Patterns of Rural Innovation in Italy: A Comparison between Two Regional Networks Part of the Wwoof Association

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:45
Oral Presentation
Eleonora NOIA, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy
Samuele MOLLI, Catholic University Milan, Italy
In the last years, the increasingly attention to food, its production and its consumption, was accompanied by a growing interest on the agricultural side, especially within the youth field. Literature talks about “new farmers”, or “back-to-the-landers”, to define those people who choose to live in country-side, even without an agricultural background. This choice is linked to sustainable reasons, opposed to intensive production methods or chemical methods, but is also related to identity, political and ethical issues. The entrance of young people with an elevate cultural capital, high skills in knowledge, the capability to create new networks, also using new technologies, creates opportunities and innovative strategies in order to answer the economic, social and environmental change.

Indeed, we propose a deepening of the WWOOF association - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - that from the 70s internationally promotes the organic agriculture through the work-hospitality exchange. In particular, through mixed methods (network analysis and qualitative interviews) we propose a comparative study between two different local areas where the agro-network has developed: the first in Piemonte, North Italy, characterized by the closeness to big urban areas and city markets, in which WWOOF has a long history. The second network is in Basilicata, South Italy, region in which the association increased its members in the last few years, and where there aren’t big urban areas. This comparative methodological choice provides significant added value, because scholars have exclusively focused on case studies. Furthermore, a comparison provides important insights to understand composition of different networks, diversity on ethical-political values and their link with official markets. This research wants to show how these factors influence the patterns of local innovations in the Italian context, where the great differences described above determine different solutions and strategies.