Archives for category: farming


(see these great infographics

Yesterday I went to the “Festival Economia Trento”, a mulit-day event, with national and international speakers. Past speakers are showcased on banners throughout the city. I attended a lecture by Robert McChesney who spoke about the conflict between capitalism and democracy and the increasing inequality this generates, and the trend of stagnation, which he explained, is deeply rooted in corporate capitalism.


Today another festival, but of another kind, the Mocheni Goat festival,showcasing the other qualities of this mountain region. The festival took place on the other side (east slope) of the valley, where the Mocheni culture/language dominates. And yes, Penelope won a bell!


Ok, also some sheep



The woman who ‘saved’ the Mocheni goat


The winning bells




The challenges for small-scale farmers are many, from weather related, a typhoon causing a crop failure in Okinawa, to policy related, such as labeling requirements and certifications. In Italy, as in many other areas in the world the agricultural landscape is changing and in part has to do with access to land (decreasing for small-holders). This not only changes the agricultural landscape but is also changing the way food is produced.


Land Concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe, published by the Transnational Institute (TNI for European Coordination Via Campesina and Hands of the Land network. 2013 Slide20

But, Italy is also the origin of the slow-food movement

and other farming and food related initiatives

I am enjoying the food from the source, but also learning how difficult it can be to be self-sustainable, let alone feed others from small scale and organic farm productivity. The goat cheese is a case in point. So good, but not profitable to sell on the market, in part because of high production cost, but even more due to rules and regulations for selling fresh products.


I am learning a new skill: milking goats. These are special Mocheni goats, well suited for the steep sloping meadows of the mountain farms. Vea is teaching me how to milk (which we sometimes use it in the coffee – goat cappuccino anyone?), and how to transform it into kefir and ………………. INCREDIBLE TASTING CHEESES.

There are three grown-ups and three little ones. During the day, they browse the field for an extremely varied diet, picking and choosing what they want to consume. This plant ‘goodness’ will end up in the milk and then of course  FLAVOR the cheese, so please





Healthy soils provide the plants, and by extensions us humans, with the nutrients we know we need, and all kinds of others that we don’t even know we do. In my discussions with (aspiring) organic farmers the issue that comes up regularly is the fact organic farmers have to be certified, and often pay for their certification. When you start to think about it this seems very counterproductive; the agricultural strategy that provides the most nutritious food, is least destructive to the environment needs to prove itself. Industrial farming, on the other is not held accountable for any detrimental effects, nor has to show the nutritious value of its crops or chemicals used to grow their products.

There are different kinds of strategies for organic farming, but are all based on maintaining a living soil and growing plants without synthetic fertilizers and pest control chemicals. Usually there are many weeds in the field, which you can remove (mechanically) on a regular basis; they will grow back again. I like weeding; it gives off a nice aroma, probably making me feel better. The good thing is that you can just leave it on the field and it will turn into compost for the vegetables you’re growing. The weeds also provide nutrients to the soil that are depleted by growing your vegetables.

I recognize the same weeds on the fields and along my running trails; with some I have regular interactions, learning about their particularities and the many uses they offer humans. Some familiar ones that I have come to appreciate more recently:

Urtica or stinging Nettle

Using the top leaves it can be used to make pesto, it also can be turned into soup and tea. I also cut it, because the goats don’t like to eat it and it is the only plant left in the field after grazing. The Urtica can be used to create a ‘compost tea’ for your vegetable garden.

Taraxacum or Dandelion

This plant that occurs on all continents has been gathered for food since prehistory, use the leaves in salads, blanched, or sautéed, use the young buds for capers, use the flowers to make wine and the roasted roots to make a coffee-like drink.

Then there are surprises in the meadow: