The focus region Friuli Venezia Giulia (specifically Udine province, ITD42) has been chosen as an example of small and geo-morphologically variegated area, where the agricultural sector is very advanced for certain sectors (viticulture) while arable systems, even with some very high productivity, suffer for structural limitations and the lack of organized processing in the region.
The conformation of the landscapes and the conservative mindset that is characteristic of the rural economy also due to the limited share of young farmers, influenced the business setting of agriculture in the area. The average agricultural enterprise is familiar and small-medium scale, with an average utilized area of about 10ha per farm, even if larger and innovative farms are more and more frequent. In this context, the interest for social innovation in agriculture is consistently growing.
The experiences collected within case Commons management in Udine (ITD42) are bottom up initiatives that found little support (if not hostility) within the standard advisory system. From many perspectives the conventional AKIS actors, at the current date, have not showed support in resolving challenges encountered by these experiences. The lack of expertise propelled the development of cross-figures and operative groups and networks.
These are bottom up initiatives, collecting the legacy of Middle Ages commons, generated from the communities’ desire for the implementation of sustainable practices. They are initiatives with a community dimension, having at their core small family farms and hobby farms. This dimension makes it easier, or at least less risky, to become economically sustainable, as well as creating a sense that small local actions count as response to the huge problems of climate change and landscape preservation. Moreover, the local scale of the experiences is consistent with the need of environmental sustainability, thanks to the low carbon footprint and reduced waste production.
DES (Distretto di Economia Solidale) “Pan e Farine dal Friûl di Mieç” is a community cooperative in Friuli Venezia Giulia region (Italy) whose aims are to manage common land, improve the use of natural resources and suggest examples of innovative and sustainable value chains.
In 2016, DES launched an initiative involving not only common land managers, but also farmers, part-time farmers and hobby farmers but also a mill, bakeries and local citizens in a wheat-flower-bread value chain. To reach the initiative’s goals, a combination of several innovations had to be implemented: a) organic management of farmland; b) use of best adapted varieties of wheat and evolutionary breeding materials; c) crop diversification.
To implement the innovations, constant advisory support is needed. There are no experiences in advisory schemes for part-time and hobby farmers, and consequently there are no tools for effective knowledge sharing in this context. DES experience highlights that best results are still constant direct one-to-one contact between a farmer and an advisor, and workshops where advisors bring information and stimulate sharing. Online tools or remote meetings, or newsletters do not allow to reach the desired impact. The constant support of advisors is still needed, and since it is not economically feasible within the value chain budget, it needs to be financially supported from Rural Development Plans or other project funds.
Full report is available here.
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