There are those who have an innate passion from the very start, then there are those who only discover it along the way; then there are those who need to go back to their roots and the land and those who just need to live with the rhythms of nature marked by the singing of the rooster rather than those of ringing cellphones. The countryside is both relaxation as well as regeneration. An even better experience is when you can experience the beauty of the countryside as well as learn about its time through direct contact. The “teaching farm” today is a working farm estate that offers both, by opening its doors to the public to teach about its daily activities and thus offer more than just the products from the land for consumption.
What it looks like
A teaching farm can be part of the estate’s activities or be completely separate from it. Since 1998, many local authorities throughout all of Italy have created regional associations to manage and organize farms offering a teaching component. The 4H Club, who some might already know or have heard of, is a movement born in the U.S. at the start of the 1900s which refers to the 4 h’s – “Head, Health, Heart, Hand” – with the objective of developing all components of the human body harmoniously. Even after 100 years of its foundation, the 4H Club fully represents the goal that a visit or even a stay at a teaching farm seeks to accomplish.
The various teaching offerings are organized and created specifically for the target group, whether they be school children, associations, consumers, tourists or any other group expressing interest. All of these visitors will be able to perceive how mankind can be in harmony with the wider range of biological and ecological systems: from the cultivated farm land, the farm itself, the area and the ecosystem. Today, children remain one of the most fundamental groups that visit a teaching farm. It is important to let them see and touch an agricultural setting, learn where our food comes from, the life of the animals and of the farmer to allow them to discover and understand how important, yet often undervalued and even disregarded, is the task of working the land.
What is offered
A teaching farm therefore can offer various forms of visits to the farm, from a presentation and observation of the various cycles each product goes through and of the rearing of the farm animals. Often, the most practical way to teach is with hands-on laboratories where each participant can do something. Take the bread laboratory as an example where kids can actually create various types of bread. The first part of the lab activity seeks to “praise the slowness” that it takes to create bread as well as the richness nature offers in wheat, water and yeast, while the second part teaches how to distinguish the various types of bread by just using our senses. Another visit is completely dedicated to cheese, starting from the pasture that the animals feed on, continuing on to the barn to show the milking, then the creation of cheese and, finally, to a tasting of our creation!
These are just two examples of what a teaching farm can offer. There are also others that offer complete vacations on a working farm, as well as opening up the farm on Sundays, pet therapy, celebrating a birthday or another occasion with these activities incorporated and much more.
What are our farm offers
This was how the idea was born to create something from the love we have of animals and of nature as well as continue living in the countryside. The teaching farm has become a way to satisfy our own need of nature and all that is natural, and for someone fortunate enough to already live in the countryside, it was a way to keep both a home and a sustainable way of living (where the use of natural resources is done in a way to allow them regenerate naturally). This requires enormous sacrifices from an economic point of view was as well physical: it is enough to say that on a farm, if you want to keep it alive, you cannot avoid the sacrifice, fatigue or work that is required.
Our dream in the short term is to open a teaching farm whose main objective it to teach rather than to produce: to offer all of those agricultural and zoo-technical activities that will teach and inform the younger (and older) generations about life on a farm for a life on a farm.
So our farm, the Fattoria dell’Orto degli Olivi (whose name translates into the Garden of the Olives), offers a complete visit to the farm with detailed explanations of our working methods and the participation in several labs: the production of Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil, the production of wine with Sangiovese, Cabernet and Malvasia grapes, the raising of worms, the cultivation of lavender and gathering of aromatic herbs, the breeding of cashmere goats with the production of cheese, the creation of soap with olive oil and lavender and of handmade chalk with lavender essence [click here to buy our products] and the management of ponies and donkeys. All these activities are offered to stimulate and create a bond between our visitors, the environment and the animals involved.
Our goal is to offer anyone who visits us a day dedicated to personal growth, with a good dose of relaxation offered by forgetting about daily chores and stress and pleasure in participating in the hands-on activities.
We’ll end by sharing a quote we love by Vittorio G. Bàssan: nature is an open book, but it is an open book that cannot be read within an enclosed room.
About Stefano Romeo
Stefano is a native from Florence but with a quarter of Sienese blood in his DNA and many years living in Pisa is a true Tuscan. He is still learning that his homeland has many corners and hidden gems he has to discover, ones he particularly enjoys seeing from the saddle of his bike.