This morning’s lecture was delivered by Dr. Paola Migliorini, a professor at the Università with extensive experience and knowledge in organic farming and sustainable methods of agriculture. As with many of the speakers we’ve had, the hour and a half flew by quickly, and there were so many more questions we had for her. But unlike the other speakers, we had a chance to immediately put into practice what we had learned. We boarded the bus for our lunch time destination: l’Orto del Pian Bosco, an agricoltura biologica (an organic farm—when Italians refer to food as “biological”, they mean “organic”; each of these labels make the same amount of sense, which is to say none at all, but you get the idea).
We were greeted by Andrea and his wife Manuela. Andrea does most of the farming while his wife manages the books and his sister is involved in marketing products from the farm. Andrea’s parents also work with him, and he hires a few workers. Together they seem to be a close-knit family.
Andrea was concerned about our footwear, and the clouds looked threatening, so we all donned plastic booties before heading out to the farm. We took a short tour, viewing mainly herbs and vegetables in the early stages of growth. For each crop, Andrea provided a detailed explanation of the farming methods used and explained how he avoided using machinery (by planting crops by hand) and petroleum based fertilizers. It was interesting to learn that weeds, if managed properly, could actually improve the health of the soil rather than being a nuisance.
We returned to the building housing the office and a small farmstand where Andrea discussed the economics of running an organic farm. We purchased some of the products he had for sale. It’s still early in the season so there weren’t many fresh fruits and vegetables, but there was an impressive array of sauces and jams along with bags of shelled hazelnuts.
And as if running a farm wasn’t enough work on its own, Andrea and his small group of workers also run a small restaurant located next door to the farmstand. Andrea exchanged his wellies for a smart black apron and joined the waitstaff in serving us a simple three course lunch consisting of pasta with vegetables for a first course and a large green salad for the second course, accompanied by a regional red wine. All of the vegetables in the dishes were grown on the farm. Dessert was a simple strawberry mousse, followed by the obligatory espresso. The group is surprised that Kyle and Sara and I (who were non-coffee drinkers before this trip) eagerly partake of the espresso at the end of the meal.
Bidding “gratzie” and “arrivederci” to Andrea and the others, we boarded the bus back to the university for our next adventure—sensory tasting.