Cheese 2019 begins!

The 12th edition of the world’s most important event dedicated to raw milk is officially off and running: this morning, local and regional officials, townspeople, and guests from more than 80 countries gathered in front of the town hall in Bra to kick off Cheese 2019 and celebrate the event’s theme, Natural is Possible.

This theme calls attention to the invisible biodiversity of microorganisms that drive the fermentation processes responsible for the transformation of milk into cheese, and that reflect the specific characteristics of rural landscapes, the plants and animals that they support, traditional knowledge and cheesemaking techniques, and the small-scale producers who toil daily to create food products of incredible quality.

The inauguration opened with children from one of Bra’s high schools, as part of the Global Climate Strike initiative which Slow Food supports. In a moving speech, they declared: “Sales dictate our consumption and we put individual savings ahead of our collective wellbeing and the planet. We buy without worrying about the journey those products have made.”

As the Mayor of Bra, Gianni Fogliato, said during the event’s inauguration, Cheese is more than a celebration of the world of small-scale natural dairy production, and more than an internationally recognized event: It is an opportunity to reflect, to exchange knowledge and ideas, to share culture, to find solutions to common problems, and to nurture conviviality. And there is perhaps no better place to do this than Bra, the home of Slow Food, and a community in which our global movement has deep roots. Once again, the people of Bra have welcomed the world into their homes and demonstrated their collective commitment to the Slow Food philosophy of good, clean and fair.

Part of today’s inauguration ceremony was dedicated to recognizing a few special individuals who embody this philosophy and put it into practice with their work as cheesemakers: Among the recipients of this year’s Cheese Resistance award were Rachel Fritz Schaal and Peter Dixon of Parish Hill Creamery in Vermont, USA, who make naturally fermented, raw milk cheese exclusively during the time of year when their small herd of cows has access to pasture; Ilhan Koçulu, from Bogatepe, Turkey, who produces Gravyer cheese (a Slow Food Presidium) and has been instrumental in reviving raw milk production in his home country (thanks to the efforts of Ilhan and a group of activists, it is once again legal to work with raw milk in Turkey); and Daniele Caserotti, an 18-year-old from Trento, Italy, who keeps 16 cows and is one of the very few remaining producers of Raw Milk Casolét, a Slow Food Presidium.

Slow Cheese Award winners 2019

These dedicated artiasans represent a tradition built out of the histories of small communities, the sweat of men and women who work the land, and a universe of local flavors. At the same time, they represent a path into the future, a future in which, according to Italian Minister of Agriculture Teresa Bellanova, “sustainability must become the central concern, not one among many aspects of the food system.”

Slow Food founder and President Carlo Petrini concluded the inauguration by extending “special thanks to the multitude of producers who have come from all over the world. These producers are our heroes; they ensure our security.” They safeguard biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and the very soil in which our human identities are rooted, and it is thanks to them that we can say, “Natural is Possible.”

by Charles Barsow

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