Spannocchia Symposium II
Meeting Notes: Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Bennett Konesni leads us in song to start the day.
Intro by Megan Camp, John Elder
John introduces topics that are built on previous symposium but expected to discuss in a more fluid way. Real topics will emerge from our conversations. He may invite particular people to speak but no one is obligated to say anything and he is looking for “half ideas” to lead to momentum. Fluid approach is challenging but has huge pay-offs.
Engaging Communities through outreach and education
Marketing - Jean Hamilton speaks to urgency of building whole food systems
See this in context of a collapsed food system in terms of nutrition and food culture.
Marco – not such an urgency in Italy. Sovicille market was first opportunity to find local products and there has been progress; missing urgency and will to work collaboratively with producers and consumers. Consumers want one system to unify all the markets but producers want to retain the individual farmer/consumer relationships.
But can we afford this system?? People like to eat well but often cannot afford it.
John – Key point -- we need to make choices that reflect our values.
Paolo – Globalization has taken over. Need to act more locally in order to support local economies. Our purpose is to strengthen relationships between regions and promote economic development. In a time when it feels like everything is going global, does it make economic sense to bolster local markets?
Valentina -- Fear? Fear of changing the system in Italy and to spend more through an additive lifestyle. Eliminating grocers and selling direct to consumers is a choice and saves her $$. Change in lifestyle that we have to consider.
Claudio – selling cheese allows him to see how the market works. A farm near Florence would support sales – location near large European cities supports local farmers. There is demand for organic product near population centers. But how can we exist in the rural areas? He is the one who has to identify the consumers and has developed a tight bond between farmers and consumers through Erbandando and Sovicille mercatale.
Randall – what is missing in the conversation this am is the issue of prices. Prices are high because supermarkets offer lower prices and all based on industrial agriculture. Low prices come from an unsustainable method of producing food.
Mateo – Not just liberals who are interested in having a closer relationship to their food but also food security that has sounded the alarm and getting people to listen. Markets are historical and political constructions. We are actors in the creation of a different kind of future and building a new type of market. Communicating a different value to our consumers, which is small on a national level but very supportive locally. This is a response to globalization.
John – Key point. Focus on programs that are working successfully and approaches that support farm viability.
Erica - Farm to School is a successful project. Classrooms incorporate food across curriculum. Changing culture of school so children can go home and teach their parents. Farmers sell to schools and children visit farms. Grandparents come into classrooms to speak to preservation. Cooking with children and teachers in classrooms.
Rachel – It’s important to note that there are 2 types of local food movements: contemporary that targets people who can afford to buy. Second is traditionalist for people who are foraging, preserving, producing for themselves and occasionally purchasing higher priced product. “Around the Table” program at UVM integrates lessons in food preservation, and container gardening to support people who are less able to support farmer’s markets.
Stacy – As a farmer, it’s difficult to spend time and money marketing products. CSA’s and box schemes help consumers eat healthier and help farmers stay on the farm. More effective for a farmer to stay home and farm than be out marketing and selling.
Riccio – Direct producer to Sovicille market. (2.5 years old) Very positive when it first started and created a new network of relationships. Producers face issues as growth of market requires each producer to be more present at the market just to get attention. We are not a niche. We need to develop larger network to survive. We need to invest $$ in infrastructure to facilitate improved marketing and distribution of local produce.
Involves large social change
Educate consumers about the real pricing of food
Sarah--- adopt animals on their farm to make farming friendly. Fattoria Didattica educational farms are very successful. 7 years in development that started as a focus on schoolchildren. Talked about seasonal products. Accomplished today a network of families so parents return with kids to buy products. Word –of-mouth best way to advertise. Families can purchase less expensively together. Surprised by the success. Can teach children better than adults.
Also direct selling from their farm. Connected with agencies near and far who send consumers to the farm to buy directly from them. Price more accessible.
President of local San Gimignano association supports wine tastings and gatherings for people to connect to the farms. Expecting more contributions from local producers who represent 80% of what’s grown. Disappointed by level of participation by producers – example of failure to reach objective.
Cooking classes not as successful over there as in US because there is an existing cuisine but with tourists who take classes there is an emphasis on using seasonal fresh products and olive oil instead of butter
Livia – strong relationship between producer and consumer. Parents introduced to acquaintances in US to sell here – main marketing strategy. Do not sell in store anymore. Sell through sales agent who distributes in US oil within two weeks of production. People who stay with them make the connection between father picking and serving lettuce and then support purchase of product. Passion expressed and people are more compelled to buy. Children in Italy are ignorant and unaware of healthy food so has to be a part of educational experience.
Mateo – Denmark has most evolved box scheme in the world. Company is called Aarstiderne. A farm started by man who inherited 700 acres and he wanted to convert to organic ag and get closer to consumers. Started business with a chef. Deliver 45,000 boxes delivered to people every week. 70 employees. Aggregated producers. Deliver because of bike culture. Have 22,000 apt. keys to make deliveries. $45 M in sales. Hyperefficient vegetable processing facilities, 36 different box options of veggies and go as far as Latin America and Africa in addition to European countries for sourcing, so it’s not entirely local, but options are highly varied. Bike factor is huge and Soren (chef) is a celebrity who places a recipe in each box and shows on tv how to prepare food. Simple “boring” box of Danish veggies to interesting. Can switch your order from small to large. Consumers get a lot of choice although veggies core of program. Infrastructure so important to this kind of distribution – an investment has to take place in processing in order to make local foods accessible to people. Viral marketing – good idea at the moment and lots of exposure on the “street.” Another part of business is a cooking school and show farm close to city. Spontaneous cooking events in cities all over Denmark.
Fresh Direct in NYC is corporate concept modeled after this box scheme idea.
Farmers to You – a new scheme in VT to market to households in Boston. Private business started by person who did food study in VT.
Andrea – we need your support to overcome our growth challenge in Italy. We have a popular food culture that is changing rapidly. Farmer’s markets that were started 20 years ago have disappeared with the exception of Sovicille and a few others. They need to reconstruct this concept and by addressing consumer needs; we have been successful with 25 producers. Now we have some issues and we have a lot to learn.
Mariateresa -- Key challenge is their rural location and challenge of connecting consumers and producers. Problem defined as a change in life-style. Value-added products are important (adding salumi to cheese).
Nicola -- thank you to all of the people who are sharing ideas this am. How do we open the niche market? Price problem is big. Producer has to explain why other prices are lower rather than making excuses for why the prices are higher.
Does display with eggs to show the quality of product to his customer. Stop being defensive and act more aggressively about why people have to pay more for a better product. Change mentality of consumer. Funding is the biggest issue and Italians too rogue – not working together well with each other or government.
John – Stresses importance of informal time and conversing during lunch and walk.
Bennett- talks about traditional dance and work song parties. Uses song, dance and art to make work enjoyable and see food in a new way. Reknitting food culture tapestry. Comes from good life workshop. People respond to the idea of improving their lives by simple acts – dancing and cooking class. These have to be affordable. Not worth competing with global corporations but to grow our way of life from the bottom up.
Valentina - we need to adopt methodology of box schemes and create a model that works for our community and food culture.
Erin – talks about Farmers’ Gate Market butcher shop. Has a niche, premium product so there is a lot of education with consumers about pricing and value. Middle of nowhere location. Has to rely on local market so carries items in addition to meat to cater to people who are not near to supermarket. Also subsidize consumers who are on food stamps. Provide them with lesser priced cuts and help figure out how to prepare. Bringing consumers together through Meat-Ups, bring people together and with butcher so meat can be picked up and educated at same time.
Role of Women in Farming
Evening session, 10/26/10
Isabella Dalla Ragione – worked with women who used a particular pear variety to make sauce. When the cultivation of the pear changed with industrial agriculture, they stopped using the pear because the consistency change and wasn’t good for sauce. The role of women in preserving and appreciating traditional products is key because women use cooking.
Stacy Brenner – Radical Homemaker: women went from units of production to units of consumption in the post-war period in the US. Post Feminist theory – gender roles shouldn’t make a difference, but we should return to having a homemaker in the family. As a woman and a producer, this is appealing to me, to provide for my family. It’s also a way to connect with our consumers – to encourage them to preserve their food. Women’s Land Army – a role for women to work on farms during WWII – started in England, moved to the US. Propaganda is amazing – posters, and pamphlets. Prospective apprentices at their farm are about 80% women, and all of the interns who have gone on to start farms are women.
Sarah Fioroni – one of 3 daughters, which was not appreciated on the farm in those days. 2nd generation of farm leaders is 2 men and 1 woman (Sarah) – some of the problems are gender-based: some men don’t understand when they see her and ask where the boss is (also she looks younger than she is). She is one of the owners – and not an administrator, or support staff. I see that the mentality is different in the USA – I have been in the States to teach cooking classes, and I like the difference of how I am treated in the States and appreciated for my role – it recharges my batteries and I get energy from it. Overall, I am fortunate that I really haven’t had very many actual challenges with my role, it’s more of confronting a traditional mentality, and sometimes it’s true, I can’t lift some heavy things. I believe that women bring more of an emotionality to the role – a passion and a feminine style that are different from men. There are some things that I do that are very individual to my own interests – I am a sommelier, I am writing a cookbook, and I don’t wait for people to hand me work, I seek out the things that I am interested in. Most of the challenges I have experienced are really more of a mentality.
Kirsten Walter – broaden the subject to women’s role in food systems, interested in social justice and cultural side – not necessarily farmers. Most of the women that I work with are of low-income families, growing food and processing food for their families. In our programs, the community gardeners and leaders are for the most part (98%) women. It’s important to redefine the role of women in leadership position – to increase self-reliance and leadership skills. Also see an incredible number of women who are interested in being involved in programs – difficult to find male interns and participants. In the last 10 years, there have been many more women in leadership positions. Many women shied away from the kitchen because there was a stigma of women in the kitchen – you can still be a strong woman and be in the kitchen. It’s important to bring women back to feeling comfortable in the kitchen, and revaluing the role of nutrition and food sourcing and preservation, as we fight obesity and nutrition-related disease. In a man’s world of farming, women who have opted to participate have been super strong and very tough to make it in a man’s world – as women age it can be difficult to hold up these activities and maintain a strong role. It’s important to be strong but it’s also important to value the
Synopsis – one thing that we see in New England, is most new farmers are women? How true in Italy? Is there a characteristic if interest in preservation – is that a gender thing? What is the role of the idea of masculine and feminine – in the US there has been a “feminization of the workplace”. More women are taking leadership roles…more men are seeking out value for the role that they play that is not quantitative, but qualitative.
Discussion – the roles that women take tend to be more in the background in Italy, and not as much in leadership roles (chefs, owners, leaders). Can be less gratifying as a role, but the role of women has been not as recognized, even though they are pillars of the economy. It’s also an effect that is reinforced at the level of the European Community – in Italy there is still a cultural wall with regard to recognition for leadership.
Leslie - Women can have more of a role in winemaking in Italy – why is that more accepted? Are there support associations for women to learn from each other and support each other? As an American chef, I encounter a lot of role discrimination. But in Italy, the meals that I remember are the meals cooked by the women at agriturismos, filled with love and tradition. I don’t remember chef meals at all
Discussion – celebrity/cult of personality in cheesemaking and winemaking in USA, because we love celebrating people and achievement. In Europe, the product stands out before the personality of the person making it. In Mateo’s microfinance experience – women are much more likely to pay back the loan, than men.
Question – is there a difference between women upholding the family tradition in Italy, and women starting new farms? There are both, from Sarah’s perspective – the real difference is the role and vision of the women. At the end though, if we complain about the situation, we lose time whining, and it’s more efficient to be quiet and do the work. But in the USA, there is a different feeling – women are celebrated for finding success in taking on these roles. On the subject of celebrity – it depends on the area, there are some areas that strongly feature women. In winemaking – it’s the name of the farm or the name of the company that is on the label, people don’t know if it’s a woman or a man.
But is there a support network or associazione that supports women in their work and their chosen profession? In the US there is a lot of effort at recognizing women’s accomplishments.
Discussion about Erbandando in Tuscany (Daniela and Mariateresa) – how can agriculture be a tool for change, to reclaim something that has been taken away from us in terms of recognition for the role that we play in taking care of our families and our communities, it’s an issue of democracy. From an economic perspective, women often play a strong marketing and community engagement, and respect for nature and the family. Our organization is called Erbandando, and it’s almost all women. What is it? It’s a group that came together through a course at the center for equal opportunity that focused on preservation and education about wild edibles and cooking and using herbs and wildcrafted plants for health purposes. It was a group of women who learned about herbs, how to find them, and use them in recipes. The connections in the group grew over time and we wished to do more activities together. Most of the women in the group were from different parts of Italy and were looking for ways to set down roots in this new area we were living in. We started to become an organization and we got assistance from the local agencies, because there was an interest in connecting women in rural areas. One project involved working with women immigrants from Kosovo – helping them to learn about the natural area. Another project was getting a local market started. So we started researching the possible producers and local support through town and provincial agencies, and it’s not really about the market, it’s about bringing the community together around preserving local food and culinary values. We were interested in bringing the food in the market to the forefront, so we have a restaurant as part of the market, and we have a market stand that always features recipes, wild herbs, and information about how to use them. We are all part of the market in many ways – we are producers, we are consumers, we are educators. But it’s not about the role of women in agriculture, necessarily, it’s something that we saw as being so important for supporting our sense of community. The sense of social support is a special aspect of what women bring to the process – the importance of building community.
Stacy – all of the women who have gone on to agricultural endeavors from their farm, they are involved in farm support and social justice, but not entrepreneurial approaches.
Monica – family life is always a challenge – how can farmers who are women balance work and life? Always a challenge in any entrepreneurial activities.