Toscana Biologica- supporting local Tuscan farmers

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As the week ends it is time to write up a list and go and purchase some veggies to fill your fridge once again.  But what if every time to did this dreary exercise of grocery shopping you could contribute to your neighbour farmers and support the economy that at the end of the day supports you? and even more importantly, what if instead of giving your money to big chains of super markets, you could see, talk to and even have a friendship with the people that produce the goods that you are buying?

Another key area to take into account is our health, in the sense of wether we really know what we are feeding ourselves and our kids. Are you really consuming a live-some vegetable or fruit? or are you eating something that looks like a vegetable, but does not really taste like much? with little conscience and knowledge of the products we eat, you could very easily be eating poison and you would never know it.

Thankfully there is global action to secure food sovereignty. Here in Florence, Italy for instance a lot is being done in this regard, where more and more people are supporting the idea of consuming ’0-km’ products. I had the pleasure of meeting Daniele Marchetti, from Toscana Biologica, who kindly had some time to talk to us about the marvellous work his shop is doing for the Florentine community.

Can you tell me about the concept of ‘0-km’, and how is growing here in the Toscan region?

Here in the Toscan region we identify products as ‘0-kms’  if they have been produced within 70kms of proximity to their point of sale.  This is specifically used to promote local production. This initiative is a response to our loss of food sovereignty, where we should be able to support ourselves with our local production. Unfortunately today there are not as many farmers and therefore production is not meeting demand. Consuming ‘0-km’ products is important firstly because it reduces transport cost and pollution. Secondly because for those with health problems it is very important to consume organic products, as they need to their food habits.

How is Toscana Biologica helping the Florentine community?

I studied agriculture and for the last 10 years I worked in farms, that’s when I realised that I didn’t want to work in a farm that uses chemicals, I wanted to be able to go home and hug my kids without worrying about contaminating them.

Here we sell good products, and I know that the money that people spend here goes towards building the local economy. And I have witnessed very positive things. What makes a man free is a healthy diet. We support local production, 80-85% of the products we sell are from the Tuscan region. We also have some seasonal products from Sicily. Even though our prices are not as cheap as in supermarkets, you have to remember that we only collect 30% of profits from every euro spent; the other 70% goes to the farmers.

What has been the reaction of Florentines?

We have started slow, but today we see a lot of interested people. They are starting to realise this is a particularly different shop. Apart from its good cause there are also very skilled workers who are able to help our customers. We have a good knowledge of the fields, we know our products and agriculture. So our customers can trust us. We also recommend our customers to visit the farmers themselves, we  facilitate their contact. In other words we are not just a retail store.

How do you contact the farmers? Are they easy to reach?

Some farmers are very small and it’s hard to contact them. Some of them don’t have phones. But now we all know each other. We have built a net of relationships. As we continue to grow what we eventually want is to connect all farmers, and have a bigger system of distribution. The problem has always been the lack of communication between farmers themselves.

It is also hard for them to do everything at once, grow crops, get contacts, sell the products. But if we can help them with this, eventually they can just concentrate in growing crops. This would surely make their work a lot easier.

Even though there is considerably a lot more conscience about the problems of food sovereignty, we all need of your help and support. We can take the example of Toscana Biologica and start supporting our farmers. Without local food stocks communities are extremely vulnerable to all types of crises. The more united people are and prepared to fight giant supermarkets that are feeding us nutrition-less food, the better chances we stand to overcome any type of problems.

Thank you to Daniele and to Toscana Biologica for the example they are giving us!

 

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Orti di Pinti- Grass roots gardening in Florence, Italy

The city of Florence is one of the biggest and most popular attractions in Italy. Apart from its historical buildings and famous museums, the city is also known for its dazzling gardens such as Boboli, Bardini or Garden of the Rose (to mention a few). However one gorgeous garden that has failed to be mentioned in main tourist brochures is the garden of Orto di Pinti.

There are many reasons why this garden will captivate your attention and hopefully  admiration as well. Orto di Pinti was the first community garden to be established in the city of Florence. The project was developed by well-known architect Giacomo Salizzoni. This garden is part of the new trend of didactic community gardening taking place today around the world. The garden offers a sustainable system consisting of modern technology and also traditional agricultural techniques. This grass-roots garden (built by the people and for the people) promotes education in the community for instance in techniques such as clay pot irrigation, mineral salt production or food making. It works with different sectors of society such as kids, adults and individuals with disabilities. Orti di Pinti is already creating international awareness and has received important visits such as city majors and even the famous Vandana Shiva.

In an interview with Giacomo, we were able to learn more about his project and how we has able to turn an empty space into a tremendous valued social and environmental endeavour.

Can you tell us more about the functioning of this garden?

We are currently working to develop a sort of electronic brain that will identify when the plants are thirsty and will automatically activate rain, an irrigation system to water the plants. This is the latest and its costly but we are working on it, the point is to stop wasting water. Another important aspect in an info point that will provide information about activities and also to educate people and also produce products. For example we produce salt here, it not only bring back income but also educates people in the process of making it, eventually it will also create jobs.

How does this park contribute to the Florentine community?

This garden contributed both in the social sphere as well as in the greening of the area. This is interesting social technology.  There is collaboration with teachers to instruct the public about new agricultural practices, for instance about sub-irrigation with claypots, an irrigation technique which works very efficiently and is not really known by anybody.

Do you think Florence is an environmentally sustainable city? Is there any projects going on currently or is there any missing?

There always needs to be more, however I think we are doing quite well because finally there is some awareness of the fact that there is a push that is much stronger than the trend itself. There is a push from normal people like me, a strong example. I wanted so hardly to bring good to the community. We have had visits from the city major and even Vandana Shiva, everybody loved this, and who wouldn’t. This itself gives us power.

(05/06/13- AMP)

Orti di Pinti garden 3 garden 4 pinti garden

For more information about this garden visithttp://www.facebook.com/communitygardens