By Kris Vester
Think of Calgary and many things spring to mind: the Calgary Stampede, the energy industry and the heart of the Conservative political movement, amongst others. But Calgary is also home to one of the largest and most active Slow Food convivia in Canada.
Slow Food Calgary has been busy promoting good, clean and fair food in southern Alberta for more than 12 years and 2011 was one of the busiest and most satisfying yet. Under the guidance of a small team of committed and passionate volunteers who together form our Steering Committee, Slow Food Calgary was responsible for organizing several events, including Slow Resolutions, a Kitchen Party at Infuse/Forage, Roots and Shoots at The River Cafe, Dinner and Dialogue (with the support of the Culinary Arts Program at SAIT, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology), Local 101: Ingredients for a Sustainable Culture, Feast of Fields at Rouge restaurant and, in collaboration with Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association, a large Terra Madre Day Potluck, which raised funds for the Calgary Food Bank.
In addition, we participated in many other events organized by other community groups in an outreach capacity, seeking to inform and educate the public on important food issues by being a presence at Calgary Seedy Saturday, Slow Money at the Calgary Public Library, TEDxYYC, Bow River Flow, Pecha Kucha Night Calgary, the Culinary Agro Literacy Forum hosted by SAIT’s Culinary Arts program and a ‘Vital Conversations: Food’ event hosted by The Calgary Foundation.
In two extraordinary cases, we managed to combine our capacity to educate and inform with our capacity to bring delicious local food to the table. In the first of these, we partnered with best-selling local author Hugo Bonjean to launch his latest book, A Peoples’ Power. Supported by local producers, Slow Food Calgary volunteers prepared and served breakfast at a downtown homeless shelter called the Mustard Seed. The other of these events was much more involved, as it saw Slow Food Calgary bringing together local producers, restaurants and volunteers to allow us to act as both a food vendor, serving good, clean and fair local food to thousands of festival attendees, and as a food system educator, offering information and insight into the food system to the thousands who stopped by our tent for all four days of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
We finished off 2011 with a facilitated strategic planning session wherein we reassessed our goals, processes and approaches. A renewed and refined mandate, which came of this session, sums up where Slow Food Calgary is going to continue to focus its efforts:
- Making local connections between consumers, chefs, producers and processors of good, clean, fair food.
- Building public awareness of agricultural systems and promoting the concepts of equality and responsibility in our food system.
2012 is going to be a very interesting and exciting year for Slow Food Calgary. We began the year by receiving confirmation of registration as a not for profit Society from Alberta’s Corporate Registries. It was our desire to form mutually beneficial relationships with many other community organizations in order to advance our goals and a need for greater funding in the form of grants and sponsorships that convinced us that registration as a society was the wisest course of action. We are now embarking on a process of finding partners and formalizing existing relationships, which will, amongst other initiatives, hopefully see us developing an educational curriculum which will be dynamic and flexible enough to be effective with any and all age groups, from the very young to the fully grown. We will also be publishing the 3rd edition of The Alberta Snail Trail, the guide to producers of good, clean and fair food in Alberta. Scheduled to be released in conjunction with Feast of Fields, we are also hoping to have an electronic version of The Snail Trail available at that time for use on electronic devices, mobile and otherwise.
Calgary has been named the Cultural Capital of Canada for 2012 and Slow Food Calgary is hoping to play a role in giving this celebration of local culture a more authentically local and good, clean and fair approach to the food, which will be on offer at some of the events planned for this year.
We are looking forward to the events and initiatives we will be involved in this year and hope that some of you might even consider traveling to Calgary to experience what we have on offer. We guarantee that you will be impressed with the depth and breadth of the food communities in the Calgary bio-region.
The twelfth annual Feast of Fields will be taking place in September. We hope to see some of you here in Calgary in 2012!