Coordination of Tuscan farming communities

In Newsletter 74 we mentioned the initiative taken by a number of Fairtrade purchasing groups [GAS in Italian] in the Marche region who decided to apply to the regional authorities for formal approval of a law to recognize and promote small-scale local farming.

We have learned of another interesting and important initiative, this time in Tuscany, the “Coordination of Tuscan farming communities”. The entire text is reproduced here:

We are Tuscan small farmers

We come from different areas that are located far away from one another. Every day, even during the lockdown and regardless of the unreasonable ban on our local distribution networks, we help our communities by guaranteeing the provision of food that is healthy, wholesome, and fairly produced. We would like to be precise in identifying and distinguishing those who practise small-scale farming from those who simply see the land and farming as a purely commercial activity whose aim is to maximize output and profits.

In the first place, small farmers play a fundamental part in safeguarding, preserving and improving the land and the environments in which they live and work through their intimate knowledge of the land and the local natural systems. Small-scale agroecological farming is practised alongside or in association with others as a community. We are talking about small-scale agricultural production for subsistence, with any excess directed to local markets. It is based primarily on the labour of family members and communities, or other non-monetized ways of organizing work, such as mutual aid. Small-scale farming depends essentially on the land and the surrounding local community.

The prevailing system for the production and distribution of food in Italy and other OECD countries is dominated by the big Industrial Chains and the Great Organized Distribution system. We believe that this regime must be gradually replaced by local systems of locally produced food networks, networks that are currently still in existence but all too often residual. We believe that this gradual replacement is beneficial and urgent from the farming, economic, social and environmental point of view.

Healthy locally grown food is the first form of health protection and guarantees the correct development of immune defences, which is why the production, distribution and access to agroecological products must be supported and encouraged by the authorities.

The agroindustrial model is a system of food production and distribution that leads to death and exploitation. As well as contributing to the poisoning of water systems and the sterility of the soil through the overuse of chemicals, it is responsible for 1/3 of the planet’s CO2 emissions. It works on the basis of conditions of wretchedness and even enslavement for its workers (in the fields, in logistics and in food processing).

For years now local, national and European institutions have been putting out environmentalist rhetoric, encouraging the development of rural and organic activities with their words. These proclamations, often accompanied by incomprehensible regulations that lack any force, encourage and promote those big firms that through the financing of the CAP and other incentives are able to develop their food markets destined to consumption by the better off. Furthermore, these agribusinesses practise monocultures and intensive agronomic management, just as the conventional businesses do. Access to the land for small farmers who favour participatory processes for food autonomy is often obstructed by bureaucratic rules and regulations that oblige farmers to become entrepreneurs. Food becomes not an essential resource for life and an inalienable right, but just another consumer product.

In light of these general considerations, we demand that the Tuscan Region and municipal authorities:

1) Recognize scattered farming communities that, if organized on a community and assembly basis, can act in their own areas without being bound by the current agricultural regulations.

2) Small farming practices (such as the exchange and distribution of agricultural produce, mutual aid, seed production and exchanges) should be regarded not as commercial activities but services to the community.

3) Recognize The Participatory Guarantee as a form of community self-regulation. This system guarantees, within the local economic structures, transparency in the production and distribution of food while freeing small farmers from agribusiness and official certification systems. The Participatory Guarantee also renders the environmental responsibilities involved in farming and food pricing locally visible.

4) If further states of emergency occur, the GAS, community shops and farmers’ markets should be allowed to continue to operate in order to guarantee access to wholesome food that respects the principle of food autonomy; they should be protected and encouraged, since they bring healthy and wholesome food that is essential for collective health into the towns and cities.

5) Farmers’ markets organized by local communities should have free access to public land and easy access to squares and other public spaces. These markets play an important role in raising awareness and fostering community spirit and should not be equated with the commercial activities that take place in municipally run markets.

6) Application of the rules relating to farming activities should be carried out by public officials and not by bodies involved in the sector (such as Cia, Coldiretti, Confagricoltura), with local offices which community producers can access.

7) Strictly limit pesticide use while setting up – with the help of farmers, researchers, teachers – advice centres, training courses, workshops and tutoring, with the aim of encouraging the switch to agroecology in their local areas. By supporting new settlements and assisting in the transition of existing farming businesses from conventional methods to ecological farming the public authorities can play their part in the environmental transition. Video HERE