venerdì 12 settembre 2008

A Butcher’s opening

Some days ago, in the small rural village where I live, a butcher’s shop has been opened. This new surely will appear totally insignificant for those living in big cities or for many important politicians very busy in more important affaires elsewhere. Nonetheless for a small community (of powerless people), where the idea of “local” is strong and where small shops have been closing for decades under the pressures of big department stores and malls in the neighbouring cities, this new is particularly relevant. This butcher’s is the shop of a farm placed in the area: in this shop only local products, also from other local farms in the surroundings (honey, oil, wine, cheese, bread, etc.) are sold. On the one hand this is an encouraging signal of change because many people, often coming from cities and maybe looking for typical products no longer tolerating standardized food made with industrial ingredients, are trying to re-gain food coming from the region in which they live. On the other hand this initiative represents an important victory for who, since long time, supports the idea of “local” as critical strategy for sustainable rural development. About this issue, both under political and research point of view, I always carried on many activities. This idea is based on a rather old and apparently obvious principle but it seems to be totally innovative when considering the present market dynamics and organizations. It is essential that the distance between consumers and produced is reduced in order to give the opportunity to the former to buy fresh and cheaper products, possibly organic, and to the latter to achieve more economic gains freeing them from the reduction pressures and pushes from the long distribution chain. Considering the current unjustified increases in food prices, the immediate benefits of these initiatives soon emerge: the passages in the long chain of intermediaries are overcome and thus the price charges are eliminated (together with the speculations determining these prices increases). Hence a too long distance has to be reduced: first of all a kilometric distance because season local products are promoted. These products are fresher not remaining in containers for a long time reducing in the same time the environmental impact of transports. Furthermore a psychological and cultural distance between production and consumption has to be reduced because consumers have the possibility to directly know who makes the food they eat. These circuits however are not in opposition to big distribution systems, but they should be considered as complementary networks: widening the supply and choice spectrum also the market mechanisms will work better reducing the weight of hegemony and control positions of stronger agents. Great support should thus directed to these initiatives such as the creation of farm shops in the big cities. The same support has to be directed to the consumers’ initiatives such as the consumption cooperatives or those coming for the production side such as the “zero kilometres” action. These activities have to be however supported by adequate information and communication campaigns otherwise their effectiveness will be unavoidably eroded. We must reconstruct forms of intelligent and aware food consumption: eat less, eat better. Short circuits surely represent critical tools to build an effective alliance between production and consumption but they require and imply our personal commitment and engagement because, even if supported “in theory”, they face a mild political support above all in those politicians who obtain gains and benefits from speculations. As the opening of a small butcher’s shop clearly shows, these initiatives represents an important opportunity to stimulate entrepreneurship in those areas where agriculture is the only economic and job sector, to build new relations between urban and rural areas, carrying rural values in urban areas, to recognize the season cycles in food products and to promote the so many cultural and crop varieties of our rural areas and traditions.

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