Sillico, Italy

Food and Innovation in Rural Transition: the Tuscany case

when 29 June 2024 - 26 July 2024
language English
duration 4 weeks
credits 10 EC
fee EUR 1000

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 set up and operation of economic activities that are economically viable while being appropriate for, and able to valorise, 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, valorise 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 on sustainable rural transition while contributing to food provisioning.
In particular, the programme walks students along the investigation of five 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 synthesised as it follows:

1. Small farms, economic viability and socio-cultural suitability. This theme explores how small farms are organised 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 and non-local) expectations and needs (e.g. jobs and products for which there is demand of; practices of food provisioning and acquisition, in line with food traditions, local gastronomy and culture)

2. Small farms and social services. The social role of farming is increasingly recognised in the provision of ‘social’ services by the farm, either implicitly or explicitly. The case of agricultural realities that perform a social function explicitly, are defined as "social farms". Social farming refers both to entrepreneurial or voluntary initiatives (i.e. promoted by associations), or even by the public sector (e.g. for mental health services). All these realities pursue social purposes through the development of agricultural activities, in a broad sense (crops, breeding, transformation of products, farm holidays, sale of farm products, etc.), with the explicit aim of involving persons with special needs

3. 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 (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 purication, 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 and agroecosystem services

4. Small farms, sustainable tourism and territorial valorization. This theme explores how small farms contribute to creating opportunities for a sustainable, experiential and multiseasonal quality tourism sector. This theme includes analysis of rural tourism supply systems with particular reference to local production and agro-food supply chains and other traditional local products; multi-functionality and diversication of agriculture, agro-tourism, social agriculture, analysis of short supply chains

5. Small farms in a digitalizing society. Digital technologies can contribute to addressing important and urgent economic, social, climatic and environmental challenges facing the EU agri-food sector and rural areas. The role of digitalization, its characterization and the multiple impacts on farming and rural areas, will directly be discussed in part of the lectures.

These five themes will be elaborated and debated during the Programme on the base of a reflection on the specificities of small farming (definitions, characters, connections with their food system and their socio-economic 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.
The transition perspective adopted in the Programme leads to consider some basic conceptual elements that shape the current reflection of this issues, and an overview on some key policy goals providing bases of political action and scientic research supporting transitions.
The challenges posed by COVID in the last years make the above-mentioned issues particularly timely and urgent for rural areas, perhaps more than ever before.

Course leader

Prof. Roberta Moruzzo

Target group

EU and Non-EU students (University degree or Bachelor degree, Master degree) as well as PhD students

Course aim

The Summer School 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 transitions pathways able to meet medium and long-term societal concerns and emerging consumer demands. The Course will provide students engaged with agricultural and rural studies an immersive experience on the Tuscan territory, which provides interesting world-wide known examples of diversied rural development

Fee info

EUR 1000: tuition fees
EUR 700: accomodation


Available. Wrtie to the coordinator for further information.

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