hi @Lorenzo and everyone,
I would be happy to hear how you are doing after these 4 years have passed! In any case, these topics are always relevant.
I am from the US, and lived in Vermont on a very intensive permaculture farm, so perhaps can give some input that might be in some way useful.
Currently I live in Florence (next to Chianti), Italy. I live and work here, so my interest is to learn the general strategies that work in Italy, which is incredibly bureaucratic and has high taxes.
I wonder if chianti isn't one of the hardest places to start a farm, since I imagine given the above, combined with the local grape and olive industries, must be very entrenched and bureaucratic.
The guiding principles that might be helpful here are "piano piano", i.e. "slowly slowly" That is, if we think deeply about permaculture, it is a bit funny that we want to do it quickly.
(I don't mean to be critical, since I am speaking as much about myself as anyone else here, by the way!) This means that every time we make large purchases or use a lot of machines, we are taking short-cuts.
Things can sometimes work much better if we focus on solving a problem, but allow ourselves time. When we do this, a 'non-linear' very elegant solution may present itself.
(Think of a tree, which grows slowly but can grow through concrete
Also, we often focus on labels of things we want, and not the need or desire behind it. For example, I also may want a farm.
But what I really want is to live in closer harmony to nature, surrounded by plants, animals and fun, satisfying projects where I either learn or can help sustain the planet. And I want to share what I learn and learn from others. I want to grow a substantial portion of my own food. In the US we might call this a 'homestead'.
I notice that in my particular case, this is not about making money with the farm, but rather having an extremely high quality of life (and perhaps saving money on food).
I have noticed that, if my goal is to have a large permaculture garden, this is quite possible while still having a day-job. While still in Vermont, I made a no-till garden. In case this is new to someone: The basic idea is to use a kind of wood mulch on top of the soil (which you never till or dig up). The mulch blocks almost all weeds and keeps in moisture, only allowing the desired plants through. Over time, the old mulch composts in place (you can add other compost
The reason you never till the soil is that it destroys the soils ecosystem (anaerobic bacteria, and fungi
which transport minerals, for example).
I was amazed by how little work such a garden required! And I was just doing this as a fun little project. We grew huge tomatoes and many other vegetables and herbs. I think with proper mulching this can retain a lot of water as well for a hot, dry climate like Chianti. There are many resources about high-density no-till gardening
and it seems quite doable with a day-job. (see "square foot gardening")
In addition, a kind of systems thinking can be very helpful when pursuing our goals, as well as adaptability of our goals. It seems permaculture farmers always have a list of 'projects' to work on, and always have to re-evaluate projects based on their feasibility and progress. We are always embedded in a complex network between soil, nutrients, water, energy and climate, social factors, friends, seed availability, local laws and culture, living space, human needs, projects (solar
panels, chicken tractors, etc.), passions, etc. And that is the space we are learning to navigate. It does not necessarily always have to be 'hard' or 'expensive'. For example, above it was mentioned borrowing a machine from a friend. The farm where I lived made a significant effort to get to know neighbors, eventually borrowing their skills or tools when needed. Similarly, they connected to the university, so students could come volunteer
. This was a win-win, since the students got out into nature and the farmer got things done and got energy from having passionate visitors. You can get creative about this. There are the websites workaway and wwoof etc.
I realize that in Chianti, there is probably a very industrial culture, and I guess that local italians are fairly closed to alternative thinking about farming. However, over time, I imagine it is possible to make friends here and there, and this can gradually make things more possible.
I totally agree that starting small makes sense. In the beginning, you can buy a small amount of topsoil and focus on quality not quantity, working on strategies for no-till farming that work in the chianti climate, and seeing how dense and productive you can get. This helps a great deal, since once these strategies are perfected, they can be scaled up. Saving money on your own consumption and having a stand at a farmers market while continuing your day job all gives you practice for the future. Also, this "piano piano" looks slow, but actually I think it could progress pretty quickly if you keep going at it and keep focusing on what you want. Meanwhile the 'immovable stone" of the financial challenges actually does you a favor. It makes you become excellent at pursuing your passions.
One of your fellow Italians,
Marcus Aurelius: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
I really hope this helps. I am speaking to myself as much as to anyone else when writing this, so hope I don't seem preachy. I have dreams of having a homestead and a sailboat, which are both normally considered 'expensive', but I think the above applies to all of them. I now speak fairly fluent italian and I think have just gotten a better 'day-job', so maybe can begin moving forward on these.