Janette Wesley raises the stakes for local produce
When you meet Janette Wesley, you have to wonder if her days magically have more hours in them than yours do. The mother of three grown children, this dynamo divides her time between her family and her two passions, art and food—specifically Slow Food.
Her love for art led her to Slow Food, an international movement that started in Italy in 1989 and advocates “good, clean and fair” food. As a child in Greenville, Wesley always had a knack for art, but it wasn’t until she was 30 that she pursued it seriously. That’s how old she was when her husband died, leaving her with three children under five years of age.
In the course of dealing with this life-changing loss, the suddenly single mom decided to go back to school. She enrolled at Converse College to study interior design, and little by little she gravitated toward studio art. On a school trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the die was cast. “I stood in front of a Jackson Pollock painting and that was it for me,” Wesley says. “It was like Cinderella finding the right shoe.”
While at Converse, she participated in an exchange program in Cortona, Italy (with the kids and a babysitter in tow). It was there that her appreciation of good food was born. “You can’t go to Italy without learning about food,” admits Wesley. “One bite of a perfect ripe melon and a piece of local prosciutto is a slice of heaven.”
Suddenly it all clicked. Her penchant for landscapes as a subject for her paintings led to a deeper understanding of the things around her. The landscape ties into everything, Wesley believes: “It’s not only where we live; it’s our food, our traditions, our culture.”
Her second husband, Renato Vicario, introduced her to Slow Food, a movement that began in the Piemonte region where he grew up (ironically, they met in Greenville). When they heard there was a Slow Food chapter in the Upstate, the couple got involved. In 2009, Wesley took over as the chapter leader, and the rest is literally history. This spring, Wesley spearheaded the first Slow Food Earth Market in the United States. Featuring local farmers who raise animals and produce without hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, or genetically modified organisms, the Earth Market finished its regular season in September, but will feature two holiday markets in November and December.
“I want to contribute to make the Earth a better place,” Wesley says. “And I love a good project!”