My name is Angelica Di Rubbo and I manage my family-run agritourism called Regio Tratturo and located in Ariano Irpino (www.regiotratturo.com), Southern Italy. At the beginning of 2012, Jleg Consulting suggested that we take part in the “Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs”, an exchange program promoted by the European Commission. Our first thought was that this represented a great opportunity for us to open our company to international exposure. While we had already experienced welcoming and hosting foreign students in our structure during the events we organize throughout the year (eg www.regiotratturoandfriends.eu), this experience represented a longer lasting interaction with a different culture. After enrolling the project, we formalized the exchange with the Federturismo of Rome and on September 1st we welcomed Juha, a twenty-five year old agricultural entrepreneur from Finland, who stayed with us for one month.
This experience represented a growth opportunity for us. In fact it allowed us to observe different approaches to our job and especially to review our actions by comparing them to a different experience. He collaborated in all our activities. Our farm presents a diversified production. Throughout the entire year we work on different products and activities like catering, accommodation, educational farm, vegetables, honey, olive oil, and wine production as well as livestock farming. So he had the chance to carry out various activities contributing to the growth of new ideas and projects to be developed in Finland. By sharing our everyday working life, he got the chance to fully immerse himself both into our roles and our clients’ role and suggest us possible improvements to be made. We welcomed these suggestions and discussed every topic seeing the possibility to start new projects that had not been taken into consideration before. Thanks to this experience, we have now the opportunity to be introduced to other Finnish educational institutions and universities interested in exchange programmes to boost entrepreneurship linked to the rural economy.
We have discussed with him the possibility to continue this type of exchanges and take them as another way to carry out our farming activity other than a single exception ending with this project. Every year in Finland, they look for farms and companies willing to host their students but they often have trouble finding them in a different country and being of interest to the students as potential new entrepreneurs.
Another great result of this exchange was the revaluation of the consideration that we have of our land and of our form of agriculture which basically sustains itself by producing the majority of the food we need. Most of our products are grown and brought to production thanks to our geographical position. To drink some good wine made from the grapes of our own fields is for us, and all farmers in the Campania region, one very ordinary action. But then, Juha, a young Finnish guy with typically Scandinavian features, comes to visit and he suddenly makes you smile as you feel proud of that nectar you produced and of which you know every step of its production chain. This is when you compare yourself with a representative of an entire country who appreciates good wine and for whom wine represents one of the many imported products. And again with the majority of our products (tomatoes, vegetables, corn, fruit, olives), he raised a new awareness in us both as producers and consumers.
We have kept a lively and continuous interaction with the outside, a continuous exchange with other local farms and companies. Together with him, and in line with the existing events planning, we organized a public dinner entitled “Finland meets Regio Tratturo” during which, in addition to a typically Finnish menu, we offered our clients a description of Finland through images and stories, focusing on the differences and similarities in agriculture. It was an event that opened the my mind of the participants both on the simple and clean flavors of the Finnish cuisine and on Juha’s friendly attitude while giving us some great reasons to visit his country.