Slow Food-CE: Kecskemét Commits to Encouraging Small-Scale Food Producers, Education and Knowledge Sharing
The city of Kecskemét, in south-central Hungary, lies in the middle of the country’s Great Plain. Its position in the midst of trading routes allowed it a slow but constant growth over the centuries, and the surrounding area’s climate and flat, fertile land also made the city an important agricultural hub. These days, however, industry has been developing quickly, particularly in the food sector. The transformation of the economic and social fabric has happened very fast, ushering in rampant globalization and often threatening the survival of local traditions and foods.
“Progress needs to be managed too,” explains József Gaál, the city’s deputy mayor, who spoke to us during Terra Madre Salone del Gusto (https://www.interreg-central.eu/Content.Node/City-and-forum.html), “and that’s why there is a need for a project like Slow Food Central Europe (https://www.interreg-central.eu/Content.Node/SlowFood-CE.html), which is key to our city protecting and promoting its heritage and local culture, currently at risk of extinction. The project’s planned activities give us a crucial opportunity to save our roots and to understand just how much food is one of the most important aspects of local traditions, as well as an essential stimulus for the future.”
“The current market situation is worrying,” chimed in producer, Slow Kiskunság Convivium leader and Terra Madre delegate Olga Rendek. “We’re seeing an invasion of foods that come from all over the world, while local small-scale food producers struggle to survive. As if that wasn’t enough, these industrial products are not always synonymous with quality and are often harmful to our health. The Slow Food Central Europe project is important not just from a local economy perspective. Giving small-scale producers the chance to access the market means allowing them to continue to practice their craft, and so to cultivate local varieties, producing and saving indigenous seeds and using eco-friendly techniques, and to rear native breeds, which are not always so competitive.”
Olga belongs to a small group, the Kiskunság Tradition-Bound Artisans and Tourism Association, which, thanks to the project, has for the first time been able to work with the Kecskemét city administration and participate in an international project that reflects its philosophy.
“Collaboration with local partners is fundamental,” confirmed József. “For us it’s also very important that there are many partners, not just the Kiskunság Convivium, but also associations and those from the private sector who want to work together. Among these partners, we are proud to have with us John von Neumann University’s Faculty of Horticulture and Rural Development (https://www.uni-neumann.hu/faculty-of-horticulture-and-rural-development-), with whom we are creating a special program around these themes. We want young people to meet the older generations, to hold events in the markets, to share experiences, doubts and knowledge in order to rediscover recipes and traditional foods. Young people and their education are a guarantee for the future.”
The project includes many activities, covering a range of aspects relating to the agrifood production and distribution chain, but education is in first place.
Olga continues: “As an association, we want to work a lot with children. They are our future. We believe that educating the very young is one of the most important phases of the project. Then of course we are trying also to educate adults, policy-makers, consumers and producers, to fight globalization and to raise awareness about the importance of small-scale food production. I’d like to emphasize that I said producers, because it’s very important, during this period in history, to help the small-scale producers themselves to appreciate the crucial work they do to protect and promote traditional and local knowledge and skills. The main activities will therefore be aimed at them. It won’t be easy, but together with the others we can do it!”
For the Hungarian city, sharing is one of the project’s watchwords.
“Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is the perfect example. It’s a wonderful hotbed of ideas and knowledge for this type of project,” concludes József. “During these days at the event, I’ve collected lots of material, I’ve been able to meet people from all over the world and to talk to other administrators and share proposals, projects and problems. I hope I can bring this energy to my city and put into practice some of the ideas that I’ve had while talking to others. With this event, Slow Food can turn people’s attention back to the values and things that are truly important.”
“I’ll be bringing unique shared experiences from all over the world back from Terra Madre Salone del Gusto too,” says Olga. “Terra Madre is a fantastic opportunity to take a deep look at the world and to learn from others.”