Slow Food - CE: Brno, biodiversity, artisan products, and direct dialogue with consumers. A new future for the city. 

The second largest city in the Czech Republic, halfway between Vienna and Prague, Brno is the historic capital of the Moravian Region. Located at the confluence of the rivers Svitava and Svratka, Brno occupies a fertile agricultural area at the foot of the mountains where, thanks to the relatively mild climate, there is a widespread production of fruit and vegetable crops (apricots, apples, plums, tomatoes) and great wines. This dynamic and constantly evolving city has been focusing more and more on local and artisanal production, and over time has become the epicenter of the Czech Republic’s gastronomy. In recent years, an explosion of bistros, local markets, cafés, and innovative chefs has attracted visitors from nearby cities and brought an ever-growing number of tourists.

“Gastronomy and its cultural heritage play a fundamental role in shaping and defining the image and spirit of any city even today”, begins Tom Václavík, local Slow Food chapter leader, interviewed during Terra Madre Salone del Gusto. “In addition, the touristic promotion of a city can and should also be achieved through the enhancement of gastronomic traditions and region-specific local products. In South Moravia, public awareness of such topics as sustainability or the protection of biodiversity has risen, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Not all productions are artisanal and the cultivation of corn, for example, is very common.” 

Tom defines a straightforward and well-marked path. “We hope that by educating people about what they eat and making them reflect on the importance of food choices when shopping, will lead to a greater awareness of the richness and biodiversity of this area. What we eat determines what we grow and this slowly contributes to converting the countryside towards more sustainable choices, such as family-based agriculture. Our hope is that more and more small-scale companies will be able to sell their products at local markets and to restaurants instead of exporting them. Thanks to the Slow Food-CE project, we have mapped the history of local products and food culture, interviewing around 50 chefs, butchers, wine producers, farmers, and owners of local businesses. At the end of the interviews, we discovered how many people are closely related to food production and are proud of their work”. 

“Our goal”, continues Tom, “is to team up with the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Brno and effectively explain that there are many more varieties in and from the area than those currently established. Through Slow Food-CE we are trying to focus on education by working both with schools and the broader community, especially children. For this reason, we would like to launch a series of pilot projects in schools, as well as during meetings and markets. From May to October 2019,  we would like to organize 6 or 7 events in the market square of Brno and invite local farmers and producers, so that they can demonstrate the broad variety of produce that they cultivate and encourage the public to see, touch and taste. 

So what do you learn from projects like Slow Food-CE? The act of sharing. Tom is adamant about that. “We share experiences and knowledge, we are inspired by each other, we can visit other cities and learn from the experiences of others. I hope this network can grow even stronger and I hope that it will foster other Slow Food projects, such as Slow Food Travel.” 

The assistance of the city authorities is crucial. “I hope that the Brno authorities will realize that since we live in a university city of technological start-ups, mostly made by young people, gastronomy and food can play an important role in ensuring a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Food and its culture must be an integral part of the city’s administration strategies and the city must become the real meeting point with local produce and rural areas“.