Social Farming in Italy – a visit to Tuscany

Kick off meeting Social Farming Social Impact Project
12/12/2016

CIA hosted a transnational meeting in the region of Tuscany 10-11 April 2017. During the two-days intensive work and site visits, partners were able to get to know diverse best practices in social farming and discuss them.

The first day started with a cordial welcome by Pier Luigi Galligani, Presidente Società della Salute Valdinievole and by Marzia Niccoli, Sindaco del Comune di Massa e Cozzile. Followed by introductory speech Giordano Pascucci, Direttore Cia Toscana about the years of experience of CIA in the social farming domain.

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A visit to Cooperative Valleriana presented an initiative based on the idea of recovery of local traditions and popularization of local production. The agricultural activities in combination with the recovery of small rural building provided a solid ground for the development of the cooperative. The activities of the cooperative expand in terms of broadening partnership with local authorities and territory. Most of the workers in the cooperative are people with mental distress and disadvantaged people (former drug addicts, alcoholics etc.).

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Next two visits demonstrated two totally different approaches towards social farming. First, Fattoria Stella, which is a farm established for the purpose of creating a learning farm, where people with special needs, such as mental diseases and behavioral problem, can have fun and learn. The farm is designed to offer educational programs involving agricultural activities and pet therapy. Second, Azienda Agricola Biologica Nico, which is a farm established by the grandfather of Nico and now run by Nico and Elena, who has transformed the traditional family farming in organic farm. On their way to organic farming they have also opened themselves to the idea of working with people with mental diseases and immigrants. It has been challenging, but they have managed to balance the farming activities with being more inclusive. Now they also offer educational courses with environmental guide.

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The long day finished at The Don Quixote Cooperative restaurant. The Don Quixote Cooperative was officially launched in June 2005 not only to offer a job opportunity for young people with discomfort, but above all to make them actively participate in social life. In particular, the juvenile discomfort, found by the cooperative, has led to the identification of work activities that also offer opportunities for “strong” socialization. The cooperative carries out various activities including: catering service, the opening of the public park “ex Carbonile” located in the center of Pistoia, the management of the bar with catering and recreational and associative spaces (restaurant, Social dinners, cineforums and cultural activities) at the Circolo Arci di Capostrada. Within these spaces the cooperative is available to welcome the proposals of activities by any association or other public and private subject that operates in cultural, musical and social fields.

During the second day all partners visited Società Agricola Carraia. The Association behind Società Agricola Carraia pursues exclusively social solidarity goals in the field of social and socio-social assistance, scientific research, training and the protection of civil rights in favor of disadvantaged people in a situation of intellectual and physical disability so that such persons are guaranteed the right to a free and protected life, as independent as possible in the respect of their dignity.

The Association pursues its purpose also through the development of activities aimed at promoting, establishing and administering rehabilitation, health, welfare, social services, even in a joint venture, training centers, daily and/or residential structures, suitable for responding to the needs of intellectual and / or physical disabilities. Among the large scale services the association provides such as residental service, special daily activities, restaurant in which members of the cooperative are employed is Agricola Carraia company. Agricola Carraia company seeks inclusion of children with mental disabilities and asylum seekers through greenhouse horticulture and gardening activities. The visit to the greenhouse allowed us to get to know better about this aspect of the associations’

Agricola Calafata – a social farming cooperative was the next visit for the second day. The purpose of this cooperative is to be a place that seeks to keep together love and care for places we live with work inclusion and relational growth paths for people in marginal and disadvantaged circumstances. They have mastered the traditional for Tuscany methods for wine production, but what is interesting is that they focus on farming in unproductive plots, the fields that traditional farming has abandoned because unprofitable, which have become a place for cooperative members to recover and value. They bring a new way of considering and treating them.

In the afternoon of the second day all participants in the transnational meeting were able to comment and reflect on the diverse best practices. They also read the shared experience and clarified questions that could be further exploited. It was an excellent experince for all!

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