While sightseeing can certainly make for some brag-worthy selfies in front of iconic places and historical relics, there is no substitute for genuine interaction and meaningful engagement with local people and culture. We spent the day today on an organic farm in Tuscany learning from local farmers and bio-agriculture experts about the farm-to-table production process of one of the staples of human existence, grains (read: bread and pasta!).
When the bus finally pulled over we found ourselves in a vast field of golden grains, dried crisp by the hot July sun and a gentle breeze. Luca, a local bio-agriculture farmer and founder of a zero-waste grain mill and food laboratory, greeted us with Francesco and they explained in detail the process of growing ancient grain. We also learned about the history of growing grain in the Tuscany region and the importance of protecting and cultivating ancient grains. Then we visited Luca’s food lab, A Terra, where he walked us through the entire process from grinding the grains to forming and drying the pasta in preparation for sale. We stopped at his organic food shop on our way back to the bus for a quick snack consisting of local meats, cheeses, and freshly baked scrocchiarelle (“bread crisps”). It was delicious! Luca was a wealth of knowledge and provided an excellent foundation for the rest of our farm to table day.
After our visit with Luca we headed to the farm, Barbialla Nuova. The farm is an incredible sprawling landscape where they grow or raise nearly everything they need to sustain and maintain the farm in a virtually closed loop (they produce, use, reuse, or recycle nearly everything!). The many wonders across the many acres of the farm include avocados and olive trees, truffle and wild boar hunting, cows and pigs, honey bees, and much more! Francesco, the director of agritourism at the farm, was a gracious host and prepared an abundant amount of fresh organic pizza! Gathered around a long table at the farm and before eating, we took a moment to reflect on the trip and our personal role as a member of our piccola famiglia (small family). Students shared which parts of our collective vision they contributed to (patience, fun, adventurous, respectful, good listener, helpful, etc.) and also shared a way in which they grew, and a “takeaway” or something they learned on the trip or would like to continue to work on. Finally, Joseph and Caroline presented each student with a limited edition National Geographic Student Expeditions patch. This group certainly earned this special Nat Geo swag! After group meeting and reflection it was time to eat and we were grateful to experience true farm-to-table first hand as we savored our homemade pizza fresh out of the brick oven! It was delicious and such an enriching learning experience!