WOOP’s Sofa is a place of encounter, knowledge, and inspiration. We’re going to host different guests on our sofa to talk with them about food, crowdfunding, technology, community and more.
So, take a seat and make yourself comfortable!
Hi Alina and thanks for joining WOOP’s Sofa. Do you mind introducing yourself and telling us what you are doing?
Thank you for inviting me! I’m 36 y-old, originally from Rome though have been living in Garfagnana region since 2009. I settled down in Fosciandora, a little village on the Appennines between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, near Lucca. I grew up in a city and yet always dreamed of living in the woods and in contact with nature. I got a degree to teaching Italian as a foreign language and at the moment I’m working as an English teacher and agricultural-enological mentor by a biodynamic-wine cellar. But besides that, first of all, I’m part of the agricultural cooperative “Le Tre Terre”, whose main aim is providing people with the possibility to pick mushrooms in the woods. The area where we stay in Tuscany, indeed, is especially famous for porcini mushrooms! Recently we’ve also started branding our own line products, including a unique chestnut-flour, produced by drying-up the nuts via the traditional ‘metato’.
What is the value of agriculture nowadays, also considering the new generation approaching the field?
When speaking about agriculture, we should first of all distinguish between conventional industrial agriculture and organic small-scale agriculture. Conventional agriculture, in fact, is getting more and more unsustainable, as it uses a lot of chemicals as well as pollutant and expensive machinery. On the other side, organic agriculture takes the soil into account, cares about water resources, about the environment. Said so, and considering also the increasing demand for good quality food, I strongly believe that organic farming is also capable of offering an important solution to the young occupation force.
How is it possible to hand down the interest in agriculture from generation to generation, and would this be important?
Italy’s been all along a country of farmers, and our food knowledge and passion comes especially from our country’s diversity of resources. Often you happen to get cut off the very origin and meaning of food production, especially if you were born in a city. In this sense, it’s extremely important to pass down an education on food and agriculture, also at school. Can we just imagine all the benefits we would get from teaching children how to run a vegetable garden or a breeding farm? This, I’m sure, would definitely help create awareness on what we are eating and on different job choices other than just office and big manufacture factories.
In order to make her projects come true, what should a woman who’s investing in agriculture do?
Personally, the definition of agri-businesswoman itself somehow connects to a rather industrial farming. However, I am very much proud to introduce myself as a farmer working in a cooperative. I didn’t get lands or money to invest in agriculture, and this led to the decision to collaborate with other people, first of all with my boyfriend and his family, who taught me a lot. Together with our friends, we are trying to renovate and give new life to our village’s social organization, trying to turn it into an agricultural coop.
During your daily routine at the cooperative, are you dealing more with women or with men? Is agriculture a sexist work field?
The coop has got many girl members, yet I often work with men. Large-production agriculture is often men-dominated, as it requires the use of heavy machinery. Small agriculture, on the contrary, is a place for women as well. When dealing with chestnuts, for instance, we often work manually. It’s a very tedious job, something men get tired at. Women, instead, sit at the table, chit-chat, have fun. Or, again, I happened to feed little calves once, an all day long commitment. Well, this type of job suits women rather than men, as we are naturally more capable of love and patience.
Why have women been getting closer to agriculture in the last years, in your opinion?
I believe some reasons definitely exist, though they are more related to generation rather than gender. Young people are now approaching agriculture in a totally different and innovative way, giving value to our tradition but also updating the old-school production.
March, 8th will be Women’s Day, you may want to leave a message to our girl-Woopers.
My message is about emancipation: I wish all the women may soon liberate themselves from all the stereotypes and cliché of our society. Very soon!