PAYSAGE À MANGER
“Meeting Federico Chierico made me believe that agriculture could become a way to stay in Gressoney, and take care of the local area and of my mountains. Four years later, our project is thriving, we grow 60 different potato varieties, and we produce food for our community. This is extremely gratifying”.
The mountain hides the sun until ten o’clock in the morning. It is cold in early October in Gressoney-Saint-Jean and the low temperature bites even more those kneeling in the earth in the middle of a potato field.
Federico Rial and Federico Chierico are harvesting the last tubers of the season, in the Cerisa and Corne de Gatte varieties. With them are some colleagues and friends from Paysage à Manger, their farm – a farming project born in Valle d’Aosta, 1,400 metres above sea level, to promote mountain agriculture. “I worked for years in the tourist sector, dealing with the development of rural areas. This experience gave me the opportunity to understand that, when they come here, consumers want and like to have a direct relationship with those who cultivate the land” says Federico Chierico, born in Biella in 1983.
That’s how, also to meet this need, in 2014 Federico decided to devote himself to growing potatoes on the few abandoned fields in Fontainemore, a village halfway up the valley. “Potatoes are the symbol of alpine culture. I had found out on the Internet about the activities carried out by the ProSpecieRara foundation in Switzerland. I grew an interest in the subject and asked them for some seeds of ancient and rare varieties” explains Chierico.
The ProSpecieRara foundation
ProSpecieRara is a Swiss non-profit foundation set up in 1982 to protect endangered cultivated plants and livestock. Today, it is responsible for the conservation and use of 1,400 vegetable garden and field plants, 500 varieties of berries, 1,900 varieties of fruit, 800 varieties of ornamental plants, and 32 animal breeds. Headquartered in Basel, it also has offices in Geneva and St. Peter.
In 2005, the ProSpecieRara label was introduced to promote the principle of “conservation through use”. Il marchio ProSpecieRara, label, which is recognised throughout Europe, is only granted to businesses and voluntary conservators who are committed to actively promoting endangered cultivated plants and animal breeds. In 2017, ProSpecieRara granted Paysage à Manger its prestigious label.
Working side by side Federico Chierico, at the beginning, were Rita Gros, Emanuele Panza, and Roberto Ronco. The meeting with Federico Rial, conversely, dates back to 2014. “My current partner came into my mother’s grocery shop in Gressoney-Saint-Jean, to propose his potatoes – says Rial. At the time I was studying Environmental and Land Engineering at Turin, Polytechnic, but I was not truly happy with my achievements, nor with the courses I was attending. I deeply felt the need to go back and take care of the land where I was born and raised. I didn’t know how, but I was developing a new awareness and I seized the opportunity, thinking that agriculture could become a way to stay and live in Gressoney and take care of my mountains. Four years later, I am enthusiastic: the project is thriving and we are producing food for our community. This is extremely gratifying”.