Plan B

After finishing up classes and closing the school for summer I was more than ready to get out of the city.  Most Italian cities are a ghost town come the end of July and August.  Everyone flees the city heading to their seaside or mountain houses looking to relax and soak up some rays.  I decided to take an alternate route and head to the countryside for a little fresh air and some back-breaking work.  I am a member of W.W.O.O.F Italia (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).  It is an organization that creates a network of organic farmers who open their homes to anyone who wants to get involved with and learn about organic farming techniques.  In exchange for your hard labor the farm houses and feeds you.  Since I wanted to explore the Lombardy region I decided to go to a farm in Descenzano sul Garda called Plan B.  I jumped on a train and about an hour and a half later Renato, the owner of Plan B picked me up and took me to my new home.  Renato was not the Italian farmer I was expecting.  In fact he was actually quite young and told me that farming wasn’t his first profession but his “Plan B”.  He showed me around the farm and explained to me how he is experimenting with permaculture.  From what I understood, seeing as we spoke in Italian and I didn’t know anything about the subject, permaculture is about creating a self-sustainable farming system.  It’s an elaborate system combining different elements such as water sources, farm animals that are allowed to roam the land and sporadically placed crops throughout the garden.  Everything is then separated into four zones.  Zone one being closest to the house and the things that need the most care and zone four being absolute wilderness where the farmer observes how nature works.  The idea is to create a system where nature works for you causing less damage to mother earth and creating less work for the farmer.  Well, not entirely, because after one week of waking up a the crack of dawn to feed the animals, water the plants, weed the garden, harvest the vegetables and various other tasks that go along with having a farm, I was exhausted.  This experience really gave me a new appreciation for food and all of the hard, manual work that is behind it.  It takes time, patience, planning and daily commitment to supply our markets and bellies.  It is thanks to young people, like Renato, who are returning to the land and not only using traditional farming techniques, but also experimenting with new sustainable methods that created harmony between nature and humans.  I don’t think that I’m cut out for a Plan B in permaculture, but hey, there are still 24 letters in the alphabet.

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