Biodiversity House: conferences and cinematic aperitifs

11 August 2021

The event program for Cheese continues to grow – today we present the activities at Biodiversity House!

The activities are a chance to explore the dairy world by listening and talking to herders, cheesemakers and experts about the theme of Cheese 2021: Consider the Animals. Eight conferences which compliment a series that includes two online discussions that will be held on September 16.

There’s more: Biodiversity House also hosts film screenings that approach the relationships between humans and animals from multiple points of view.

Important to note: In line with current regulations, events at Biodiversity House at Cheese 2021 are reserved exclusively for visitors in possession of a Digital Covid Certificate (also known as a Green Pass). Each event has a maximum attendance of 35 people, and is organized on a first come, first served basis. Arriving at least 15 minutes before the beginning of the event is advised in order to ensure a place.

Morning conferences, held at 12 p.m.

Every day of Cheese at 12 p.m. Biodiversity House will host a conference on the theme of considering the animals, from wild species to the rich habitats of domesticated dairy animals, the work of cheesemakers and herders in caring for their animals, and a wider discussion on the meaning of animal welfare.

natural meadows
iStock Photo by Getty Image | ecobo

Return of the wild – September 17

Generations have passed, in some cases even centuries. We don’t know the face of the wild anymore, now how to approach it. the wild has returned from a past that we have no memory of. Wild boar and deer graze in gardens and vegetable patches; wolves attack herds in the mountains and roam the urban periphery. The wild exists, and it has to adapt to the world humans have built around it. New questions and new answers are needed if we are to restore a healthy equilibrium.

Learn more!

If natural meadows disappear – September 18

Natural meadows are not ploughed or tilled, only need light fertilization, and, if mowed a few times a year, they reward us with hay rich in grasses, legumes and flowers of the sunflower family (including daisies, dandelions, thistles and cornflowers). They’re a reservoir of biodiversity for our countryside, because they host numerous species of vegetables, insects, birds, many of which are at risk of extinction. Up until a few decades ago these were common habitats, but today they’re ever-rarer; in the plains because the terrain is tilled, fertilized and use for the cultivation of monocultures (e.g. corn), and in the hills and mountains because of their gradual abandonment.

Learn more!

Women Cheesemakers – September 19

in the past the division of labor in lots of farming communities was very clear: the men raised the animals, while the women processed the milk and aged the cheeses. today being a cheesemaker has become a courageous and conscious choice for lots of young women. women cheesemakers are herders, farmers and entrepreneurs who follow every phase of the production process: from the animals on the pasture to the making of hay, milking to the cheesemaking itself, sales and marketing. Women cheesemakers have decided to take on this difficult occupation with passion and commitment, and an awareness of the importance of their role as guardians of the land and traditional knowledge.

Learn more!

What is animal welfare? – September 20

Managing animals like an assembly line is inhuman and comes at a heavy price that we all pay, not just the affected animals themselves: from diseases and poor food quality to environmental damage and climate-harming emissions. But beyond easy slogans on animal welfare, incumbent regulations with inevitable courses, formulas and check-lists, what does it really mean to farm with respect? Cheese 2021 considers the animals and the idea of their welfare in a round-table discussion between farmers, experts and institutions.

Learn more!

Afternoon conferences, held at 3 p.m.

The afternoon conferences also focus on how we consider the animals. We’ll discuss a pastoral revival, cured meats and the animals that make them possible. There’s also a space for two important projects: The Gastronomic Atlas of the Presidia, which will be published in September by Slow Food Editore, recounting a priceless cultural and agricultural heritage; and the Geoportal of food culture, promoted by the Central Institute for Intangible Heritage and financed by the National Program for Cultural and Development of which Slow Food is partner.

pastoral revival
Photo: Slow Food Archive

Before cured meat, consider the animals – September 17

Cured meat is among the most commonly-eaten foods in the west. Nutritious, easy to eat, delicious… there also among the most important European exports, with an image of artisanal excellence (often certified by the European union) across global markets. But how can the quality of cured meats be measured? How much do we know about the animals whose meat is used to make them, what additives are used to allow these meats to last for months of even years? We present a Slow Food research project into the PDO and PGI of European cured meats.

Learn more!

The Gastronomic Atlas of the Presidia – September 18

The Atlas of the Presidia is a journey across the Italian peninsula through vegetable species, animal breeds, breads, cheeses and more. It’s not a simple list of delicacies, but a mosaic of knowledge, the expression of a political project which puts the producer communities at the center. The Presidia safeguard the land and an intangible heritage of virtuous examples of local economies and environmental sustainability. For each Presidium product the Atlas tells us its sensory characteristics, seasonality, farming practices and culinary uses. There’s also a list of their names and addresses, so you can go and discover the stories and flavors of artisanal Italian gastronomy for yourself.

Learn more!

Pastoral revival and the return to the mountains – September 19

Extensive pastures, typical of pastoral systems, give us healthier food because the animals graze on grasses and hay that humans couldn’t live off by themselves. Sheep and goats do not compact the terrain of their gentle pastures, but oxygenate it; their manure improves its fertility. In a world overwhelmed by the climate crisis, sheep and goats represent an opportunity to revive the mountains and marginal areas. We start from the Alpine village of Paraloup, recovered by the Nuto Revelli Foundation and transformed into a model of sustainable development for the mountains, and tell other stories of pastoral revival.

Learn more!

Cinematic Aperitif at Biodiversity House

As part of  Progetto Cine we have four films screenings that help us to widen our horizon through the experiences of small-scale heroes who are working for a better world.


The Biggest Little Farm – September 17

The incredible true story of John and Molly Chester, a couple who escaped the city to realize their dream of starting an organic and environmentally-sustainable farm. Through a thousand difficulties, moments of exhilaration and disappointments the two protagonists learn to understand the rhythms of nature, and thus succeed in their task. Now their farm, Apricot Lane, extends over 200 acres and is home to around 850 animals and 75 biodynamically-cultivated crops.

Learn more!

Raw: the resistance of farmers – September 18

Thibaut Fagonde and Jérôme Loisy document the traditional practices of the cheesemakers that enhance the qualities of the raw milk as a representation of their local biodiversity. Pristine landscapes, know-how and practices developed over centuries. The resistance of farmers takes us on a journey across fields full of animals, and right down to the microbiological nature of cheese, highlighting the difficulties of this trade as well as the pleasure of food and conviviality. By telling the story of a small cheesemaking community in France the film delivers a powerful critique of consumerism and the modern, industrialized food system. It also shows us just how immense the French cheesemaking heritage is.

Learn more!

Tomorrow (Demain) – September 19

The predictions for the future that science and the media paint are increasingly worrying, if not catastrophic. Yet there are lots of examples from recent times of concrete solutions to some of the problems we face with agriculture, energy, the economy, education and politics. One such solution is permaculture as practiced by Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer, while another is agroecology, which is explained here by journalist Marie-Monique Robin, or the struggle against the caste system in India as recounted by Elango Rangaswamy: virtuous model that are able to give us hope and optimism for tomorrow. Winner of the César Award for Best Documentary in 2016.

Learn more!

To raise and rise – September 20

Industrialization and profitability have transformed the majority of French farms into overcrowded sheds that are home to cruel practices. Fortunately there are people like Laure, Nicolas, Annabelle and other farmers who’ve chosen a different path, offering a more dignified life to their animals. All these efforts are made worthwhile by the extraordinary bond these farmers have built with their animals, one that’s as necessary as it is deep. The documentary is a touching testimony to the commitment needed to enact change for a more better, cleaner and fairer food system.

Learn more!  

The names of the speakers and guests at the conferences will be available in early September – stay tuned!

by Silvia Ceriani,

Cover image iStock Photo by Getty Images | Matt_Gibson