"PCs, drones, gps: the tools of the new farmer", by Donata Marrazzo (IT)

19/06/2015
23/07/2015
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You can’t decide, all of a sudden, to act as a farmer.  Farming is an ancient ‘profession’, but it always requires new skills. The latest generation of farmers are  innovative and ‘digital’,  attending universities and masters. They are often supported by engineers, biologists and geologists. The result is a sector increasingly young, dynamic and renewed.

In the 24 Faculties of Agriculture of Italian universities, the students are now about 8,000, 50% more than ten years ago. Only five years ago farmers with a degree in agronomic sciences were less than 1%, and just about 3% those in possession of a specific diploma from high school. In 2010, 71% of farmers had the title of high school. The signs of a return to the land are evident. And this not only according to the productive model of self-consumption: a new rurality prevails, made up of ideas, innovation, culture and professionalism. Open also to foreign markets. There are many measures, both at regional and EU level,  to promote the settlement of young generations. The farming "tools” did also change: no more (or almost) hoe, shovel and tractor, PCs or GPS are somehow more useful (if only to measure the perimeter and the area of a field), or a “drone”, capable of working on entire crops.

The students of the Master’s degree  “World natural heritage management” (Trentino School of Management, established in Trento by the Autonomous Province, the Chamber of Commerce and the University of Trento,  a school dedicated to the management of  UNESCO World Natural Heritage goods), know all about the cultivation of Pantelleria’s small tree vineyard, included in the list . While the Edmund Mach Foundation of San Michele all’Adige (Trento), as well as the Udine’s university, prepare super-specialized  winemakers and farmers.

The Department of Veterinary Science of the University of Pisa and the Coldiretti (one of the Italian Italian farmers unions) of  Turin have elaborated instead the initiative "Civil Food", a research project on the economic and social values generated by plant crops and animal breeding: a network of 38 farms, 15 social cooperatives, municipalities and public consortia, local action groups.

Then there are lessons of biodynamic agriculture, organized by the Tuscany’s Regional Agency: the main themes are certifications, viticulture and territorial development.

The project 'Grow the future' offers a didactic path in technical institutes (chemistry, environmental biotechnologies, agriculture, agri-food and agro-industry) and in vocational schools for agriculture and rural development, with the aim to encourage young people to deal with issues related to agriculture and its interaction with environment, stimulating the production of innovative ideas.

Finally, the students of the University of Naples have recently participated to a  seminar of Jairo Restrepo Rivera, master of the “regenerative organic agriculture”, which brings together organic method, biodynamic and permaculture. Innovating ancient techniques. While in Cremona the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and the Chamber of Commerce organize innovative  lessons, like for instance learning how to reduce and recycle food waste.

As a last example, at the organic farming  “Experiential Travelling School”, young farmers learn … just working with other farmers: the teachers are farmers from Veneto, the classrooms are their farms, ready to be transformed into "incubators" for new projects. An original formula attracting aspiring farmers from all over Italy. 

 

“Il Sole 24 Ore – Food24”, 19 giugno 2015, http://food24.ilsole24ore.com

 

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