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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Letting nature do the teaching: an interesting idea for schools offered by the farm Fattoria Loppiano Prima. An open-air classroom to discover the value of plants and animals.

Children listen wide-eyed to Pietro’s explanation. For them it is a school day in a classroom without desks or other learning aids, and the teaching is done primarily by nature itself. Lots of schoolchildren pass through the farm Fattoria Loppiano Prima, where people learn to cultivate their love for plants and animals.

Pietro Isolan is a young qualified farming expert, who for 18 years has worked hard at the farm in Loppiano: ‘It was also as a result of the economic crisis that we were forced to come up with new ideas to keep the business going. One of these was the “teaching farm”, a project for children and students at technical and professional colleges. It was to be an open-air workshop, with space allocated to rearing animals and a market garden. The objective was to give a hands-on experience of a production method where you would get to know the different kinds of animals and vegetables, and where we offer our experience centred on respect for human persons and for the environment.

The curriculum is made up of various modules that can be adapted to the needs of schools and that allow students to come in stages throughout the year.

The foundation of this new development was a personal experience that Pietro shared with other colleagues on the farm, turning a possible difficulty into a strong point for everyone: ‘After many years of work and following a personal and spiritual crisis, I realized that I had an experience I could offer, but that I had some things still to learn. And perhaps, if push came to shove, I would not have been able to support my family.

Pietro tells of a profound personal journal in relationship with nature seen as the manifestation of God’s creativity. It was a spiritual search that led him to understand more of the secrets of “permaculture” (sustainable use of the environment) and of various techniques seeking to optimize agricultural production while conserving the ecosystem. This sustainable agriculture is in keeping with the production philosophy of the farm, which has always been attentive to these kinds of values: ‘We created a market garden that was completely sustainable and which enriched the agricultural ecosystem. We planted and tended it together with the children who visited during those early years. Nowadays we grow seasonal vegetables and rear poultry.”

This latest development of the farm at Loppiano is a further demonstration of the common spirit  animating every step of the way: trying to build relationships of fraternity, genuine relationships for people and for the environment. Pietro concludes, ‘In fact I’m convinced that, as everything is connected in nature, also in relationships between individuals, and in relationships between institutions, it is possible to generate synergies and links that increase exponentially both efficiency and the spread of good practice. At the end of the day I have to say I’ve experienced at first hand an expression that I read a while back and that really struck me: “Your true work is to create beauty, your true social action is to create awareness.” ’

Compiled by Paolo Balduzzi