

Globally, the food we eat, how it is grown, processed, distributed, and who grows and controls it has changed radically in the last fifty years. These changes adversely affect our lands, our waters, and our people.   Awareness of our broken food system is growing. People are fearful and sometimes overwhelmed by the enormity of problems; but there is hope and there are solutions.

To bring these solutions to the fore, the Slow Food, Good Food, Local Food, Responsible Food, Just Food, movement et al. needs leaders. Since I started farming, I’ve grown into leader/advocate for local and sustainable foods, but I can get much better. Traveling to northern Italy this fall, tasting traditional foods from all over the world, and engaging in the stories of growers from all over the world will expand my contacts, give me new knowledge, and inspire me to continue to change the world.

Please describe 1-2 experiences, if any, that highlight your relationship to the Slow Food or Terra Madre networks. If you have not previously interacted with Slow Food or Terra Madre, please tell us how you or your organization might build a relationship with these networks.
Michael Thompson is a founder of the Chicago Honey Co-op.  He vends honey and beeswax products at the same market our farm does. I’ve gotten to know him well over the past seven years – from the market as well as running into each other at various local food and farming functions through the Chicago region.  Michael has been a leader in local foods, biological diversity, “slow food,” and urban agriculture for decades.

In 2008, Michael and his partner, Sydney, attended Terra Madre as delegates.  When I asked him about his trip, he told me: “Jody, I generally don’t put a lot of stock in the phrase ‘a life changing experience,’ but I have to tell you; it (Terra Madre) changed my life.” Ever since that conversation, I’ve wanted to be a Terra Madre delegate.

|