Newcomer organic farmers and the ‘new rurality’: multifunctional rural development pathways in the Italian Alps

Authors: Simona Zollet*, Hiroshima University
Topics: Rural Geography, Agricultural Geography, Mountain Environments
Keywords: newcomer organic farmers, urban-to-rural migration, rural development, marginal rural areas, multifunctionality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Wilson A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over the past decades the number of small farms, especially those located in areas not suita-ble for intensive agricultural production, has been steadily declining, often to the detriment of the cultural landscape, the socio-economic viability of local communities and the environmental ser-vices provided by low-intensity farming. This process has been occurring in Europe as well as in other countries, such as the US and Japan. Despite an ongoing trend of agricultural abandonment and dwindling farming populations, however, a phenomenon of urban-to-rural or rural-to-rural migration is becoming increasingly evident. Many of these in-migrants – who usually come from non-farming families – choose to engage in organic farming or other forms of sustainable agricul-ture, either on a full-time or a part-time basis. Their farms often develop along strongly multifunc-tional pathways, not only in terms of diversification but also in relation to the provision of non-commodity services such as landscape and environmental quality and the maintenance of tangible or intangible cultural assets. This study focuses on a sample of 20 newcomer organic farmers in the Belluno province (Italian Alps) and examines the role they play in increasing the multifunctional ‘quality’ of the territory and community they are embedded in. It focuses on three aspects: a) landscape care; b) strengthening of producer-consumer relationships; and c) preservation or redis-covery of local cultural assets. The research also addresses how these components are affecting ongoing processes of rural change at the local level in the face of multiple – and often contrasting – possible development pathways.

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