The week that was (10 March 2106)

This week my Euro adventures took me in a rather unexpected, but very poignant for this missive, direction. Following on from last week’s soapbox, Joanna Savill sent me an email inviting me to head across to the Parabere Forum in Bari, Puglia. Those who clicked on the link last week will know this is a food forum, now in it’s second year, aimed at improving gastronomy with women’s vision.
The forum was host to twenty-three speakers and, indeed, a room full of amazing women, each connected to the food industry in some way, shape or form. Personally, I am a firm believer in creating solutions with both sexes in the room, but (and this is a big but) I was fascinated by the conversation that came out of this forum.
There was an incredible community spirit evident in each speaker’s vision, a focus on building a community, not furthering an individual. Women such as Zoubida Charrouf who has built co-operatives making argan oil in Morocco, creating an income stream for women where traditionally women working at all was frowned upon. Her work has also led to protection for the plants and the oil itself, a product that is indigenous to Morocco. There was also an impressive breadth of vision in each idea; such as Trine’s canteens that are now feeding healthy, vegetable driven meals to 3000 workers a day, on a dime; orSusanne’s organic farm that has turned the idea of large scale organic production on its head (it is the largest organic farm in Denmark); and Britt-Marie’s incredible vision for the future of abattoirs and butchery, with the creation of a mobile slaughter house with full traceability. Sustainability and the environment were both writ large across the forum.

In all of this, the over-riding theme to my mind, and indeed solution, kept coming back to diversity. This counts for agriculture, for the soil, for the approach to new solutions with the help of diverse backgrounds, diverse studies and diverse careers. But also, with diversity in the sexes. It’s about celebrating the differences.
There was a study in France I read about last year, that looked at the best way to plant crops. Much to the surprise of modern agriculture, the study concluded that the plots with a variety of different plants growing together were the most successful, particularly in times of drought. It was the way the different root systems drew from the minerals and the water in the soil that allowed them to generate the best long-term results when they were working in synergy. As it is in nature, I believe it is for us.