– By Brooke Fader
While in Turin, Italy for Terra Madre 2014, Slow Food in Canada hosted its very own meeting for Canadian members from all over the country to discuss about the future of the organization.
The Canada Meeting at Terra Madre was also an opportunity to thank a founding member of Slow Food in Canada. Chef and farmer Mara Jernigan co-created the 2nd convivium in Canada over 14 years ago, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. She held events on her farm in the Cowichan Valley, inspiring young chefs, elevating local food producers and teaching community cooking classes connecting people with their farmer’s markets (a novel idea back then). Her work at Providence Farm has led to the creation of a Red Seal Cooking Programme at a working farm, the first of it’s kind in BC.
Mara created the Canadian Ark of Taste with our first and only Presidia project, heritage Red Fife wheat. Seen in stores and bakeries nationwide now, Red Fife then was not commercially available and in risk of extinction when she teamed up with Saskatchewan farmer Mark Loiselle to revive Canada’s unique crop. She also championed the first Canadian Citta Slow (Slow City) designation for Cowichan Bay, the first Canadian sponsorship of a Garden in Africa, and our first school garden at the high school in Sooke which infuses fresh ingredients into their culinary arts programme and school cafeteria.
In so many ways, Mara exemplifies a Slow Food philosophy in her personal and professional life. For over a decade, she volunteered her time to Slow Food on a local, national and global level. For the last few years, she has taken this wealth of experience to Belize, where she has transformed a jungle into an incredible eco-resort with a vanilla plantation, on-site bean-to-bar chocolate, a heritage breed pig and chicken programme (which included designing the abattoir), and an 100 acre nature preserve which is reviving the local waterways and food traditions, while creating quality jobs. It was so wonderful to honour Mara at our meeting in Turin.
In a volunteer organisation such as ours, we cannot overstate the importance of recognising the contributions of our fellow compatriots. Mara’s commitment has helped define Slow Food in Canada, and we all inherit the seeds she has sowed for us.