Let’s eat local and seasonal: what Mimma Vignoli, President of the Casalasco-Viadanese district in the province of Mantua, launched two years ago and is already highly active in the territory, almost seems like a hashtag.
The stories of these small and medium enterprises will be coming to Verona to outline their best practices at B/Open, the bio foods and natural self-care trade show scheduled to take place from 1st to 3rd April 2020.
How did the idea of the Casalasco-Viadanese district come about?
It is an organic farming district, a sort of grouping recognized by the Lombardy Region and European Community, which has since become a business network.
Grouping together was a need that we had yet to express but which was already potentially ongoing when some Lombardy Region councillors suggested it after conducting a study of the territory.
The business network was set up in the summer of 2017 after a gestation period of about five years during which we strongly believed in the project.
How many and what kind of companies belong to the District?
There are now about 20 companies in the Casalasco-Viadanese area and one near to Cremona that we really wanted to be in the group and which historically produces organic milk and cheese. They are mainly agricultural firms, but not only. There are also food processing companies and small stores because the district wants to represent the entire short supply chain.
What are the objectives?
The district’s objectives are very clear: first and foremost, to give agriculture and farming companies a sustainable income again, if not, there will be no market for the immediate future and nobody will want to inherit this profession. At the same time, our main interests include social and environmental topics because we believe that it is important to retrieve the landscape and aim at having a clean environment.
Why is it important to promote bio foods nowadays?
Organic farming is clean agriculture because it chooses not to use chemicals in the countryside. It should become the norm for everybody in the immediate future. Being organic also means giving greater value to local and seasonal products in the name of a shorter, no-waste supply chain. It makes no sense to import pears from Argentina in the summer because transportation uses more fuel than what they are worth.
Many of the district’s member companies have handed down their business from generation to generation. What has changed compared to 30 years ago?
We aim to promote generational turnover but unfortunately, bureaucracy and the lack of income discourage the younger generations from working in agriculture. The paperwork to be done in small companies is the same as in big ones but with half the staff and this leads to increased costs and effort and takes a lot of time away from actual farm work.
Why do small and medium enterprises need a trade show just for insiders?
At this trade show we need to find the right interlocutors, from bio food managers at large-scale retailers to restaurant owners, who are able to give our products the right value.
The various niche products in our district include ancient varieties of melons re-discovered by agricultural institutes.
Lambrusco Viadanese is also a typical product of our territory but the grapes needed to make it tend to have mould problems and are therefore not produced in huge quantities.
If we think that corn produces 50 quintals per hectare, while organic corn only produces 20, you can understand immediately that organically farmed corn has to be more expensive.
How can more bio food awareness be created?
At the moment, awareness starts with being sensitive to sustainability. Taking another look at our consumption and urging the authorities to make ethical choices should be a collective duty in order to contain climate change, the effects of pollution and deforestation that are creating so many problems for production.
Today’s consumers must also try to be more aware of their food choices, firstly to keep in good health. This can be done initially by creating transparent labels with clear details about the products. Ours show the product components, place of production and give the company’s contacts, thus making it more responsible for the production process.