Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and Justice
Unpack the Slow Food movement’s motto of “good, clean, and fair” in its Italian birthplace. Explore how the business of food affects the health and wealth of farmers, workers, families, and communities.
Throughout the semester, students are immersed in the world of sustainable agriculture culture through classroom seminars, visits to innovative agricultural initiatives, and internships. Student receive instruction in Italian each week to build functional ability. Internships begin the fifth week of the program, with 15-20 hours per week at the internship.
Topics & Themes
Sustainability, organic farming, biodynamic farming, and permaculture; slow food and other food movements, Italian and European agriculture and food policy and business practice; economics and social effects of food production.
Greve in Chianti, Italy
Terms & Dates
Fall 2021 (program suspended for Fall 2020)
In much of the world, industrial food systems provide plentiful and relatively cheap food, a convenience that comes with steep environmental and social costs. HECUA’s exploration of culinary culture and food production in Italy offers an alternative, taking students behind the scenes in the Chianti region, an area known for its innovative organic farming and organic wine production. Students see how Italian and European agricultural policy, business practices, and financial structures affect workers and their communities. Students live and study in Greve in Chianti, a town located 31 kilometers south of Florence, in Tuscany. Students observe how Tuscans define sustainability and are working toward it. Students gain direct experience with food systems, rural Italian culture, and policy through an internship at a nearby farm, school, or other local organization. Students live together in shared apartment-style housing and receive a food stipend to prepare their own meals. In addition to the immersive coursework and concurrent internship, students complete a guided individual study project. Italian language instruction each week can accommodate all levels of proficiency. Students also have the option to participate in the “Cucina for English” program, a language and cooking exchange opportunity with local Italian families.
Staff and Faculty
Program Co-Director Filippo Randelli is the Program Co-Director, responsible for the program as a whole. He teaches the course Agriculture and Sustainability in Tuscany, guides students in internships, and supervises the Independent Study Project. Filippo Randelli holds a Ph.D. in Economic Geography from the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” He is a tenure-track researcher and lecturer in the Department of Economic Science at the University of Florence. He has done extensive research on sustainable tourism, geographical economics, and environmental economics, and has given lectures and seminars on these themes and participated in many international conferences and workshops. He is on the board of the Società di Studi Geografici. He has been an invited scholar at Utrecht, Cambridge, and Zurich Universities. Filippo Randelli is also an agricultural entrepreneur himself, having moved from the city to a small farm in Greve in Chianti, where he makes wine and olive oil and is part of a B&B business.
Program Co-Director Riccardo Simoncini teaches the course Economics of Sustainable Food Production in Contemporary Europe. He holds a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Parma, and has carried out research and taught agri-environmental policy at the University of Florence, Economic Sciences Department. He carries out research on rural development and agricultural and ecological economics in projects in Italy and the EU. Riccardo is a member of the Commission on Environmental, Economics and Social Policy of IUCN-The World Conservation. At present he is one of the Lead Authors of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) for the Europe and Central Asia assessment (ECA) administered by UNEP.
Supporting Faculty Elena Monami teaches the Italian language and culture course for Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and Justice in Italy. She holds a Ph.D. in applied linguistics from the Università per Stranieri in Siena, Italy, as well as a master’s degree in Italian literature and cinema from the University of Siena. She has led the Siena Abroad semester for the University of Massachusetts since 2002, and has extensive experience teaching Italian language to learners in Italy, Spain, Japan, Argentina, and Indonesia.
Program Coordinator Camilla Catellacci closely collaborates with the Program Directors in order to support the day by day work to deliver the program. She began working with HECUA in 2019 in an administrative capacity to support the program. Camilla is a mother to three teenagers and has experience working for Nike as a sales representative, and nearly 15 years of experience working in the Italian Fashion Business as an assistant buyer, showroom vice manager, area manager, divisional and sales manager for several brands such as Giorgio Armani, Dolce e Gabbana and others. She also taught scuba diving in Kenya as PADI OWSI (PADI – Professional Association Scuba Instructors) (OWSI – Open Water Scuba Instructor) and is a PADI Medic First Aid instructor.
Agriculture and Sustainability in Tuscany (4 credits)
The aim of this course is to provide students with tools to analyze—in an integrated manner—the transition towards a sustainable agriculture. Sustainability is treated as an ongoing process, not a target, selected theoretical tools illuminate mechanisms that may hinder or foster the transition. Each tool is tested and used to analyze different issues and case studies within the agricultural system. Italy is a leading country in the process of transition towards a sustainable agriculture, and many different ongoing processes and issues are presented in the class. Students discuss sustainability; the historical roots of regional diversification; organic farming, biodynamic farming, and permaculture in Tuscany; the effects of practices and policies on farmers, workers, and communities; Slow Food and other food movements.
Economics of Sustainable Food Production and Rural Development in Contemporary Europe (4 credits)
This course addresses the economics of sustainable food production in rural areas. The overall objective is to allow students to achieve a comprehensive overview of sustainable development theories and concepts related to the agricultural sector and of the economic instruments and tools used to move towards sustainability. A major focus of inquiry and critique is the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. Many economists are now using “true cost accounting” to examine the costs of global food systems. Many international organizations are seeking to calculate the benefits that the natural world, whether in cultivation or not, provides. New methods of measuring “ecosystem services” like pollination, carbon storage, and water purification have brought renewed appreciation for smaller-scale farming and land use. Students learn how these economic instruments and tools can be used in rural areas to achieve rural development that delivers economic, social, and environmental benefits. This course is interdisciplinary, integrating economics, political economy, ecology, sociology, and the history of environmental economic thought. A background in economics is not expected or required. The interdisciplinary character allows students to understand and analyze theories of agricultural food production and rural development. The course includes associated field experiences that offer concrete examples of how theories and concepts are implemented through the EU Common Agricultural Policy in Tuscany.
Italian Language & Sustainable Italy Internship (4 credits)
Italian Language Each week, Italian language instruction in context aims to help break down barriers to students’ participation in and understanding of Tuscan culture.
Sustainable Italy Internship The internship is a practical, hands-on way for students to develop skills and acquire insights into how different facets of society in Tuscany are working towards sustainability. Students work 125-150 hours during the internship. Students reflect on their experiences in two seminar sessions during the program, which facilitate deepened self-awareness and a critical understanding of the internship site. Reflection journals aid discussions at seminars, and students give a final presentation on their internship site’s role in sustainability.
Independent Study Project (4 credits)
The Independent Study Project (ISP) allows students to tailor the program to individual learning and career objectives. Students can pursue a research question about a particular issue relevant to the program using academic resources accessible through home campuses’ online library systems, as well as other print and human resources in Greve or Florence. The Program Director must approve the topic. Because the ISP corresponds to a full course credit, assignments in structured stages build progress and depth over the course of the semester. For more information on the process of the Independent Study Project, please refer to the syllabus, below.
Fall 2020 Syllabus coming soon
Students can expect to gain hands-on experience on an organic farm, a school-based site, or another local organization. Below are some examples of internship sites.
Fattoria Le Fonti
Fattoria Le Fonti is a small boutique winery producing about 40,000-50,000 bottles a year. Since 1994, Le Fonti has been in the hands of the Scmitt-Vitali family. Fattoria Le Fonti believes the roots of a great wine are found in the vineyard. They strive to farm sustainably (organic). Students will have the opportunity to work on the farm and learn about organic wine production.
Azienda Agricola Terreno
Drawing from traditional Italian winemaking and Swedish innovation, the Ruhne family (from Sweden) operates the Azienda Agricola Terreno. Azienda Agricola Terreno is located in the Chianti Classico wine district. Archeological research that on the property has revealed evidence of viticulture and olive farming dating back to 46 AD. Students will have the opportunity to learn more about the historic and modern-day practices of wine production.
Castello di Verrazzano
The Castle of Verrazzano is located in Greve in Chianti, in the heart of the Chianti Classico area, between Florence and Sienna. Initially, the Castle was an Etruscan settlement and then a Roman settlement. It has remained for over 1,000 years. The “vineyards situated in Verrazzano” are mentioned in a manuscript which dates back to 1150. At Verrazano, sustainability is a general standard. The wines are organic certified and, the vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and honey are all cultivated using organic techniques. Students will have the opportunity to work alongside the farmers and learn firsthand about organic farming.
Biodistretto del Chianti
Biodistretto is an organization that works to develop and promote innovative forms of sustainable production and management, while safeguarding the environment. Students will work with the organization on a specific project related to organic agricultural production.
Fee Breakdown Cost includes group transportation to field sites, planned group excursions, lodging, meals, local transportation, medical insurance, and administrative costs. Students are housed in apartments.
A note on costs
The program costs listed below are what HECUA charges for participation in its programs. The final amount that a student pays might be higher and can vary from college to college. Many colleges assess additional fees or charge their own tuition for off-campus programs. Some colleges also have specific financial aid rules for off-campus programs. Therefore, all students should check with the off-campus-study office and the financial aid office of their home institution to confirm their final cost for a HECUA program. A full and comprehensive fee breakdown can be found on the Program Costs page.
Member schools are schools that are part of the HECUA consortium. For HECUA member school students, the cost of our program is $21,100. Check your school’s status.
Non-member schools are schools that are not part of the HECUA consortium. For non-member school students, the cost of this HECUA program is $21,900. Check your school’s status.
HECUA distributes three scholarships to students from consortium member schools: the Scholarship for Racial Justice (up to $4,000); the Scholarship for Social Justice (up to $1,500); and the Scholarship for Community Engagement (up to $750 for semester-long programs, and $500 for short-term programs). Learn more about HECUA’s Scholarship Program.
Good to Know
Housing: Students live in shared apartment-style homes. The accommodations are operated by Italian families in Greve. Orientation to food shopping in Greve in Chianti and cooking instruction helps students manage the stipends they receive. Students will have access to kitchen space for preparing meals.
Italian Language: Italian language fluency is not necessary, though it is helpful. All students are enrolled in an Italian language course upon arrival, and all levels of proficiency can be accommodated.
Partner Institution: The program is offered in partnership with Università per Stranieri di Siena, which sponsors students’ visa applications, hosts the program for a field experience, staffs the Italian language instruction, and collaborates on curriculum.
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