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Social Farming for Sustainable Development

The sustainability is the process of interaction between the economic system and the social territory

Photo of Gian Luca Bagnara

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Cà Colonna srl società agricola

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.

IFAMA – International Food and Agribusiness Management Association ( ); Business@Biodiversity (Europena Commission) ; Global Forum of Agricultural Reserch – GFAR (FAO: ); Carta di Cancun (2016) “Business and Biodiversity Pledge” CBD- Convention on Biological Diversity ( ); National Forum on Social Farming ( ); CeDRA Extension Service of Agri-Food Tecnhology University of Bologna (; Casa Artusi (; Accademia Nazionale di Agricoltura (

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

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?

Province of Forlì-Cesena in the Romagna area (Province of Forlì-Cesena; Province of Ravenna; Province of Rimini)

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

rural area: agriculture organized in vertically integrated value-chains and cooperatives. Close connection between agriculture and Italian traditional receipts (Artusi's book: Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well - Published in 1891

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.

Description of the rural-urban relationship of the province of Forlì-Cesena. Main features:

- High quality of life and positive demographic flow due to immigration, not only in urban but also in rural areas (“hill country”)
- Significance of agriculture with a Value Added higher than the national average (3.3% in the Province versus 1.8% in Italy)
- Agricultural production linked to other economic activities in both manifacturing and service industry

- Important history of comparatively high social capital facilitates economic relationships (both competitive and cooperative). Such confidence guides the cooperation processes among both private and public stakeholders

- The goal of the partnership is to increase research activities within the firms along the entire production chain, allowing the whole territory to be linked to the market
- It involves the complete system of production, different economic sectors (agriculture; R&D; manufacturing; advanced communication services) and different urban and rural areas within the integrated territory of Forlì-Cesena


- The goal of the partnership is to promote the supply of tourist services integrated into the territory and related with agriculture, landscape and cultural and historic heritage
- Farmers have been incentivized to make their structures available for visits by tourists – such structures were previously used for production only – that allowed farmers diversify their activities and helped strengthen territorial identity
- Cultural and historical heritage has been restored and made accessible for tourist in both rural and urban areas


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.

Value-chain innovations, focused more on process development than on product development, are designed to develop sustainable business models by addressing context-specific issues that meet both economic and social objectives.  Responsible innovation is increasingly being viewed by firms as a corporate and strategic necessity to ensure long-term sustainability. Thus, social agriculture is characterized by a multifunctional role combining the traditional productive function with the ability to generate benefits for vulnerable people. Providing innovative services, it can effectively respond to the crisis of traditional social assistance systems and the growing demand for personalization and qualification of social and cultural services.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Cà Colonna is an innovative agricultural start-up with a social vocation. It aims at organizing and innovating an integrated and sustainable agri-food supply chain for both the environment and the social role. The first investments have already been made to fine-tune agricultural production in an innovative way: recovery and reintroduction of biodiversity such as alimurgic herbs and ancient grains; land settlement with the introduction of precision farming and new techniques for the irrigation system. Food products have been made from agricultural raw materials such as the Italian traditional recipes of Artusi’s book: the first book of Italian recipes. The whole production is carried out in a social agricultural supply chain with the collaboration of social cooperatives for the inclusion of people with fragilities. The first disciplinary of agricultural-social production was adopted.

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.

Older local population but more integrated with immigrants leading to a contamination and then integration of food cultures

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our dreams about the potential of our projected idea towards 2050 focus on a very tight integration between agricultural production and culture: moving from the production of agricultural commodities to an integrated supply chain aimed at exporting agro-gastronomic culture and lifestyle.

That is the Romagna (territory of Artusi) agro-food experience and the deep bond between food, landscape, identity and culture (from farming to social-farming). Food and culture, as an inspiration for a life's work: ;
To implement our social agricultural supply chain we have to invest in food education, instead of a simple marketing, as the best defence against low-quality industrial foodstuffs and production scams, in addition to the protection of local cuisine, traditional methods of production and preparation, and the protection of plant and animal species at risk of extinction.

The Italian cultural heritage, including the gastronomic one, has in the capillary diffusion on the territory its fundamental and original character. Its irreducible local diversity constitutes its unparalleled richness.
Local identity continues to be a fundamental element of national identity. The two things do not contradict each other, on the contrary they reinforce each other. Ideas about tradition and authenticity have been crucial in the success and to a certain extent the idealization of a social agri-food value-chain. Indeed, cooking is the true common language of Italians. This is largely due to Pellegrino Artusi and his book "Science in the Kitchen".

Thus, Romagna of the 2050 will export life style through agro-food, based on Artusi's recipes, not just the current agricultural products or agri-foodstuffs. How we see our social agriculture supply chain in 2050 ? simply, the future has its roots in our traditions but with Innovation to make the social agri-food value-chain to stand out:

Diet+Technology: FoodOmic approach. 

connecting agro-environment and human physiology. Researchers have to face the possibility of connecting food components, foods, the diet, the individual, the health, and the diseases, but this broad vision needs not only the application of advanced technologies, but mainly the ability of looking at the problem with a different approach, a ‘‘foodomics approach’’. 

Foodomics is the comprehensive, high-throughput approach for the exploitation of food science in the light of an improvement of human nutrition, the optimization of human health and well-being. Thus the agricultural production will be integrated into a discipline that studies the Food and Nutrition domains through the application and integration of advanced -omics technologies to improve consumer's well-being, health, and knowledge. In an economic vision, not only agricultural products will be produced but an integrated supply chain with human well-being, that is, a lifestyle

Environment + Economics: Culture for the socio-economic development of urban and rural areas. Research and Development for the conservation of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change

Agricultural biodiversity is a source of nutritious foods which are culturally acceptable and often adapted to local and low-input agricultural systems. It is also a source of important traits for breeding climate-tolerant, nutritious crops and animal breeds

Thus, the relationship between businesses and biodiversity includes: a) business dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services as inputs to business activities; b) business impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services as outputs of business activities.

The sustainability can be considered as an approach to the whole agro-food system leading to a concept of food sovereignty where the profile of consumer is substitute with the concept of citizen. Citizen have the rights to the food sovereignty that is to healthy and culturally appropriate produce through sustainable methods.

Consequently, food sovereignty and agroecology require the reconnection of the concepts of food and agriculture beyond geographical distance. Adopting a territorial approach to evaluate the agrifood system allows identifying the diversity of social actors and institutions involved in food production redesign the interdependencies in a virtuous way.

Briefly, sustainable agroecological models, including agro-biodiversity, need to be developed and embedded in an enabling socio-political and economic context leading to the concept of corporate responsibility. However, responsibility is viewed as a negative or costly externality of natural and social environment to the entrepreneurship, thus a positive and more challenging perspective is the notion of corporate value as an intangible asset the enterprise.

Technology + Culture in Genetics: Evolutive populations. 

The industrial type of agriculture, of which genetically modified crops are the most recent aspect, led to an extension of monocultures, to a significant loss of agro-biodiversity and to accelerated soil erosion. Resilience and sustainability must be designed to replace the productivist paradigm and, thus, better support the full realization of the right to adequate food. Thus, evolutionary plant breeding consists in planting in farmers’ field mixtures (evolutionary populations) of very many different genotypes of the same crop, preferably, but not necessarily, using early segregating generations. This approach reconciles agro-biodiversity, sustainable production and adaptation to climate change as a result of the evolutionary process. 

Evolutive population will be based on selection of populations of antique varieties/species and wild /alimurgic herbs. Alimurgic herbs or Herbs for survival. The Florentine medical doctor Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti back to 1767 was the first publication dealing with the use of vegetables to eat during famines. The work titled "De urgent food" and "Alimurgia" subtitle (De alimenti urgentia e sottotitolo Alimurgia), that is, how to reduce the famines proposed for the relief of populations. Alimurgic herbs are studied by the ethnobotany  that is the study of a region's plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a local culture and people. The local customs involves the practical uses of local flora for many aspects of life, such as plants as medicines, foods, and clothing. The popular traditions regarding wild food plants in North Italy is progressively lost because they are not handed down to new generations anymore, so that young people should acquire more information regarding wild edibles that characterized the diet of their forebears.

Economics + Culture: Cultural Heritage and Food as foundations of cultural identity

Rural Territory as a Community of consumers. The market will not be based on simple customers but on a community of cultural consumers. Community of food and biodiversity of agricultural and food-related are defined as food communities and biodiversity of agricultural and food interest. Operatively, they are local areas resulting from agreements between local farmers, farmers and keepers breeders, purchasing groups, schools and universities, research centres, associations for the protection of the quality of the biodiversity of agricultural and food-related, school canteens, hospitals, catering establishments, shops, small and medium-sized craft businesses of agriculture and food processing, as well as public bodies. That is biodiversity is not just a reserve but a value to be integrated into the socio-economic territory. 

UNESCO - social agri-food value-chain as intangible heritage of UNESCO. Cultural heritage includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life. The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. Thus, intangible cultural heritage is:

  • Traditional, contemporary and living at the same time: intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part;
  • Inclusive: we may share expressions of intangible cultural heritage that are similar to those practised by others. It contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of one or different communities and to feel part of society at large;
  • Representative: intangible cultural heritage is not merely valued as a cultural good, on a comparative basis, for its exclusivity or its exceptional value. It thrives on its basis in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities;
  • Community-based: intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it – without their recognition, nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website
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Attachments (2)


Theoretical model of social value-chain presented at the 2019 International Conference on Sustainable Development (Columbia University, New York, USA):

Cà Colonna_EN_abstract.pdf

presentation of Cà Colonna: agrifood value chain


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael Park

Hello Gian,
I would like to discuss with you, in more depth, the process of moving your vegetable products into the value-added category. Specifically, I'm interested in what it looked like to find the processor for the dehydration? Did that processor do the packaging as well? Was the marketing design done in-house or did you use and outside marketing firm? I am working with a producer co-op/food hub and I think we would like to move in the direction you took. If you aren't able to reach me on this platform my email is Please contact me if you would like to discuss things a little more. Your work is very interesting.


Photo of Gian Luca Bagnara

The production line is completed and integrated from farm to final product. The dehydration is based on a traditional procedure of South Italy with modern technology at a temperature of 60-70 Celsius and flow of air. We count on the support of company for marketing and comunication. We can develop business partnership in different market. My email:

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