My husband went to a school that specialized in agricultural. As a result, he has many friends who run wineries, grow and sell fresh produce, raise cattle and own butcher shops. His relatives also have vegetable gardens and hens. That said, we can always find all kinds of fresh produce, meats, truffles, olive oil, mushrooms and eggs right from the source.
I have always thought Italy to be a country full of food-conscious people who would never betray their high quality dishes for American fast food chains. Italians value fresh vegetables grown organically in their garden. They know which fruits and vegetables are in season. If they find a farmer with top quality cows, they will drive kilometers to buy kilos of meat instead of going to the local butcher shop. At least that’s what my husband does.
However, Italy is not immune to automation and industrialization. There are fewer farms that are able to survive while maintaining traditional practices. Most consumers just go to the local supermarket instead of growing their own vegetables or tending to their own hens. It’s just more convenient and you can collect points! When most people live in an apartment and work a nine to five job, how is that possible?
In a world that seems to be moving away from tradition (yes, even in Italy), I wondered what it would be like for the few farmers that are staying true to traditional farming practices. So, we visited my husband’s friend’s farm, Azienda Agricola Aietta.
FARM LIFE IN ITALY
Azienda Agricola Aietta dates back to the 1970’s and is situated 1,400 meters above sea level in the mountains of Lombardy, in Casale Staffora. Back in the 70’s, it used to be a standard vacation spot for Italians in the summertime. It is also a unique spot as it lies on the border of four regions: Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Liguria and Piedmont.
This area of Lombardy is famous for the native cattle, Varzese. Many people travel to this part of Lombardy just to get salame made from Varzese cattle.
In the 1990’s, our friend, Daniele, started managing the farm with his father. Together, they added to the farm stables and barns by planting potatoes, wheat and grains. They also started to raise pigs and keep hens. They have twenty pigs and piglets that grow to be about 150 kg. It takes him a year to get them to weigh 150 kg. whereas industrial grown pigs take only six months to get that big.
What I really admire about Daniele and his father, is how they farm. Sustainable, eco-friendly, natural and organic are words they live by. They use no pesticides nor chemical treatments on their land, only fresh manure from their cows. The famous, native Varzese cattle are only fed hay and grains that are grown and prepared by Daniele and his father. The pigs are also fed grains and bran. These eco-friendly, sustainable practices are nothing new. This is how farming was always practiced according to tradition and this is what they strive to maintain.
MOUNTAIN-STYLE WINE, SALAME AND CHEESE
Recently, Daniele and my husband teamed up to plant a vineyard at 1,400 meters above sea level. It’s more of an experiment for now as they are curious to know how Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir will taste given the mountain climate and terrain.
Daniele and his father have started building a space to make traditional salame and typical mountain-style cheese.
We will definitely be looking forward to the wine, salame and cheese soon to be produced by Azienda Agricola Aietta. In the meantime, you can visit them in Casale Staffora, Strada Provinciale 48, 27050 S.Margherita di Staffora PV.