Local trends in Italy indicate that farming is on the rise, and alternative farming methods are being used more than ever to preserve the environment and guarantee high quality produce. A couple of years ago I jumped aboard the “eco” bandwagon and have been buying and growing organic and biodynamic food ever since. The area around Rome is perfect for agriculture: lots of sun, winter rainfall, moderate climate. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, but it does make for an idyllic setting where we can all plant seeds (even the metaphoric kind).
A local bio-dynamic farmer in Labico provides my family with chemical-free vegetables; an organic beekeeper in Palestrina sells various flavors of honey; an organic, free-range chicken farm produces our eggs; an extensive farm in Rome raises 100% organic, grass-fed beef; a local, organic purchasing group provides us with everything else like fruit, yoghurt, bread, pasta, whole grains, flour, sweeteners, cheese. A year ago I took a short class on how to make bread and now I make my bread every week using a home-made starter and organic, stone-ground flour.
And one of the most enjoyable aspects of local life around Rome is the presence of farmer’s markets. At Zagarolo’s Sunday morning market there is a vast array of stalls manned by local producers (many are organic or bio-dynamic) who bring their fresh products to the piazza. The friendly atmosphere and low prices are reason enough to come and meet the people who toil to make sure we all have the ingredients for Sunday lunch. There are hand-picked herbs, meats, milk products, flowers, freshly baked bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables, hand-made baskets, home-made soaps and cosmetics, organic honey, mushrooms, and much more. I love to stroll through this open-air market and taste the local products. My favorite stand is one where sheep farmers sell their organic cheese. Pecorino, anyone?