The rural transition has recently become a hot issue in both European and non-European countries. Rural areas are involved in dynamics of development whose sustainability cannot be taken for granted.Four main factors influencing the sustainability of rural transition can be identified:
The capacity of rural areas to be suitable for the setup and operation of economic activities that are economically viable while being appropriate for, and able to valorize, the socio-cultural and demographic conditions of the context;
The capacity of rural areas to host a range of diversified activities with specific attention to sustainable rural tourism;
The capacity of rural areas to protect, valorize and enhance the natural resources offered by the local environment;
The capacity of rural areas to be included in the policy agenda of local, national, and regional institutions.
European rural areas are populated with small farms. They contribute to the production of food that is, later on, self-consumed or acquired by consumers in both rural and (peri) urban areas. For the mere fact that they operate in rural areas, small farms are part of rural dynamics (e.g. economic, social, environmental) that influence rural transition. In other words, in Europe rural transition goes along to issues related to agriculture and food production and consumption, many rural areas and businesses operating there contributing to food provisioning and acquisition.
The Summer School Food and Innovation in Rural Transition explores how small farms impact sustainable rural transition while contributing to food provisioning. In particular, the program walks students along with the investigation of four themes. These themes fall into the four above-mentioned factors influencing the sustainability of rural transition and keep a focus on small farming. The themes can be synthesized as follows:
Small farms, economic viability, and socio-cultural suitability. This theme explores how small farms are organized and work. It focuses on their dimensions with respect to production, income generation and consumption, employment, and market integration. Moreover, the theme investigates the ability of small farms to provide employment opportunities and foods, adequate to meet the local expectations and needs (e.g. jobs and products for which there is the demand of; practices of food provisioning and acquisition, in line with food traditions)
Small farms, sustainable tourism, and territorial valorization. This theme explores how small farms contribute to creating opportunities for a sustainable, experiential, and multi-seasonal quality tourism sector. This theme includes analysis of rural tourism supply systems with particular reference to local production and agri-food supply chains and other traditional local products; multi-functionality and diversification of agriculture, agro-tourism, social agriculture, analysis of short supply chains
Small farms and the environment. There is a growing recognition that agriculture can contribute to providing ecosystem services, defined as the multiple benefits provided by ecosystems to mankind (i.e. life support, such as nutrient cycle, soil formation and primary production, supply such as food production, drinking water, materials or fuel, regulation, such as climate, water purification, pollination and infestation control, cultural values including aesthetic, spiritual, educational and recreational ones). This theme focuses on the relations between farming and the environment and, particularly, on the way small farms contribute to the use and reproduction of genetic resources, agroecosystem services, and abiotic factors.
Small farms and political agenda. It is recognized that small(er) farms make up an important share of total agricultural employment and play an important role in many rural economies particularly in more fragile and disadvantaged regions. This theme focuses on the intrinsic values associated with small farms and their instrumental advantages for other policy objectives and on how policies support directly (e.g. subsidies) or indirectly (e.g. by including small farming as part of broader political strategies) small farms.
These four themes will be elaborated and debated during the Programme on the basis of a reflection on the specificities of small farming (definitions, characters, connections with their food system, and their socioeconomic and ecological context). The reflections will focus on the role that small farms can play in the transition pathways towards more sustainable rural and agricultural configurations, with attention paid to specific elements of these processes, like the digitalization of farming and the characterization, conservation, and valorization of biodiversity.
The course aims to increase awareness and competencies about food issues and transition in agriculture and rural areas and to prepare students in order to design future sustainable transition pathways able to meet medium and long-term societal and consumer demands. The Course would provide students engaged with agricultural and rural studies an immersive experience on the Tuscan territory
2 - 29 July 2022
15 May 2022