It has been an overwhelming month.
One month ago, the Italian government had just instated the national lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19, and it was putting together an economic emergency package to help families and businesses cope in the first wave of the crisis. A few days later, it would shutdown entire parts of the economy, only to further restrict a week later the types of supply chains that could remain open and operational. The number of Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths was climbing quickly and decisively.
A month later, it is hard to say whether we have gotten used to a “new normal” as many things still hang in that balance, waiting for indications about what will happen next. The measures taken to contain the spread seem to be having the intended effects, but it is unclear how our lives will be changed in the short-, mid- and long-term.
Here on the farm we are operating at full speed ahead. Never has our purpose as a farm been so clear and so important. For obvious reasons, the agricultural sector and supply chains are not only allowed to remain open and operational, but they have to in order to ensure the food supply. We are working hard to grow food that nourishes people.
The “growing food” part of our purpose continues, almost unchanged. The seeds planted this past fall and winter are growing into organic crops that we will start harvesting in June. We are in the final phases of field preparation before we plant our organic rice fields in May. Spring is here, and all of the work that goes along with tending to crops is not – and cannot – stop. The change for us has been in the adoption of new safety measures and procedures, consistent with Covid-19 containment requirements.
The “nourishing people” part of our purpose has been completely rethought and overturned. Our informal mantra on the farm these days is, “get the rice to the people.” We have been working what feels like nonstop to ensure that people are fed. We are doing this through two new initiatives, set up in the past few weeks.
The first initiative is “Maremma a Domicilio,” a home delivery service that I created with the local chapter of the young farmers association. Eight of us young farmers decided to put together a home delivery service for our products because many people either cannot leave their homes or prefer not to go to the supermarket. In ten days, we set up from scratch a website, a product and logistics hub, and a delivery network to make sure that people in Italy and, now, the rest of Europe can receive our products at home. Ten percent of the proceeds are being donated to the Italian Red Cross, and we are working on making an official e-commerce site to improve operations. Every day except Sunday, the eight of us get on the phone and work through ideas and problems, and build the project.
The second initiative is focused on helping families that are in a really tough spot economically. Every week until the crisis is “over,” we are donating rice to local families through an initiative organized by the city of Grosseto and a couple of local non-profit organizations. This past week we also donated a large amount of rice to the Italian Civil Protection Service, which is operating at the frontlines of the crisis throughout the country.
Through this work and in this time of crisis, our greater purpose has come into focus. Despite the physical distancing, we are able to make sure that people have food. That food, that act of growing food and providing food, creates connection between individuals, and between people and the land. Our purpose, more than ever, is to build community. It just happens that as a farm, our way of building community is through the production and provision of good food.
I don’t know what will happen over the next month. Nature teaches us that where there is death, there will come new life, and that where there is new life, there will inevitably, one day, come death. In this time of great sadness, fear, and anxiety, here at Tenuta San Carlo we show up every day to farm in the hopes of contributing our small piece to the rebuilding and strengthening of our communities.