Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Organic Mountain Farming in Val Germansca

Bella Baita View-
looking into Val Germansca
Recently we spent the day over the river and up the road in Val Germanasca, which is the mountain range that we gaze at every day from our balcony. Spring is such an incredible time of the year to explore in the mountains, as the greens are so varied as the forest leafs out. The wildflowers begin to make their way into the meadows in earnest and the hills are truly alive.
Since I started this post, the greens have moved on to luscious solid green and the wildflowers are plentiful and everywhere. We got busy here at the baita and I really haven't had time to catch my breath or gather my thoughts to share all of the interesting and fun things we have been up to, but I will back track a bit. Val Germansca has been hiding from us lately so it nice to share some of the mountains' charm with you from our visit to Franco Peyronel's organic mountain farming operation.

Farming is never easy, given the fact that farmers are held hostage to mother nature's mercurial temperament, but when you add some altitude, then you are upping the mercurial factor quite a few more notches. Franco's family have lived up around 1,000m (3,600ft) in the Gemanasca valley family for several generations, doing whatever it is you need to do to make a living and feed your family. There's never a shortage of things to do, projects in progress, animals to feed, milk, clean up after, or even butcher, crops to plant, harvest and put up for what can be some long, cold hard winters. Never a shortage of things to do.
Peyronel family farm in the Germansca valley
His parents still live up in the mountains in a neighborhood where most everyone is related to him and certainly everyone knows him. His family has long kept some animals for supplying the family with fresh milk, cheese, eggs and meat when needed and selling off the surplus when there was some over the years. Franco is married and lives in town, but has always helped his family with their various farming endeavors. Three years ago Franco decided he wanted to farm organic fruits and vegetables on his family's land.   
Some new strawberry plants
With that in mind, he with his family's help, mostly his Mom, put in over 1,000 strawberry plants and blueberry bushes too. Potatoes, who are native to the Andes mountains and a perennial favorite for most mountain dwellers, round out his crop selection, as it is usually a reliable crop. Our mountains are no exception and produce some wonderfully delicious potatoes and so, he's growing those along with other crops who can thrive in a cooler climate with a short growing season. With all the rain we have been having I hope that reliability holds true this year.  We bought some of his lettuce a couple of years ago at one of our town festivals ans I was so impressed with how beautiful and tasty it was. We have been trying to get on his ever expanding list of recipients. Organic produce is increasingly in demand here in Italy too and Franco's produce is worth seeking out. I really admire his hard work because being in the mountains means that flat land is at a premium and terracing plots is the only way to go to maximize his land to produce organic fruit and vegetables.  
Franco Peyronel and Fabrizio
I imagine many of these plots were terraced many years ago, as if you look closely everywhere in our mountains there are hand built rock walls holding up what would have been some family plots and now all that remains are the stone walls after the families have died out or moved on.  It's nice to see these terraces being extended, maintained, and brought back to their former usefulness. It is a joyful sight to behold.
some of the families terraced plots
We wish him continued success and I am looking forward to being the recipient of some of the fruits of his labor. Waiting for the mountain produce means you have to be a little more patient as it's behind the crops of the valley and plains, but that makes the eating all the more delightful and I am looking forward to that. 
When we were looking for his place we stopped to ask someone where exactly his place was. Turns out it was his grandmother and so as we headed out for our other appointment, we stopped and Fabrizio asked if we could take her picture. She obliged and and so here is his 92 year old Nonna. I hope to be able to share one of her favorite recipes one of these days, but until then I am enjoying her photo and wondering about all the stories she could tell about her mountains and her life.
Nonna at 92

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

DEAR MARLA SO THANKFUL TO READ ABOUT YOUR APRECIATION OF FARMERS
YOU ARE SUCH A GENEROUS SOUL TO GIVE CREDIT TO THE BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS THAT FARMERS GO THROUGH EVERY DAY, OUR BLUEBERRY PATCH IS NOW 19 YEARS OLD AND I KNOW WHAT MY VIKING HUBBY HAS BEEN GOING THROUGH.
I LOVE THE FOTOS ESPECIALLY THE ONE OF THE NONNA SHE IS SO TRIM THAT IS BECAUSE SHE WORKED ALL HER LIFE AND DOES NOT LIVE IN THE LAND OF MILK AND HONEY WHERE YOU DRIVE EVERYWHERE GET ALL YOU CAN EAT BUFFETS AND PICK YOUR DRUGS UP AT THE DRIVE IN WINDOW OF OUR PHARMACIES. I WISH I COULD LISTEN TO HER LIFE STORIES TOO BEFORE IT IS TO LATE. OLDER PEOPLE ARE LIKE A BOOK TO ME I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH FROM THEM.
NOW I BETTER GET MOVING TOO, GOD BLESS BLUEBERRY

Bella Baita View said...

Tina, I am glad you enjoyed this post. I have undying respect for people that work hard, especially those who work the land under less than ideal conditions so the rest of us can eat well. I think your Viking hubby falls into that category. Lucky he has you as a partner and supporter. I'm eating blueberries tonight and thinking of you two. Bless the two of you too!

AdriBarr said...

What a wonderful post - I am pleased to hear that the demand for organic produce is growing in Italy - the same can be said for California, USA where I live. The post was so interesting and quite a testament to the fortitude of these folks. Thank you for enlightening me. And I must extend a most sincere thank you for including me on your list of Italian flavored blogs. A friend told me, and I was altogether thrilled and flattered. I hope one day to meet you in person. Until then I will keep up with you through your site.

Rowena... said...

Nonna is fantastic! All that's written here really hit home because yes, it can be such a wait when you're at a higher altitude. It always makes me a bit impatient when my fellow lecchesi down at the lake have tomatoes just waiting to ripen and ours up in the chestnut forest are not even the size of a golfball. However we do have the red uva spina that are just beginning to ripen and it always reminds me of you and your post about them. We only have one bush, but would like to add more. Thank you for writing about this wonderful organic gardener. Organics rule!

Bella Baita View said...

How strange, my comment disappeared. so I will try again. Adri, I should have let you know that I had added you to my list of interesting Italian flavored bloggers. I came across your terrific blog and put it on my list so I wouldn't forget where to find you again. Thank you for stopping by here and commenting.
Rowena, patience is a virtue, but when it comes to waiting for home produce, it's a bear of a wait. It's fuunny too because, Franco's operation is more or less the same altitude as us, but his location is so much more protected and suitable for growing than ours, that I am more than a bit envious. My inlaws, finally broke down and put a few things in, like tomatoes and squash, at a lower altitude and it it is looking very promising for a change. tomatoes are looming on the horizon. I saw uva spina in the market today, so you must be close to enjoying them. Makes me think of southern Illinois where i grew up. Gooseberry pie, yum yum!

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