The Central Valley Region of California was honored to host Paolo di Croce for a regional event on Sept. 11 during his whirlwind visit to Northern California to connect with chapter leaders and Slow Food donors. Paolo is the Executive Director of Slow Food International and serves as International Secretary of the Slow Food International Board of Directors. With him was Shayna Bailey, a Slow Food International staffer who wears many hats, including liaison to Slow Food USA.

On short notice we brought together Slow Food members from 15 counties, including leaders from 8 chapters. Regrettably, three chapters who were signed up had last minute glitches. Those who made the long drive to the border between Sacramento and San Joaquin counties were inspired and energized by the witty, passionate, arm waving Italian. And Paolo was very pleased to hear from chapter leaders about the many and various projects being carried out up and down the valley.

We started with an intimate meeting at my home, where Paolo could hear from leaders of each chapter and could share his thoughts for the future of Slow Food International.

We moved down the road to MacFarland Ranch for the joint Sacramento and Lodi Chapter Heirloom Bean Picnic attended by about 130 people with talks featuring heirloom beans being farmed on the nearby Mohr Fry Ranch. We tasted chef-prepared bean dishes, heard from Ken Albala (author of Beans, A History), the farmers Chip Morris (California’s King of Beans) and Jerry Fry, and from Robert Klein of Olivetto in Oakland (whose Community Grains project is helping create markets for the beans as well as heirloom varieties of flint corn and red wheat). Once again Paolo inspired the crowd—especially to connect to this organization as a global effort. We heard about the Thousand Gardens in Africa initiative and learned that more than 100 chapters in Italy have already “adopted” a garden. We could do that!

The culmination of the visit was a tour of the bean fields. In the height of harvest season these talented farmers had mustered and labeled their equipment and labeled the bean varieties. We wound through the fields learning about the challenges, flexible thinking, and quick action that undergird success. The capper was an exuberant 8 year old who, at about the third stop, announced, “Mom! I want to be a farmer when I grow up, so I can grow beans!” Music to our ears.

Charity Kenyon, SFUSA Governor, Central Valley Region of California