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Why Young Italians Are Leaving Cities To Start A New Life As Farmers In The Countryside

segunda-feira, abril 22, 2019

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Migration is usually going from rural to urban areas, pushing people out of the countryside towards cities where they can find an economic universe which is more dynamic and that can offer better job opportunities. This tendency has shown itself worldwide throughout history. People fled the countryside because of the association of the area with the absence of prospects of receiving an education, unemployment, harsher financial conditions and generally lower quality of life. Cities offered a social and economic environment where it was possible to build a wealthier lifestyle.

The counterflow: back to the countryside

However, in the past few years, Italy has witnessed an important counterflow that has brought young, educated and metropolitan folks back to the countryside. Many Italians under 35 years old have decided to return to rural areas to take up both a business and a lifestyle in agriculture-related fields. Soon the Mediterranean country has become the one with the highest number of youths employed in this sector in Europe. According to ISMEA, the National Institute for Agricultural and Food Market Services), the number of young people moving to the countryside and starting a career around farming has been growing incessantly through the last decade.

Data collected from the Ministry of Agriculture show that every year the number of agribusinesses is growing, and many of these enterprises are managed by people under 30 years old. At the same time, younger generations are investing their education in the agriculture sector, choosing a university degree that gives access to the field. This element is fundamental to understand the new face and the different approach to agriculture and the farming business. The protagonists of this phenomenon are young, usually over-qualified, graduates who have been experiencing outside the countryside before establishing in the area. Through their education and lifestyle, they have acquired skills and knowledge which was not usual to possess for farmers only decades ago. They have now brought those competencies and attitude in agriculture, and the sector is benefitting from it.

But what are the reasons that have pushed this generation back to the land?

Of course, this circumstance cannot be explained only through the bucolic desire of young metropolitans to be reconnected to Mother Earth. Italy has been undergoing an economic stagnation for over a decade now, which has resulted in the frustration of the younger generations that cannot find good future prospects for their careers and social well-being. Lethargic productivity and high rates of unemployment forced many to migrate to other countries. At the same time, a growing number of young people decided to move to the countryside where at least they could rely on the stability of the land, that other than being a precious real estate, can also grant its owner subsistence and self-sufficiency.

Moreover, it has always been relatively easy to get a hold of lands in Italy. The government has always given off financial incentives and other kinds of state aid to entrepreneurs in the field. Agriculture has long been one of the most subsidized economic sectors, benefiting from fiscal relief and supporting funds. The most talked about reform that the government included in the 2019 Budget Law was the one granting free land to those families who will have a third child in the next three years. The previous administration also allocated funds to assist young people who wanted to create agribusinesses, a measure that seemed to work since now 1 out of 10 entrepreneurs in Italy is occupied in agriculture.

Slow food: an added market value

The government strategy is not the only thing looking in the sector’s favor. The slow food trend and the consumers’ preference for organic, bio, at zero km and artisanal food, is enhancing the small agribusinesses that the younger generations have engaged into. The field has been granting stability and turnover while the ones requiring higher skills could not do the same, and it is now making a profit out of the renewed attention to the idea of growing, trading and eating food locally. Buying directly from the farmer entails an added value to the product, which is why local markets have become crowded commercial areas that prove the benefits of a truly circular economy.

Page: Forbes

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