The Irish Slow Food Ark collects information about food that is important to Ireland’s history, culture, economy and physical environment but is experiencing some kind of threat. The threat could come, for example, from loss of species, loss of traditional skills, neglect or high cost compared to industrially produced foods. The impact of such threats can be on taste, nutritional value or the environment in which the food grows. The term “Irish Slow Food Ark” refers to both this database and the process whereby a wide range of people continually contribute to it and revise it.
How does the Irish Slow Food Ark work?
The Irish Slow Food Ark works by the interaction of four groups of people:
1. You, the public, who send in to this website information you have about Irish foods, food ingredients and food products; or ways of producing food, curing, preserving or cooking food that may have been forgotten or neglected for a variety of reasons
2. Members of Slow Food Convivia in Ireland who research and gather information in their local networks and meetings to propose foods for inclusion in the Irish Slow Food Ark
3. The members of the Irish Slow Food Ark Commission who have the task of sifting through all the information sent in by the public and Convivia members to decide if the proposed foods or food products meet the criteria set for acceptance into the Ark
4. The International Slow Food Ark, made up of the Commissioners of the national Arks, who set the criteria set for acceptance of foods into the national Arks around the world.
What is the Irish Slow Food Ark Commission?
The Irish Slow Food Ark Commission is the body that decides which foods are accepted into the Irish Ark, according to criteria set down by the Slow Food International Ark.
Members of the Commission are:
- Myrtle Allen
- John McKenna
- Regina Sexton
- Caroline Workman
- Aveen Henry (Chair)
What are the Criteria for accepting food products into the Irish Slow Food Ark?
The following are the criteria set down by the International Slow Food Ark:
Criteria for Product Selection
1. Products must be of outstanding quality in terms of taste. Taste quality, in this context, is defined in the context of local traditions and uses.
2. The product must be linked to the memory and identity of a group, and can be a vegetable species, variety, ecotype or animal population that is well acclimatized over a medium-long period in a specific territory (defined in relation to the history of the territory). The primary material of the foodstuff must be locally sourced unless it comes from an area outside the region of production, in which case it must be traditional to use materials from that specific area. Any complementary materials used in the production of the product (spices, condiments, etc.) may be from any source, and their use must be part of the traditional production process.
3. Products must be linked environmentally, socio-economically and historically to a specific area.
4. Products must be produced in limited quantities, by farms or by small-scale processing companies.
5. Products must be threatened with either real or potential extinction. Source: Ark and Presidia, Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity
The International Slow Food Ark requires each national Ark to complete a summary sheet for each of the food products accepted into a national Ark.
Regulations of the Ark
Five criteria for selecting Ark products
1. Products must have outstanding sensory qualities. ‘Quality’ is defined by local traditions and uses.
2. The product must be linked to the memory and identity of a group, and can be a vegetable species, variety, ecotype or animal population that is native or well acclimatized over a medium-long period in a specific area (defined in relation to the history of the area). The main ingredient of transformed products must be locally sourced unless it comes from an area outside the region of production, in which case it must be traditional to use materials from that specific area. Any complementary ingredients (spices, condiments, etc.) may be from any source, but must be of a type customary in the traditional production process.
3. There must be a proven relationship with the area. Products must be linked environmentally, socio-economically and historically to a specific area.
4. Products must be produced in limited quantities, by farms or by small-scale processing enterprises.
5. Products must be threatened with either real or potential extinction.
General rules for the selection and introduction of a product into the Ark
1. GM products or GM-based products are forbidden.
2. No product using a trademark or commercial name may be included in the Ark.
3. The use of the Slow Food logo, name or trademark (or any variations thereof) is forbidden on Ark and Presidia products and labels.
4. Ark products must be produced in accordance with general Slow Food campaigns and 'manifestos': for example the Manifesto in Defense of Raw Milk, the campaign against GM wine, and the Manifesto in favor of Sustainable Fishing.
The International Ark Commission has the following responsibilities:
1. Defining the criteria and categories for the Ark.
2. Defining the general rules for the Ark.
3. Verifying compliance with the general rules by National Ark Commissions.
4. Supporting the National Ark Commissions.
5. Assisting the creation of new National Ark Commissions in countries where they are not present.
6. Verifying products and admitting them to the Ark in countries where there is no National Ark Commission.
No National Commission is permitted to autonomously modify or update the Ark criteria and rules. Any proposed changes must be submitted to the International Commission, which will discuss and vote on the matter by qualified majority (at least two thirds of those present). Voting is possible by email or teleconference.
A member will be asked to leave the International Ark Commission (and/or the relevant National Commission) in the following cases:
- They operate in clear violation of these regulations .
- They do not work towards creating a National Commission (where a National Commission does not yet exist).
- Given due consideration of regional differences, they do not advance the work of their National Commission, for example, if over a period of one year they have not selected, evaluated and proposed at least three Ark products (providing the list of Ark products in that country is not officially declared 'complete') or they are unable to demonstrate work performed on the Presidia project over this time period.
- Are no longer part of the International Slow Food Movement.
Appointment and renewal of National Ark Commissions
a) After each International Congress, the appointment of the International Commission must be approved. Approval, in agreement with the various countries and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, is by the International President’s Committee.
b) After each National Congress the new Board must either approve or appoint a new National Ark Commission and its President. This appointment will be official and operative following approval by the International President’s Committee and the Foundation for Biodiversity.
c) Where there is no board or national coordinating committee, the International President’s Committee will recommend a shortlist of names and President of the Commission to the Slow Food Foundation
- Changes to the composition of National Commissions before the Congress
Should the Board of a national association (or coordinating committee) notice a problem or the need to change a Commission before the International Slow Food Congress is convened, it must submit a written report to the International President’s Committee and the Slow Food Foundation.
Should the International President’s Committee notice a problem or the need to change a Commission before the International Slow Food Congress is convened, it must submit a written report to the Board of the association (or coordinating committee) and the Slow Food Foundation.
Should the Slow Food Foundation notice a problem or the need to change a Commission before the International Slow Food Congress is convened, it must submit a written report to the Board of the association (or the coordinating committee) and the International President’s Committee.
If agreement is not reached, it will be the responsibility of the International President’s Committee to take the final decision.
- Members of the National Ark Commission
1. All the members of the Commission must be members of Slow Food.
2. At least one third of the Commission members must express and represent the values of the Slow Food Association (or at least belong to a convivium coordinating committee).
3. Each Commission must include technical specialists and experts with the necessary skills to select products in their country (experts in horticulture, animal husbandry, fishing etc.).
4. President of a National Ark Commission
The person appointed President of a National Ark Commission cannot at the same time be the President of the National Association or head of the National Coordinating Committee.
Ark of Taste and Presidia
The Ark is the phase of carrying out research and cataloging work, the Presidia are practical interventions supporting producers of some of the identified products.
The Ark and Presidia must therefore proceed together, as two phases of a single process.
The National Ark Commissions must therefore also be involved in practical activities, providing support for Presidia and all the projects to protect biodiversity promoted and backed by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity in their country.
Role of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity
The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is the technical body that evaluates and supervises biodiversity projects (Ark of Taste, Presidia, Earth Markets, etc.).
The role of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is to:
1. Coordinate the work of the International Ark Commission.
2. Organize international communications for the Ark of Taste. To ensure communications are effective it is essential to produce instruments (website, brochures, promotional material for events, etc.) that follow a common format and graphics (coordinated according to Slow Food image and style). Each national association is free to carry out their own communications for the Ark project.
3. Support the participation of Ark producers in the international network of food communities (Terra Madre) and organize exchanges between producers.
4. Involve coordinators of National Ark Commissions in regular training activities.
5. Organize periodic update meetings for members of the International Ark Commission.