The farmer, Aurelio, an engineer, explained and showed to the students the crops, vegetables and animals that the farm produces, including the part that qualifies as organic. He emphasized the constraints under which his farm operates, being in a natural park of the Region. He has to comply with many regulations that reduce his productivity, and therefore his revenues, while having to cope with the growing population of wild boars that destroy his crops. His produce is sold locally to clients who know and appreciate the quality. He underlined how his choices are driven by quality and prices rather than by quantity and yields. On the other hand, the location in a natural park offers his farm the opportunity to operate as an agro-tourism, with a number of activities aimed at tourists, thereby contributing to a large percentage of his yearly income.
The farm also hosts a cooperative of seven migrants, Barikama, who produce yogurt that they sell by bicycling to their clients’ homes. Thanks to the presence of the Barikama cooperative, the farm enlarged the organic vegetable garden and reach consumers in Rome.
As a participant in a European Commission meeting he stated and posed the question: “I am happy that the activities of my farm maintain the environment and the biodiversity of the area, but should I be the only one to bear the costs of such maintenance?” This led to a reflection on private and public goods and on the role of the public and private sectors in fostering and managing sustainable food systems. For the students, Aurelio represents the ‘innovative farmers’ coming up in Italy and in Europe that wish to re-establish a new relationship between farming, nature and social goals. He demonstrated how these innovative ‘rural entrepreneurs’ face the hardships and risks involved in farming on a multifunctional farm, and the management skills they require in order to deal with the regional government authorities, the organic accrediting agencies and the European Union regulations and subsidies.