Organic Consumers Association

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Slow Food: Thousands Gather in San Francisco to Promote Organic, Local, & Fair Trade Food & Farming

SAN FRANCISCO -- When most people think about Slow Food, they probably imagine wealthy epicureans sipping organic wine and nibbling on farmstead cheeses. That the organization decided to have its first U.S. national conference here only furthered the stereotype: Slow Food is for Prius-driving, Whole Foods-shopping, latte-loving liberals with plenty of time and cash on hand.

Slow Food Nation, as the conference was dubbed, aimed to create a very different impression. At formal lectures, impromptu outdoor speeches and even in the tasting pavilions, where those very wines and cheeses were being served, the talk was mainly about how to transform the food system -- and Slow Food's reputation. Chefs, authors, activists and CEOs focused not on gastronomic indulgence but on new political relevance at a time when food is poised to take center stage.

"I don't care if the tomato was heirloom or organic if it was harvested by slave labor. A commitment to social justice needs to be at the core of this movement," Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation," said at one panel.

"We need to get small farmers into the distribution system," Rick Schnieders, chief executive of food distributor Sysco, told an audience of activists at another.

"This is our time," Larry Yee, founder of the Association of Family Farms, announced at the unveiling of the group's food bill declaration, which aims to set the agenda for future farm legislation.

The four-day event, which ran through Monday, took place on a sparkling San Francisco weekend. The lectures, tastings, rock concert and film series attracted 50,000 people, organizers estimated. This despite the fact that Slow Food had to compete for attention with the two national political conventions -- and, equally important here in the Bay Area, the annual Burning Man festival...

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