Take care of the earth

words: Rita Brugnara e Rosalia Caimo Duc

A passage from the story published in Dispensa n. 12, December 2020

“I like talking about supply chain and philia because both are a part of me. I have a good relationship with those who come here to the farmstead for my rice and don’t just buy it, but want to know why I chose to cultivate it, and how I cultivate it. I have a good relationship with those who write about and tell the story of my work, and I have a good relationship with my distributors. In my–in our–supply chain, the work is collective. And this is the difference. Supply chains normally serve to trace the history of an agricultural product. They provide information about who produced it, who processed it, and who sold it. This sequence is cold, because it lacks a heart. It lacks philia: the relationship between those who produce, the farmers, and the individuals who buy the end product. My rice contains myself and all the people who work with me. Since we farm according to the principles of permaculture, we can say that we grow rice in a field. In the winter, when everything else is barren, the rice paddies are green meadows. In the spring we sow: the harrows make tiny cuts in the field, they curry it like a horse. They wake it up. I love this expression. And into each of these cuts the seeds are dropped. Then comes the water to cover them. Rice is an aquatic plant: it germinates while others slowly rot. We don’t plow the land and we don’t use fertilizers, even those of the organic variety. Our focus is wholly on the water, which must be kept in constant movement. The acquaiolo is the person who supervises the water. He knows the slope of the terrain and every ditch and channel where the water flows. In my rice is my story. Not many people are interested in looking beyond the end product. So they don’t see that behind it is the soil, the farm laborers who work it with dedication, and the farmers who organize their work. Work, work. Let’s call it “caretaking.” By cultivating it, this human supply chain takes care of the earth, nurtures it, and it reciprocates by offering its fruit. For me, caretaking is a strongly feminine practice, it’s a part of us, a part of women. But people have a short memory. They’re blinded by the masculine mentality that wants and demands power exclusively for itself. We women are born to nurture.   Farm workers and farmers are intermediaries between the earth and the community. This is an art, and we are artists. Mine, ours, is refined, absolutely creative work. And without it, we wouldn’t have anything to eat. The soil doesn’t respond to just anyone. Only to those who communicate with it, and work it with care. Agriculture is the heart, the center of life. There is no future without it. Yet there is rarely any recognition for the roles of the farmer and farm worker. They’re looked down on, marginalized, neglected. It’s farmland that’s unpopular, it evokes hard labor, sweat, unpredictable–but certainly low–gains. People think farming and the countryside aren’t worth it”.  


Photo di Nicola Santoro