Italian cuisine is appreciated the world over, so with an aim to preserve the country’s rich food heritage, Civiltà Contadina is on a mission to revive traditional ways of farming in Italy and to save heritage crops and species, once the mainstay crops in rural Italy.
Founded in 1996, the non-profit organisation was created to counter the loss of traditional fruit and vegetables which have disappeared off menus in recent years due to intensive agriculture and machinery farming.
Civiltà Contadina, which has around 150 members from across the country, say: “We keep rare biodiversity and endangered extinction for tomorrow’s agriculture. We save the biodiversity of the past from extinction by returning to cultivating, spreading and savoring the varieties used in the rural world, of which we reaffirm and defend value as an essential genetic and cultural material for the bases of a healthy contemporary natural agriculture.”
Civiltà Contadina is based around five key principles. These include saving ancient and local varieties typical of the rural Italy; multiplying and sharing biodiversity to combat climate change; using traditional ways of farming, without the use of chemicals, to implement natural and resilient agriculture; preserving knowledge and raising awareness; and promoting a culture of exchange and reciprocity between members and free access to seeds.
The non-profit implements these principles by the exchange and sharing of seeds and the creation of a seed back; the promotion and creation of school gardens; the conservation and reproduction of ancient fruit; the conservation and protection of native breeds of farm animals, mainly the recovery of the Pollo Ancona poultry breed; and contributing to documenting traditional systems and knowledge related to the rural world.
Civiltà Contadina’s community seed bank, Ark of the Seeds is our Community Seed Bank, preserves rare varieties at risk of extinction, many of which are collected and sent by their members. Among these is traditional beans. Once a crop found widely throughout rural Italy, they are climbing plants. But since these traditional beans can not be harvested mechanically, much of the modern bean plants are all dwarf plants.
The organisation say: “The Ark of Seeds of Peasant Civilization has the mission to collect and preserve the wonderful varieties of vegetables, cereals and legumes selected by the Italian peasant culture, to pass them on to future generations. ”
Civiltà Contadina also offers training in safeguarding rural biodiversity and natural farming techniques.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com