Marina Tomarro – Vatican City
A partnership was born many years ago, toward the beginning of the 1900s to be exact, which is still not over. Rather, it is always renewing itself and evolving into a stronger and larger reality, with deeper and more durable roots. The story of the Fornovecchino Farm in Montefiascone, in the province of Viterbo, was born from a deep love for the earth. This is what drove its founder, Claudio Pagliaccia, to discover the peasant origins of his large family.
Nourishing others with love
“We have been farmers for generations”, Claudio recounts. “My great-grandfather had an enormous plot of land that he would survey on horseback. Then all those acres were slowly reduced and divided, handed down from father to son, up to my father. By that time the plot was too small to think of eking out a living by working the land. So he gave up that idea. It was us kids who really wanted to return to our roots”. Claudio then decided to take another step further than his brothers. Not only would he cultivate the earth, he would also transform everything into producing a product capable of nourishing others with love.
“In 1994”, Pagliaccia continues, “I had already founded the farm, but I decided to take another step and transform it into an organic farm. From that moment, I began to see positive effects from this different type of farming – what happens when chemicals are not used. After that, I began promoting it in order to become an example for other food producers. I began to ask myself if we do not adopt sustainable forms of farming now, how much of a burden will it be to the Earth? If fact, if we continue to impoverish the land and ceaselessly consume what the land gives us, we will reach a point when it will no longer sustain us. By carrying out conscious farming instead on a global level, we can safeguard creation. But we need to work together”.
Claudio doesn’t stop at organic. His search went further to the recovery of things at their origin. And so, he broadened his study toward grains created by nature itself, which are capable of defending themselves from infesting weeds. “The ancient grains that I recovered”, he emphasizes, “are seeds born spontaneously, that have adapted themselves, it is part of their nature and that of the soil where they are cultivated. They are able to defend themselves naturally from parasites, so chemicals are not necessary”.
Pope Francis, in his Encyclical, Laudato si’, reflected on the theme of environmental education. “Whereas in the beginning it was mainly centred on scientific information, consciousness-raising and the prevention of environmental risks”, the Pope wrote, “it tends now to include a critique of the ‘myths’ of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset. It seeks also to restore the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God”.
One big family
Little by little as the years went by, Claudio’s farm expanded. As a result, the need for employees grew as well. Once again the idea was sparked of creating something new, beyond the normal employer/employees relationship. “When I began in 2005”, Pagliaccia continues the story, “my wife and I were alone. Then the project expanded. We immediately decided not to introduce machinery but to avail ourselves of manual labor. It was also an ethical choice because we wanted to provide jobs to as many people as possible and thus create one big family. There would be no determined time schedules but a project to carry forward, where everyone could complete their various chores serenely at the times most convenient for them. For example, if I have a family commitment today, I come an hour later and perhaps stay a little after in the evening. This fosters the creation of bonds, just like in a large family in which everyone is united even outside of work. I believe that rediscovering this human interaction is maybe the greatest goal I have achieved”.
The family dimension of the work grew precisely out of Claudio’s childhood memories with his grandparents who would tell stories in the evening after work was finished when everyone would gather together in the courtyard around the fire to share what had happened during the day. “It truly was one big family”, Pagliaccia explains”. “There were six or seven families who lived together on the farm. I wanted to recover that style a bit because it was fundamental to me to rediscover precisely the human aspect, and not solely to produce or to make money”.
An economy connected to the individual
Along the lines of an economy at the service of the human person and not the other way around, Pope Francis’s teaching echoes once again. “In these times in which we live”, Claudio reflects”, “human dignity and ethics have been trampled on. Some people are enriched on the backs of others and this is truly an expression of human weakness. Instead, we should arrive at the condition in which we are all equal. People should not have to suffer. If someone has everything they need, they should learn to share what they have with others. And I believe that this gives more satisfaction at the end of a hard day’s work”.