Miami County resident Mike Hursey learned about food from cultures all over the world during a recent international conference in Italy, and now he’s ready to share his experience with the local community.
Hursey served as a delegate in late October for Terra Madre, the International Slow Food Conference in Turin, Italy. During the conference, Hursey spoke with chefs and agricultural producers from a variety of cultures, and he also attended some seminars that talked in depth about food topics.
Hursey lives at Casa Somerset in Miami County. He is the co-leader of the Kansas City Slow Food group, and he is involved in a variety of other food groups in the Kansas City area. Members of the Miami County Agritourism group meet at Hursey’s home, and Hursey has worked to encourage people to eat locally and support local agricultural producers.
The International Slow Food movement was founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986 in response to a McDonald’s opening in Rome. Petrini was one of the speakers Hursey got to listen to during the conference.
Hursey describes the premise behind the movement as working to make sure everyone has a fair chance to enjoy good, local, fresh food. Hursey quoted some alarming statistics, such as 80 percent of the world’s tomato varieties were lost during the 1900s, and the world can produce enough food to feed 12 billion people. Even though there are only seven billion people on earth, Hursey said one billion people are starving and two billion are obese.
“It’s because we aren’t balancing our food,” Hursey said. “We throw away more than 50 percent of our food in America.”
As one of 1,200 delegates at the conference, Hursey met chefs, farmers, restaurant owners and people working to improve the food industry. He tried fish, bread, meat and more from a variety of cultures, and he also tasted the best olive oil he has ever had from one of the more than 1,000 food booths.
In return, he shared some food from Miami County, including pecans from Prothe Pecans.
Hursey was also amazed to see children attending workshops designed to teach them about food at an early age. Hursey said he’d like to get information about agritourism and local foods into Miami County schools, and he’d like to see school children out at the farms to learn about eggs and where their food comes from.
Hursey said he’d also like to unite all of the local food groups because many of them share common goals. He plans to do his part to spread the Slow Food message by hosting a Terra Madre Day meal Jan. 13 at Casa Somerset. The meal will feature soup and local food.
It’s Hursey’s hope that people will learn to eat healthier and smarter by purchasing food from farmers markets and local vendors when they are in season. He said it doesn’t have to be a strain on the pocketbook, especially since the health benefits will pay off in the long run.
“I can show you how to feed a family of four with meals for $10,” Hursey said. “When people say they can’t afford to do it, I say ‘how much can you afford on health care?’”