What we have is more than a simple vegetable garden.
We must admit, the quality of the land isn’t up to much yet.
We will have to work very hard to improve it and be very patient. Our successors will reap the benefits, inheriting fertility and vitality.
But our vegetable garden is already alive.
It is an oasis of biodiversity even before being enriched with seeds and plants, and guaranteed by the student body.
It is a special vegetable garden lucky enough to grow against the backdrop of student voices.
It is impregnated with different origins, cultures and experiences, as well as history. Over half the space available happens to be occupied by a Roman wall, just by chance – really? – which may create an obstacle for our project or alternatively enhance it.
Everyone contributes in their own way, even just offering advice, with experiences from their own family vegetable plots or hints picked up during university stages.
The desire to learn is plentiful.
This is a truly educational activity, it helps intensify the agronomical aspect of food and discover the timescales, secrets and knacks for all types of plants grown here.
We have fun too, although we retain our serious respect for nature.
Carmelo (of dubious Piedmontese origin) and Cira are Pollenzo’s two enthusiastic horticulturists who help and guide us in our educational activities. They both have their own experiences and culture, and this can only enrich our botanical garden further.
This is only the beginning but whatever the harvest may bring, it is already a success. The garden is there.
We are looking to the future.
There are plenty of ideas for next year.
I suggested gathering seeds during our stages, perhaps the seeds of Slow Food Presidia, which could adapt well here in Pollenzo.
Some have suggested a Good Clean Fair market, with Pollenzo horticulturalists.
Others are already visualising recipes. For example, a collective minestrone, or simply using the products in the university canteen.
Allison, from New Jersey, enrolled in her second year, is comfortable working in the garden. She is always smiling broadly. She feels like a kid, having fun and getting dirty – and ‘getting dirty with food’ is the best thing there is.
Laura, also from the US, is more emotionally connected to the experience. She remembers when she was five years old and her mother dug the family’s first vegetable garden.
Richard, from Munich, sees the garden and the active participation of so many people as the beginning of our own hippy movement.
First-years Eleonora and Francesco, who have just taken an exam, find peace and relaxation by picking up a hoe and working the land. ‘When I get up again’, explains Eleonora, ‘I am content with the work I have done and so is my back. It’s less tiring and more fulfilling than the evenings I have been spending poring over books’.
Paolo Camozzi is a student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo
Translation by Ailsa Wood