Future of farming in rural Communities?

09/11/2012 - 04:53

Following on from another thead, what will happen to the ever increasingly aged farming communities, now that their children no longer want to work on the land?



Hurrah Joy at last....I have been out all day as well!. What Gala says is interesting about niche markets, we know people who have done this via their olive oil and bye products, and it is very popular with the jaded English market for the "authentic" Italian product, which still has a snob value, we all laughed at hug an olive tree, but when I saw it featured in Homes and Gardens as the ultimate Christmas present we had to acknowledge it worked. What I think is Italians produce fantastic produce and goods but the marketing is sometimes rubbish, if they get that right...the skys the limit. BTW the hat that Kate wore for the cruise down the Thames was made in the next village to us...so someone is getting it right!.

If they are living in Beausoleil they are not farmers or unemployed people. It is extremely expensive to live there. I know very well the area. And there are always Italians on the French Riviera, as there are Spaniards in the Languedoc-Roussillon or Biarritz areas... 

I'm getting more practise in the garden in case they call on my help...surprise.........I often see the anzioni walking up to the village (probably in their mid 70s) to meet their parents !............mind you, I'm not far behind them (in age). It is a problem for sure. S

This isn't a new problem Angie.  The younger generation haven't wanted to do farming for probably 100 years.  That's why so many left the country and moved to UK, US etc where they could 'improve' their lot and consequently villages have been abandoned and fell into disrepair.  The more educated people become the less they will want to work with their hands.  Some will move back to farming when they have sampled the more sophisticated lifestyle of the west and earned enough cash to be comfortable for the rest of their lives. 

It seems inevitable that large agricultural consortia will arise (in  fact they already exist - much of the land round us is farmed on a "contract" basis).  our immediate neighbour, late 70s, has a son still living at home who may be prepared to keep onthe v8neyard but since he has a factory job I doubt he'll beprepared to put in the hours his father does on his tractr.  mind you q2uite a lot of Luigi,s friends (all retired) say he is mad to carry on working so hard.  They are all content with their pension andtheir orto. When discussing the current economic sitch, the common refrain is "At least we have the orto, sempre mangiamo"

Increasingly in our area ex pats are turning their hands to farming - I know several people who are all registered farmers several of whom used to be high flying city folk!!!  And they love it - our plan is to do the same in a couple of years once we've settled in to our new lifestyle - learning italian and how to farm is a giant step.  The older folk are often asking if there are any foreigners wanting to buy land.  They love to come and teach/show the ex pats how things need to be done (from their persepctive!!!) Interestingly a couple of younger people who have left the area - travelled and worked all over the world have come back and taken on the land - doing things differently and making more of a business from it.  Many of the older generation are reluctant to work together to get the best economies of scales but the younger generation who have more "worldly" experience can see this can have huge benefits From a personal perspective I don't even enjoy gardening - but everyone I know who now farms says it's very different - I'll let you know when the time comes - the jury is still out!!! 

There could be some changes in the near future. In Spain, some young people and families who are out of work are returning to the villages where their grandparents live and farming the land. Some small country schools, which were about to be closed, are expanding their classes because of the influx of new students. Before, going to visit the grandparents in summer was only a way to get a cheap holiday. Times do change!

The Italian government are throwing money at the problem, giving grants up to 40,000 euro for people under 40 who are prepared to return to the land.  Generally it's offered if you (or family) either own or rent enough land to make a sucessful business. As long as you commit to work at it for 7 yrs and make some sort of effort to make it work you are in with a chance. 

Yes, Spain has been doing similar things and they do work. They favour young couples and families. Many of these people are opting for organic agriculture and ecological products as they are growing markets. At the same time they are "rediscovering" life in the country. And I think that nowadays, with all the advances in communications, it is a very pleasant alternative to life in the cities.

I have been out this afternoon and obviously I have missed something as I can see posts are missing and Judecas has gone!

Yes Jude happening everywhere - certainly a boom industry! Giving money to the 'green' brigade to do organic growing is not going to help the country out of dire economic  problems.  Mass produced is the only way forward to be cost effective and supply growing demands.  Industry is where help is needed.  We have dealt with a large company in northern Italy for over 25 years and they are really struggling at present.  They still close for August which is crazy when selling worldwide.  They have changed banks  4 times in last year!  And now they want payment in advance instead of the industry standard of 60 days.  Sorry but I will not be buying from them now as I am not paying thousands of pounds in advance in case they go under. Some people have 'gone back home' and are doing a little farming.  This is all very sweet but these people are not helping the economy - they are just playing at it.  I have a relative who has done just that.  He, like many others are enjoying it but that is not helping anyone else but their own self esteem.

Sorry, Joy, but you cannot compare these small ventures which are helping people and their families in a small scale to large producers and industries. They work at different levels and it is like comparing the small grocery shop in a village with a hypermarket. They all have a role to play in the recovery process, not only in Italy , but worldwide. Because this crisis is affecting the whole world. All economies are  interlinked.

Gala, I am sorry but a couple of people or a family farming will not produce enough to create any difference to the economic state of Italy or Spain.  Unless they can sell enough to bring in more money than they need ie so they are buying other goods, paying taxes etc it is a complete waste of time.  I know some people now 'barter' erm.. that went out even before the groat came into being!  Yes, grow some veg and fruit, keep a few chickens etc, but the young people need to 'work' at a proper job as well in order to raise the standard of living.  And the standard of living in Italy (in rural areas at least) does need to be improved as some people are 60 years behind the likes of UK and other northern european countries that's why so many of the educated have left and are leaving. Even in China now the young are leaving the countryside for the cities as they want a better life.  Italy spent too many years avoiding tax and letting the mafia control things and now they are suffering. Unfortunately they have to work harder and pay up and yes it will hurt - just like in Greece but sitting on one's backside will not save them.

Joy I think you have a better grasp on the situation in farming than others may do; especially if they maintain that the Eco/Organic market is growing, I know for a fact it has seem it's biggest decline in popularity and growth since it the 'Fad' started. This is due to the fact that it's overpriced, no better for you, and more prone to diseases and wastage that conventional methods; and people have realised that mostly it is a 'lifestyle' choice. You cannot alter peoples perception of a situation if they do not understand the associated hardships i.e. no money, no job, sod all hope. Small scale farming is a means to provide in the short term for ones family, it is not a career path to offer the young.

Interesting you saying that flip, about a year ago I was watching an article about a study done by Cambridge Uni. They came to the same conclusion that most of us 'non faddist' already knew. No benifits from Bio and non Bio. You may (and I am sceptical abot that) have some kids returning but that is nothing compared to the majority that are leaving

Well, Joy, sorry to disagree again, but the organic industry, after quite a few hiccups, is growing steadily. At least, in the USA it is big businesses and distributors are looking eagerly for producers in their areas. It may be contagious or perhaps Europe is a bit slow in that area, although I must say that most supermarkets carry nowadays organic produce. Something unseen only a few years ago. Here is some data that may interest you: http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/business.html In America I shop a lot at Wholefoods, which I know has not been very successful in the UK, although it seems to be picking up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_Foods_Market I also go to the San Francisco and Noe Valley Farmers Markets, where you see small producers selling their harvest directly to the public. It is not cheap, but I like to help them. Whenever I am in Bagni di Lucca, I also go to the local markets. It is good for the town´s economy. My point is that the family that goes back to the grandparents home in the village and starts working the land is not going to save Italy´s or Spain´s economy, but it is going to be better for them than staying unemployed in the big cities. And who knows, they may discover the perfect niche market that will become a business in the future. Many businesses have started that way. And it would be better for the villages, as well. They will become alive.

Joy, due to business you probably have a better grasp on these things. Many figures published show that the Bio fad is reaching it's natural end, as most fads do. Why pay exorbitant prices for something that isn't really any different. supermarkets have scaled down their Bio sections due to wastage. The Italian (and especially the youngsters) solution to unemployment is the same as it was during the financial and political turmoil in Italy during the 60's..They are going abroad to work. Give a 25 year old the choice to running a run down farm with no income or the choice of going to London, Berlin, Monaco etc to work it doesn't take a lot of guessing where they will go.

People going back or establishing themselves in rural areas bring back life to places that tend to disappear. It is a positive move for all concerned. Big cities, or even foreign countries may not be the solution for everyone. And definitely, there are "niche" markets for anyone with a vision and the will to succeed.

Farming is such an important part of the economy on the average. It is part of the materialistic basis of sustainance, in the societal sense. For some it is their personal source of self-preservation, in terms of basic materialistic needs. In the Global sense, it is a necessary part of this World.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

was only agreeing with you as you would understand if English was your 'Madre lingua' - as you can see, Italian is not mine.  Why be so pedantic  Like Fillide I am loosing interst in this community....  

I would hope that if you choose to keep posting that you would like to get along as I with you. Actually I am more fluent in English than I am in Italian. That's simply because it is the language that I have needed to apply more for years.

Its been a while since I've followed the forum, but this is an interesting topic to welcome me back....! In my area (Abruzzo), there is definitely the trend that Angie & Robert flag, with most (not all) younger Italians opting out of agriculture. However, what keeps much of our local agriculture going is an "influx" of Romanian and Albanian families. (I use "influx" advisedly; 5 or 6 families might not be very much, but in a small village they make a noticeable contribution.) What surprises me is a complete absence (in our area) of any drift back to the countryside by tech-savvy Italians escaping the city. Admittedly, internet speeds / reliability aren't fantastic, but telecommuting is feasible. As far as I can see, the difference in housing prices between the larger cities and smaller villages must be big enough to make this viable, but it is also a lifestyle change..... That is increasingly attractive in the UK, France and northern Europe, but doesn't seem to have taken root in Italy - or at least not my area.

Welcome back, Learning by error, following your post I do not know whether the new "L'ultra internet" offered by TIM may improve communication problems in rural communities, but I reckon that it could be an interesting development. I have not been in Italy since May, so I am not aware of the impact of the new service. On the other hand, while having coffee thismorning with some Spanish friends I was told about a new service offered by a family who owns a couple of farms in the region. They are offering a weekly delivery of a box containing some 5kg of seasonal vegetables at a subscription price of 10 € a week and I have been told that customers are extremely happy with the service. I have seen this same kind of service, direct from the producer, in San Francisco, where it is very successful. An interesting alternative for some small producers!

But just out of interest does anyone know what grants / subsidies are available to people here....lke everything I am sure they are less and less but I would be interested to know....fields are ploughed, no crops sown...is that just managment or as I have been told, farmers get subsidies for doing that ?

In reply to by Dylano

Who pays for the tractors ? I think in the UK, farmers actually get paid through grants from the EU for NOT producing some produce ? I seem to recall butter 'mountains' being built years ago? S  

In reply to by sprostoni

here should either be in a Museum or entering a Grand Prix....Sprostoni...just wondered if like in the uk farmers do very nicely thanks to subsidies....I am sure they do....maybe that is the answer to the original question ? 

The famous CAP which was designed by and favours only the French is still responsible for most of the ills in European agrictulture.  The organic market is in decline - as any niche market is, in an economic crisis.   I have friends who export organic to M&S and there orders and more importantly the money htey are prepared to pay have dropped hugely over the last 18 months.  SMall producers are one thing - having a couple of hectares to grow a bit of salad veg and the odd root crop is not going to change much.  The future of agriculture has been and will continue to be the large businesses who have hundreds of hectares.  Here the big change has been the huge incetives given to biomass crops - which end up in car petrol tanks instead of on peoples plates - another reason for the increasing price hikes in foodstuffs.  Mix it all up with the organised crime strangehold on the road haulage industry and there is a slow return to the farmers market mentality - which is no bad thing.  However, there is more and more land being allowed to lie fallow or completely abandoned.  There are few incentives to return land to productive use, whether it be by tree planting or short term crops.  The outlook is bleak.