After returning home from attending the third annual Chef’s Garden Roots Conference, I feel akin to Moses coming down from the mountain after having received the tablets. The mountain being the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, OH ( My-lin), and the tablets being the knowledge, passion, commitment, and collective energy of the 150+ attendees, presenters, and staff at CVI, not to mention all the nourishment and bounty provided us by our hosts. The conference brings together farmers, chefs, academics, food scientists, journalists, and general consumers from across the globe to listen to and collaborate with leading experts on significant topics impacting the food world. The goal of the conference is to provide tangible solutions, inspire thought-provoking conversations, exchange crucial information, and forge powerful connections among people from across the globe who are working in their kitchens, fields, laboratories, classrooms, and offices to improve the health of our food system, uphold traditions, preserve endangered foods, and repair damaged ecosystems. A very lofty goal, indeed.
Before sharing my thoughts, impressions, and musings as an inaugural attendee, I’d like to thank Farmer Lee Jones, his family and staff, for hosting this seminal event three years running; Jody Eddy, Curator of Roots, for assembling such an impressive lineup of culinary leaders; as well as each and every presenter and panelist who took part in this year’s iteration of such an important and timely conference. I was intrigued, as well as called to action, time and time again as each session unfolded and segued, almost seamlessly into the next. This certainly was aided and abetted by the passionate and well-informed emcee, John Sconzo.
The agenda for the two days was quite ambitious, tackling a smorgasbord of appetite-wetting topics, not all of which were easily digestible, but all essential. From How Chefs Can Take Action to Improve Their Own Lives, to Chef Activism; from Integrating Native American Traditions Into Our Work, to The Roots of Tradition; from Seaweed’s Potential to Change the World, to Fermentation in Action; from The Global Food Waste Scandal, to Clean Water for Everyone; from Fulfilling Opportunities for International Employees, to How an Ancient Spirit Empowers Indigenous Communities of Oaxaca; and Transitioning to a Whole Food Diet, there were more than ample courses for all.
True to this year’s focal point, “Take Action”, expert panelists and moderators for each and every session presented thought-provoking, challenging, and critical topics to an audience of concerned consumers, many of which are experts in their own right. As well as presenting and discussing consequential issues, a call to action went out to all to attendees to continue the dialogue while at CVI, and more importantly to do so once they return to their home bases.
“Our goal is that the conversations that begin at Roots this year will continue long after the conference concludes. We hope that the connections made and the information learned will result in impactful action in the food world.” – Farmer Lee Jones
Did you know:
- 40% of the U.S. food supply goes uneaten
- Before the introduction of European food stuffs to America, there was little or no tooth decay or hypoglycemia among the Native American population
- If 50% of Americans ate 50% less animal protein, then 25% of all controlled animal feeding operations (cafos) would close down
- Properly fermented vegetables are actually safer than raw vegetables which might have been exposed to pathogens like e. coli on the farm.
- Eating small amounts of a variety of seaweeds on a daily basis promotes good health
- Sustainability is as much about sustaining workers and their families as it is about sustaining products
I do now; and much more, thanks to the comprehensive and well-chosen participants of the Roots 2015 Conference. Thanks to one and all. Stay tuned for more personal reflections on the conference.
All photos by John M. Sconzo, M.D.