The Last Urban Farmers of Turin
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because persevering is sometimes the strongest form of protest.
By Caterina Villa
The last urban farmers in Turin? Easy: Vilma and Paolo Stella.
For these siblings, urban farming isn’t about some Silicon Valley–style vertical farming in gentrified neighborhoods with hydroponics and UV lights. No, in this corner of northern Italy, urban farming is a form of resistance.
To? The urban development that has transformed the area around the old family farmhouse where the siblings grew up. So while Vilma and Paolo, self-described “nomadic farmers,” live in a nearby apartment building, they still tend their farm every day, earning just enough to sustain their families and the farm, but nothing more. “It feels like living in an oasis,” says Vilma, “as we are the last rural family in an urban context.”
I live on the seventh floor of an apartment block, which is a bit weird for a farmer.
Vilma and Paolo, along with their three other siblings, grew up in the ’60s in a typical farming family. From a young age, all of them learned how to work the fields. “Girls did the same work as boys, there was no distinction,” Vilma says. And while she tried other jobs, she ended up returning to the work that had been her life from childhood.
The Stellas’ story is mirrored across Italy. According to data gathered by the Italian National Institute of Statistics, urban sprawl has risen for years, strangling the land available for agriculture by 20 percent since 2000. Small family businesses, like the one run by the Stellas, are struggling against market changes in the midst of an economic crisis that’s still gripping some sectors of the country’s economy. Meaning this change is not just an economic one: For generations of many Italian families, farming is a way of life.
But some, like the Stellas, are choosing adaptation over revolution.
- Caterina Villa, OZY AuthorContact Caterina Villa