Defending the environment: Farmers 2.0, sentries of the land

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In Italy farming enterprises are on the rise thanks to young people, who are more environmental aware and innovative than their fathers. We met two under-35-years-old Sicilian businessmen, who explained the gratification that can only come from working immersed in nature.

«Withstanding the rain, the cold, the heat, physical fatigue, but enjoying a dawn or a sunset gets you closer to real life every day. It’s hard to put into words», answered Salvatore Gennaro, a 30-years-old man graduated in Economics, when we asked him what working closely with nature means. He manages a Sicilian farming enterprise specialized in beekeeping, which he approached almost by chance.

In the case of Rosario Grasso, who shares age and diploma with Salvatore, it was, by contrast, a conscious choice. «What led me to choose this career ‒ he explained ‒ is love and respect for my family, who undertook it for several generations, in addition to my will to safeguard, promote and defend my homeland». In fact, Rosario took over the family business last few years, which is specialized in biological production of Sicilian durum wheat, olive oil and citruses, like the typical red orange.

THE IDENTIKIT OF NEW FARMER. Salvatore and Rosario are two examples of “farmers 2.0”, who ride the wave of a “farming comeback”, but this time, in the name of an organic and eco-friendly approach. According to a monitoring of agricultural sector dating back to June 2018 and done by No­mi­sma-Eda­gri­co­le, Italian farming enterprises led by under-35-years-old people increased by 14% from the previous year with a total of 55,000 farms (more than France, Spain and Germany). One in four of young farmers are college graduates or have specific education of this field, they often travel and are able and willing to apply innovative techniques less harmful to the environment.

A JOB THAT PROVIDES FREEDOM. Salvatore Gennaro is an intern for an accountant too. «I move from the desk to total freedom, ‒ he said ‒ and enjoy a new natural phenomenon every day is a pure spectacle. Nature seems static, but actually, all of its aspects recur differently». Rosario feels the same way: «Farming provides you with the freedom to take your time, not to be submitted to anyone, to be independent. It also gives you the chance to be outdoors, that in Sicily means enjoying sunny days and getting close to nature, animals and flowers».

BUREAUCRACY, INFRASTRUCTURE AND BACKWARDNESS. The agricultural sector is a tough one and doesn’t guarantee the certainty of a permanent job. As Rosario explained: «You have to be able to use agricultural vehicles, decide fertilization plans and trees treatments. There are many difficulties to face at the same time, due to bureaucratic problems and especially the gap between sale prices and productions costs». Salvatore, who considers excessive bureaucracy the main hurdle, added: «Furthermore, there is a lack of infrastructure in Sicily and so we work twice as hard and slow». 

WORK WITH NATURE: A BENEFIT FOR ALL. What’s the relationship between this “2.0 farming” and environment compared to the traditional one? «Although it can’t be completely zero-impact, ‒ concluded Salvatore ‒ working with nature could be a benefit for all, both for investors and consumers. If what pushes you is love of nature and respect for the product you sell, you can offer high-quality food, whose higher economic value, therefore, is recognized by the consumer. A good farmer, in turn, can invest the increased profits in new technologies which reduce further the environmental impacts. That sets in motion a vicious cycle».

Translated by Daniela Marsala

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