5th awareness-raising programme in Italy: Organic farming, a growing sector: educational pathways and job opportunities

The 5th awareness-raising programme was organized on November 26, in collaboration with Fondazione Bio Campus and Istituto di Istruzione Superiore San Benedetto:

Francesca Masselli, Head of the Secretariat of Fondazione Bio Campus (Bio Campus Foundation), first introduced the seminar to the participant – mainly students from the Istituto Professionale Agrario (Agricultural Professional High School) San Benedetto, selected among those more interested in the organic sector. Some of them are already working in organic farms and companies.

Later on, she illustrated the Bio Campus training opportunities and how they fit with the emerging professional characters needed in the agri-food sector with particular focus on organic. She recalled how the organic sector is growing fast in the last years in Italy, compared with the general agri-food which has on the other side a flat trend.

Roberto Calabresi, Co-ordinator of the Kyoto Club’s Agriculture and Forests Group, continued by showing the latest SINAB report facts and figures, particularly two diagrams showing the growth of the organic sector in the last five/ten years, with an average of around 18% every year, both considering the hectares of UAA – Utilised Agricultura Area – and the number of operators. He then introduced the theme of climate change and the organic sector in Italy and Europe, highlighting aspects related to the cycles of carbon and the ability of organic crops to fix CO2 in soils. Finally he explained in detail the ORGANIKO activities both in Cyprus and Italy, answering to the technical questions by the participants.

Francesco Barchiesi, expert agronomist from Suolo e Salute, a control body for organic certification, has given to the students a panoramic view of the professional know-how needed to work in the control bodies, considering the latest EU and national legislation. He started a fruitful discussion with the participants, providing a number of concrete cases and stimulating technical questions about: the requirements needed to start the organic conversion for conventional farming companies, the latest crops and industrial process included in the organic certification list by the “Decree on organic controls” approved last February by the national government, and the decreased bureaucracy burden related to the organic certification and yearly controls.

Vincenzo Ferrandes, from Azienda Agricola (Farm) Bio Ferrandeshttp://www.bioferrandes.it/ – brought his experience as organic farmer in the Latina province. His company was one of the first to turn organic more than twenty years ago. His father started with only a few hectares, while today the farm counts on more than 40 hectares, where around 15 varieties of fruit and vegetables are cultivated. Very interesting has been his description of how new organic crops varieties have been introduced “thanks” to the climate change: in addition to the kiwi – which is widespread all around the Latina province, right now the second world producer after New Zealand, BioFerrandes is trying in the last years – with unexpected results – the passion fruit. In this particularly warm November, they noticed that the strawberries are blooming again.

During and after the various speakers’ interventions there were many questions / answers with the attentive and reactive audience. Some of the participants were themselves owner of small farms, and they are interested in the conversion from conventional to organic.