Reactivating the edible landscape in Pacentro, Italy
A project to inspire conscious participation in food cultivation and preparation.
The edible landscape of Pacentro is home to three autochthonous varieties of figs and a large number of plants with medicinal qualities. The people of Pacentro have a creation story related to the Majella mountain and the Goddess Maja, who is responsible for the abundance of medicinal plants.
The school in Pacentro was designed for the community, by the community. The school mensa and didactic gardens will be an integral component in our Food System Vision 2050. Source credit: laboratorio di architecture di partecipata
The goats of Alla Casa Vecchia, waiting to be milked. They will be a part of the 2050 Food System Vision through various programs that engage community members and support the livelihood of people involved in food production, such as an "adopt a goat" program.
A workshop at Alla Casa Vecchia teaching a group from Slow Food Peligna Valley about transhumance and the process of cheesemaking in Pacentro.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Dea Maja, S.A.S.
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Farmer Co-op or Farmer Business Organization
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Virginia Sciore (co-creator); Comune di Pacentro (local government); Scuola Pacentro (elementary and middle school); Proloco Pacentro (community organizing and cultural heritage); local food producers; Il Parco Nazionale della Majella (conservation and tourism); Università di Scienze Gastronomiche.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Pacentro is a small village in the L'Aquila province of Abruzzo— nestled within the Majella National Park of the Apennine mountains.
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The lead applicant and key stakeholders of this vision participate in the existing food system of Pacentro.
My great-grandparents emigrated from Pacentro in 1956 with my grandfather, after their farmland had been destroyed by Nazi occupation during World War II. I grew up alongside my great-grandmother, an avid storyteller, who shared her lived experiences of Pacentro.
In 2018, I was awarded a Fulbright grant to pursue a master's degree at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. As a part of my thesis, I spent three months in Pacentro developing a deeper connection to people and place as well as co-envisioning the future of our community food system.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
The urban center of Pacentro is delimitated by different architectural development throughout time, but the territorial breadth extends to 7,200 Hectares. The village reaches an altitude of 690 meters above sea-level and rises to 2,778 meters.
The architectural rendering to build a school campus with didactic gardens, construction began 2019 and is projected to be completed in 2020. Source credit: laboratorio di architecture di partecipata
An annual community event to honor the shepherds of the Majella and valorize their products in Pacentro such as: cheese, cured meats, gelato, and yogurt. Transhumance, the traditional farming practice of seasonal migration, is represented on UNESCO's list of of intangible cultural heritage as of December 2019.
I Pastori Della Majella 2019 featured a documentary highlighting the shepherds in Pacentro and an art exhibit about the material culture of cheesemaking.
An annual event that our Food Systems Visions leverages to amplify participation in food production and cultivation (Seed Exchange, Battitura dei fagioli, Plant Literacy, Meet the Farmers, etc.). The recipe for Polta, a traditional dish of Pacentro, is a great example of a planetary plate suggested by the 2019 EAT-Lancet report because it incorporates beans, potatoes and cabbage as a staple. Source credit: Proloco Pacentro
Cooking traditional meat products for a community food event with Fulvio of Proloco and Mia of frances. Source credit: Un Mese in Pacentro, Augusto Di Cesare
The act of gathering Cytisus scoparius was not illegal at the time this photo was captured but now the activity is illegal which visually describes the interaction of the Majella National Park since 1991. It further demonstrates the intimate link with seasonality and spirituality because this flower can only be picked on one holy day each year.
Pacentro is internationally recognized for the 570 year old barefoot race down one of our three mountains, La Corsa Degli Zingari, that is celebrated every September. This event along others draws a lot of visitors to the town. Pacentro is also known as the birthplace of the singer Madonna's parents. Source credit: Lost in Abruzzo magazine
Each day the three principal piazzas ebb and flow with people— these communal meeting spaces serve as habitual meeting spots, market points, and festive event venues for the pedestrian design of the village. Flourishing with a humble 1,200 inhabitants, the community is predominantly represented by an aging population as a result of socioeconomic emigration factors.
Pacentro is categorized as a rural area by FAO in Italy. In regards to the local ecology, there are four seasons and the average annual precipitation is 676.0 mm; whereas, the average temperature is 10.7°C.
One of the four villages located within the Majella National Park, the park is the youngest in Italy as it was just established in 1991. It is currently a candidate for the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. The biodiversity found within the Majella represents 65% of the flora and fauna in Abruzzo, and 30% of flora in Italy as well as 17% of the flora in Europe. Abruzzo is denoted as “the greenest region in Europe” because it is the largest living landscape that is protected in the European Union, as more than one third of the region is national parkland.
This vision for our food system in 2050 is catalyzed by the research that demonstrates a link between linguistic diversity and biodiversity. According to the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, there are thirty one endangered languages in Italy— the dialect spoken in Pacentro is a variation of the Neapolitan dialect, which is listed as a vulnerable language. Considering the rich biodiversity in Pacentro, it is in our best interest to dialogue about preserving the information that is encoded in the dialect.
Pacentro is a village that thrives thanks to community; the yearly calendar with 28 events usually revolving around food is testimony to this support. There is a great deal of agro-biodiversity in the dominant crops grown thanks to the traditional knowledge of our farmers. The Slow Food Presidia project recognizes Sulmona's purple garlic and the Solina wheat varieties that grow in our valley. We have other protected plants such as genziana growing in the area and orapi that flourishes in our high altitude.
Even though Pacentrani live in a landscape abundant with edible species, they also have other means to acquire food. The community has one central, family owned food market and a butcher. There are three shepards that sell their cheese in town and two specialty stores that sell typical products made in the region of Abruzzo. Consumers can choose from five small restaurants and four coffee bars. The community members have access to large chain grocery stores and a large farmers market in the nearby town of Sulmona. A weekly produce truck drives through the narrow streets on Tuesday and a small farmers market that sets up in the main piazza on Wednesday and Sunday.
Pacentro's social life is characterized by seasonal migration because families left after World War II and seek to return in the summer for vacation or family visits. The people that truly live in Pacentro hope that younger generations will want to stay and make a life in Pacentro.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
E N V I R O N M E N T
The mountainous terrain is inherent to the practice of transhumance but it also can be perceived as a challenge and arable land can be difficult to reach.The arid environment in 2050 will challenge us to think about conserving water resources. We also face a challenge in promoting soil health and pollinators as there are no beekeepers in Pacentro. One challenge that we anticipate by 2050 more people migrating to our area, especially as climate refugees. Pacentro suffered damage from the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, so we focus on earthquake resiliency.
D I E T
The diets in Pacentro are resembling a globalized diet that ignores the edible potential of the landscape. This arose with emigration because we experienced a lack of generational knowledge transfer. This challenge will persist if we do not find ways to learn from community members in dialogue with the natural landscape.
To live in communion with each other, we must learn to operate from a deep study in place and from a perspective of abundance, ask ourselves, what is already here?
E C O N O M I C S
Community members want the ability to welcome sustainable tourism but recognize that this presents a tension environmentally. The current challenge of Pacentro’s food system is incentivizing people to live here. The future challenge of the food system will be developing, transitioning to and sustaining a circular economy that benefits all community members.
C U L T U R E
Biodiversity is connected to linguistic diversity; we must find creative ways to interpret our landscape because the dialect spoken in Pacentro is vulnerable to extinction. If we are able to communicate cross-culturally about our ecosystem and the edible plants within it, we will promote biodiversity.
Our recipes reflect ecological stewardship and we hope to continue events such as community dinners hosted by Proloco. Historically, our traditional recipes align with the EAT-Lancet plate recommendations — our challenge occurs within the need to educate about reducing meat consumption.
T E C H N O L O G Y
In Pacentro we currently struggle with negotiating innovation and tradition. We know that we need to preserve traditional methods, but also recognize that innovation can help us.
P O L I C Y
Currently we face the challenge of land usage and rights because we live within a national park. This presents great opportunities for us because everyone has to respect organic growing principles in the area, but some families lost their land when the park incorporated in 1991. There is bureaucracy associated with pursuing agricultural activity in the park. Another challenge for us now and into 2050 is the abandoned land in Pacentro. Especially the ability to access this land for new farmers that want to regenerate agricultural activities. Furthermore, food safety laws make it difficult for small producers to profit from some traditional products.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
E N V I R O N M E N T
The environmental challenges posed by climate breakdown will inspire our Food System Vision to support current community members that cultivate land while creating space to educate and welcome new farmers.
To face the challenge of accessibility, it will be imperative to reclaim public spaces in the center of town and transition them into community growing spaces. This will accommodate the growing elderly population in Pacentro as well provide a platform to engage residents and tourists about the food we grow and eat.
The project frances will address all of these challenges by empowering community members to grow, cook, reflect, learn and teach. For example, we will implement rain barrels and educate about our water sources while initiating apiculture in the public gardens. Permaculture design will allow us to be responsible stewards when needing to utilize water for our plants.
D I E T
Focusing on the mensa of the new school will allow students to translate what they learn in the didactic gardens to a nutritious, delicious meal. This project is inspired by the presence of the Academic Tables at UNISG because the mensa will source all local products and mainly from the gardens. The principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability will shine as students share meals with each-other.
E C O N O M I C S
Our Food System Vision challenge will allow us to continue working with the four shepherds, such as Giocondo and Virginia, of Alla Casa Vecchia that participate in this important practice as well as recruit new shepherds to continue and innovate the tradition.
C U L T U R E
Deepening community engagement in our events hosted by Proloco Pacentro will address the deficit of generational knowledge transfer.
Developing a foraging application, inspired by VILD MAD, will directly answer the call to interpret the nuances of plant biodiversity expressed in the dialect spoken in Pacentro.
T E C H N O L O G Y
To respond to our need for earthquake resilience, frances will host architects, urban planners, thinkers, students, and teachers to plan future projects to secure our medieval architecture and farming structures.
If the Majella is recognized as a UNESCO Geopark, we will need to provide eco-friendly transportation options to Sulmona and up into the national park area. We will need to transition our buses to biofuel such as The Biodiesel program at Loyola University Chicago.
P O L I C Y
We will continue a dialogue with the Majella National Park that prioritizes the lives of the community members that live in the territory. As well as create opportunities with the Comune of Pacentro for new farmers to acquire or at least work on land that is abandoned.
Farmers, such as Angelo Angelilli of Progetto Salvalaterra, will be able to help as we incentivize community members to reclaim the territory and use resources in a sustainable way.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
May 11, 2050: field notes
Mornings begin in the gardens, checking on the beehives and working with the land. Today, Gianluca is hosting a meeting to prune olive trees and exploring companion plants surrounding the groves. We have the important reminder to check our rain barrels because Earth in our hemisphere continues to dry.
In the morning we also fire up our bread ovens, help community members pass their pasta madre and rotate the baking schedule. As kids are off to school they collect bread, dried goods, spring vegetables and fruits to fill the mensa. Teachers spend time outside in the didactic gardens and students are excited about foraging orapi. Our population has increased to 4,000 inhabitants because people feel empowered to stay. We still feed everyone thanks to our land-workers and supplement from our didactic gardens.
As the flowers bloom, five new shepherds practice transhumance. All of the current shepherds followed alongside those before them. Our community members are creating many delicious milk products thanks to their dedication and creativity inspired by Virginia.
Community members interested in moving their bodies are already on their bikes or walking through town. There are no cars to worry about these days— just the bus that comes three times each day. We are so proud to be powering it with biofuel converted from cooking oil. A lot of people are learning about our transition to a circular economy here in Pacentro.
Pacentro still hosts a lot of the original calendar events, but we added a lot more and they look so different since 2019. Tonight frances is hosting an heirloom seed bingo. We reflect often and prepare reports to share big learning moments— it is gratifying to know people feel as if they participate in food preparation and cultivation with a deeper consciousness.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
A quick outline of our FSV 2050 goals.
The outline continued.
One of the challenges identified in the design of the current food system manifests in the lack of urban
spaces that are promoting the link between the food and environment. Our Food System Vision for 2050 hopes to reclaim public spaces and expand accessible edible landscapes for the community.
The mensa of the new school and didactic garden are integral to our Food System Vision for 2050. Source credit: Laboratorio di Architettura Partecipata
Transhumance at Alla Casa Vecchia is a foundational part of our 2050 Food System Vision because transhumance contributes to our biodiversity and is linked to our culture in many facets. Source credit: Andrea Calvano
Didactic beehives will be in the gardens of frances such as those seen at mielithun.
Proposed calendar of events at frances. The programming moves according to seasonality and exalts aspects of the dialect and spirituality that are embedded in these events.
The space designated for frances, the workshop is directly across from the hopeful location of the green piazza that will be a community garden.
A basic systems vision map to visualize a shift to a circular economy.
Our Food System Vision for 2050 reactivate the edible landscape of Pacentro and inspire conscious participation in food cultivation and preparation. As the physical construction of the school concludes, we will begin working with the soil designated for the didactic gardens of the school. Our vision is to develop a curriculum to guide our exploration in the didactic garden, classroom and mensa. The school’s canteen, or mensa, would be to provide nourishing lunches with products exclusively grown by farmers in Pacentro, forged in our edible landscape, didactic garden, community garden, the fruit orchard of frances and baked in our community ovens.
Access to meals that are aligned with seasonality and the edible landscape of Pacentro will hopefully spark creativity through taste education and allow students to practice embodiment. This will eliminate the negative impacts of a globalized diet rich in corporate, processed food items as well strengthen students’ storytelling skills by teaching different traditional recipes and foodways. Students will also witness the support that can derive from working with the land and participate in food activities they might not have ever considered, such as shepherding or making cheese.
We already have access to the land designated to become a fruit orchard, but we will need to begin planting and pollinating. We hope to host seed exchanges to facilitate this new beginning. Our 2050 vision requires us to reclaim the green space central to town to create a community garden open to all.
This garden will be a new green piazza with the intention of being educational and serve as a reminder that we live in a truly edible landscape. The green space in mind is wheelchair accessible and friendly for all ages to connect with nature. Our vision requires us to being beekeeping in the green piazza, fruit orchard and school’s didactic garden.
The vision extends to beginning the project frances. frances will remain a hub for facilitating systems thinking, growing, creating and innovating so that we can continue working towards our goal for the 2050 food system. We will need a consistent space for brainstorming and approaching our work because we are just trying our best to anticipate what future generations will need, but truly can never know. We feel confident in creating a vision that is reflexive and able to adjust by meeting our community members where they are.
There is physical space for frances, we just need to outfit it with a minimal, functioning kitchen and working bathrooms so that we can host workshops, events, and dinners lead by community members. One example of programming that frances would like to host is warming up the community bread ovens of Pacentro to reignite the tradition of bread making. Pacentro has large ovens that could be unearthed to support bread making workshops and supply the community with fresh, long chain fermented breads and baked goods. In Pacentro, our grandparents shared stories about circulating a mother yeast/sourdough starter with neighbors every ten days. This practice perpetuates the values and principles that we would like to emulate to reach our vision.
We recognize that our vision needs to focus on new ways to close Pacentro’s energetic circle by focusing on waste and compost. The project frances and the Comune will help us reach consensus about ways to promote zero waste and healthier soil.
Our plan for the school’s mensa and didactic gardens take priority but once we are confident with these foundations of our food system, we can dive deeper and expand into mindfulness programs. The project frances will be a pillar of the community that allows people to meditate and reflect on various topics by using food as the modality for this reflection. It will address many of the challenges identified in 2020 as well as those projected into 2050. Taking into consideration the "Theory of a finite pool of worry," our vision hopes that if we can displace one of our worries then we are able to explore other aspects of the world. Nourishment is one of the worries that we will displace with our community meals, and we will allow our dinner dialogues to bring together minds to address some of the challenges facing our future as a community.
The final aspect of frances is hosting an artist residency. An artist residency would incorporate newer generations into the vision and foster a space for creativity and innovation in our relationship to the edible landscape. For example, we have access to an olive grove and we would like to use this land to teach people about olive cultivation and reclaiming abandoned land to make value added products. There is potential to catalyze creative projects such as making wild wine with abandoned grape vines or collecting the overabundance of figs that fall in town to share. An artist residency that focuses on the edible landscape of Pacentro will feed people new ideas as well as emphasize the culture in agriculture. We can look to other great projects such as Arteparco in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise or Ostuni Green Riot in Puglia.
Our Food Systems vision will address the link between biodiversity and linguistic diversity in Pacentro by creating an application similar to VILD MAD, as seen in their FSV 2050 submission titled “The MAD Academy: Environmental Innovation via Chef-Led Change.” VILD MAD “is a comprehensive and free resource for the public to learn about and explore nature through wild food.” “The initiative comprises an app in Danish and in English, a website, a curriculum for Danish schools, and foraging workshops offered by fifty rangers across Denmark.” In a similar fashion we would like to create something that allows community members and visitors to engage with our edible landscape that transcends different languages. There is a lot of information encoded in the dialect that we would like to interpret to a standard Italian and English. If the saying goes “eat me, save me,” we can expand that definition to parallel “speak me, save me”
Applying the knowledge and edible items gathered through a foraging program in our national park, we can utilize frances as a space to cook, process and preserve. Cooking is an engagement with the wild and unruly aspects of the world. This type of activity serves to remind us that food is precious and it may one of our last connections to nature— it is our responsibility to leverage this connection and inspire ecological stewardship. As less people cook their own food let alone grow their own food, these goals for our food system will help strengthen relationships and food literacy.
Our Food Vision for 2050 will allow us to create a network of cooperative farming by linking together everyone already working the land and extending to groups such as Consorzio TerraViva in Sulmona and Rete Semi Rurali throughout Italy. We hope to create shorter supply chains and source the local butcher and market with products that grow in Pacentro as well as increase our community presence at the farmers market in Sulmona. We hope to apply to host our own Slow Food market or help more producers routinely offer their products in Pacentro’s weekly market.
To address our current and future challenge of training folks to continue the legacy of transhumance, it will be important to support local producers such as Alla Casa Vecchia. We can help Alla Casa Vecchia implement programs such as “adopt a goat” as seen at La Porta Dei Parchi or host popularized events that bring visitors closer to animals such as "goat yoga." Another opportunity we have to valorize the work is to supply all the local restaurants and cafe bars with gelato prepared from the raw goat’s milk of the town shepherds instead of sourcing pre-made gelato from larger corporations.
As identified in our challenges, we look to incoming community members that are displaced from climate breakdown as an opportunity to embrace a larger community and learn about new food cultures. We will emphasize the need to protect and support women that are involved in food cultivation and preparation. Our vision is dedicated to stewarding the land and relationships. It would be an honor to pursue and develop this Food System Vision towards 2050; the support would allow us to celebrate the biodiversity that was cultivated by our ancestors’ land stewardship and offer a similar gift to future generations.
SOURCE: “VILD MAD.” The MAD Feed, www.madfeed.co/vild-mad/. Accessed January 12, 2020.
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