Zero kilometer: local business for global improvement

Today we would like to talk to you about zero kilometer products.

What are they?

As the term itself indicates, they are commodities, especially fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk, eggs, wine, meat, cereals, that are produced and sold more or less in the same place, where the purchase/sale process is often managed by the producer without having to resort to several intermediaries.

In fact, as reported by Coldiretti – an organization of agricultural entrepreneurs at national and European level – it has been calculated that a kilo of cherries from Chile must travel almost 12,000 kilometers to reach the Italian tables, consuming 6.9 kilos of petrol with an emission of 21.6 kilos of carbon dioxide. Similarly, Brazilian watermelons, which travel for over 9,000 km, burn 5.3 kilos of oil and free 16.5 kilos of carbon dioxide for every kilo of product, through transport by air.

It is often hard for the consumers to identify foods that have travelled by air, because they are rarely labeled as such, which makes it hard to avoid them. What we can do is avoid products that have a very short shelf-life, that is they go bad quickly, cannot be stored for a long time and have traveled a long way: here we should look for a label that contains info about the country of origin.

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are shipped to other states are generally picked before they are ripe, which gives them less time to develop optimal levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. In addition, fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients moments after they are picked. Shipping and storage can also negatively impact nutrient content due to variables such as temperature, distance for shipping, and handling procedures, according to the USDA Agricultural Research Service Center.

When vegetables and fruit are grown in the same geographical area as the one of the consumer, they do not need to be transported over long distances, thus limiting the amount of exhaust gases released into the environment during transport. Zero kilometer food, in addition to being a friend of the environment, allows you to obtain quality products that better preserve their nutritional properties, provided that they are seasonal products bought while in season.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania: cibo a chilometro zero

Of course, it is not without significance how our products were grown and what products we choose. Meat, even from a local supplier, will still be much more burdensome for the environment than vegetables or fruit. In fact, 14.5% of global climate changing gases are due to meat and dairy production, which is more than the impact of all forms of transport. Moreover, the content of vitamins in the diet is decreasing, i.e. twenty years ago, carrots contained more nutrients than today. This seems to have been caused by a combination of factors, among which the depletion of nutrients in the soil due to monoculture and the use of fertilizers, which simplify the biochemistry of the soil. The simplification of the soil, in turn, makes the plants more vulnerable to pests, making farmers use more pesticides. A vicious circle.

Foods with generally the lowest environmental impact often have the largest health benefits (lowest relative risks of disease or mortality), and the food with the largest environmental impact — such as unprocessed and processed red meat — often have the largest negative impact on human health.

Obviously our eating habits and our efforts to follow a balanced and varied diet do not allow us to rely on the zero-kilometer commercial system only. Globalization and free farmers’ markets are a phenomenon that is unlikely to have a turnaround, at least not soon.

Today, the food industry contributes a quarter of the global carbon footprint. However, limiting food trafficking is possible because it is a choice that each of us can make individually, producing beneficial effects for all. Trying to introduce more local products into one’s diet would help both the local economy and the environment, also offering us healthier, fresher and tastier food.
Furthermore, buying zero-kilometer products makes it easier to avoid unnecessary packaging and thus helps to reduce the volume of waste, especially plastic. We can use cotton bags to carry all the products bought at a stand in our neighborhood. Zero mile farming also helps limit the amount of food that is wasted before it even reaches the consumers.

Zero-mile farming infographic
source: smartcitylab.com

We hope to be able, within Terra Franca, to cultivate plants compatible with the climate of Sicily, such as citrus fruits, thus promoting the idea of ​​zero-kilometer food, reminding people of the richness of the Sicilian land and how important it is to know how to appreciate what is local.

Sicily is considered the Mecca of exquisite cuisine, and not without reason. This is largely due to the local products which form the basis of many dishes, rightly appreciated and loved. Zero kilometer products, in fact, focus on the bond with the Sicilian territory and pride. Dedicating a part of the Terra Franca land to the cultivation of vegetables and involving a number of people in the process will help increase awareness of how many factors influence the quality of the products that end up in our homes and would allow a better understanding of the work done by many farmers all over the world. It would explain where the difference in price of mass-grown products for export and local and organic products comes from.

Before it becomes reality, we would like to invite you to pay attention to the origin of the products you use in your kitchen. Where can we buy 0 km products? We will find them in local farmers’ markets, in solidarity purchasing groups, in the so-called farmer markets ( directly from agricultural entrepreneurs) and on stands supported by Coldiretti, such as Campagna Amica in Palermo.

According to Coldiretti, in 2018 almost a half of Italians at least once a month bought local, zero kilometer food products.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania: zero km food

It is worth emphasizing that the idea of ​​zero kilometer products does not apply only to food products.

Currently, many business and economic sectors have opened up to the idea of ​​zero impact and eco-sustainability. More and more often we hear about products at 0 km also in other areas, for example cosmetics, which are based on raw materials, such as olive or almond oil. In fact, many Italian regions can boast of having companies that produce cosmetics, for the creation of which they use locally available ingredients, inspired by nature – and Sicily is no exception in this area!

The importance of rethinking our economy

In today’s world, everything – from global warming to global financial crisis – is telling us that we need fundamental changes in society. Based on the discourse of Helena Norberg-Hodge, a pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement, producer and co-director of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness, and the author of several books, including Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, the most important and high priority issue is a fundamental change in the economy.

In her own words: “The change that we need to make is shifting away from globalising to localising. Localisation is a solution multiplier that offers a systemic, far-reaching alternative to corporate capitalism, as well as communism. It’s a way to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, energy consumption of all kinds, and waste. At the same time, localising economic activity can restore biodiversity as well as cultural diversity. It’s a way of creating meaningful and secure jobs for the entire population and perhaps most important of all, because it’s about rebuilding the fabric of connection, the fabric of community between people and between people and their local environment.” She calls this “the economics of happiness”.

Helena Norberg-Hodge

Back in the 80s, Helena went to work in Ladakh, a region in Tibet, as well as Bhutan. She then observed the same pattern in both places regarding how the ‘outside world’ market opening destroyed the local economies and the peace between people. She shared these experiences with economists, anthropologists and environmentalists: they all agreed that our history is very similar to these ones.

The system in which we live is now outdated.

A system based on importing, exporting and creating more and more distance between us. This distance between countries and societies creates an impossibility to develop an ethical structure. We cannot be ethical and kind and maintain the local markets and economies if we do not see the impact we are generating on the other side of the world.     

She explains how the local food movement was created all around the world, from individuals to companies who shared these same thoughts of the need to cut back on production and transport. She exposes the 7 main points on which we should focus to change our economic system:

  • Localisation is better than globalisation: this does not mean eliminating international trade but simply shortening the distances between production and consumption. Reversing subsidies, taxes and regulations from basic markets such as  food, clothing or shelter, would increase the local economies. For examples, if I live in France, that would mean getting my oranges from Italy instead of Argentina.
  • Reducing global markets: currently, countries are importing and exporting the same products just to get the cheapest price. For example, the United Kingdom exports 20 tons of bottled water to Australia, and then Australia exports its own 20 tons of water to the UK. Is this necessary? 
  • Reconnecting people and the land: This restores health, both physical and mental, as well as happiness. We need to support interdependent communication between institutions instead of dependent relations without human connection. Our main resources are human beings and human qualities. Human relations and empowerment can cure and develop societies as well  as reduce pollution and energy waste.
  • The need for a better dialogue between “rich” and “poor” countries, between “country” and “city”. Because one does not survive without the other. A very interesting resource to check is VIA CAMPESINA, the biggest social movement/ international farmers movement, to understand how the farming activity supports every other activity in the world.
  • Restore diversity: we are facing a monoculture with no differences biologically (crops, ecosystems…) and humanly (societies, economics, politics…). There is a very interesting concept which is ‘rewilding’ as allowing the wilderness to restore its ecosystems. Carrying out an ‘agri-wilding’ system would mean allowing the natural restoration to balance the lands and fields used for agriculture and livestock.

So this is just one theory carried out by a small group of people all around the world. But as we know, every big change starts out very small. There are many good initiatives nurturing around the globe and we must find, promote, and support them. There is a change happening and this is just one of the many options to create a better tomorrow.

In this way, Terra Franca is one of these projects that are being carried out based on the principles of localising and reconnecting the people of Cruillas (in Palermo) and the land. With a lot of objectives in sight, creating a safe common space for the community as well as a fruitful vegetable garden, are the main ones for now.

7 good reasons to buy your products from cooperatives

The numbers of cooperative business models are increasing daily. These business models are especially successful in the food sector, as well as many others, like housing. 

The difference between a cooperative and traditional business models are really clear. In a cooperative, the partners agree with local or nearby producers to buy products according to a certain amount, special prices that are in any case fair, and other characteristics. Some conditions may vary depending on the agreements of the parts. On the other hand the cooperatives make sure to deliver their best seasonal and (normally) organic products. The cooperative group is on charge of selling, delivering and promoting the products in case this is considered necessary.

7 advantages of buying from a cooperative

  1. Quality. Producers are responsible for delivering their products with certain standards of quality and conditions. This means consumers can enjoy a better quality of products, that can be organic, from local resources, seasonal and fair priced.
  2. Trust. The cooperative´s role is also to ensure where the products come from, regarding the quality, the fairness and the sustainability.
  3. Transparent markets. Eliminating intermediates can be successful for the producers that see their profit margin grow.
  4. Innovate products. In this business model it is also important to deliver a big range of products based on society’s needs of consumption.
  5. Environmentally friendly. Products don’t travel long distances, in fact the idea is to avoid this issue. Also cooperatives pay attention to other environmental aspects such as keeping rural areas productive in the long term and avoid desertification of rural areas. 
  6. Create jobs in rural areas. Supporting small farmers and producers so they can also compete with big corporations, creating jobs in areas where this has been an issue in the past decades.
  7. Improve their activities. Belonging to a cooperative also means belonging to a bigger group where to find guidance, help from other small companies and where to learn from the best practices. This is also a huge benefit for the customer.

Some examples of cooperatives in Italy

In order to promote this kind of business I would like to highlight three cooperatives that operate in Italy, in case you’d like to support this kind of business.

  • L´alveare che dice si. It is a cooperative that works all over Italy. The cooperative not only offers fruits and vegetables from agriculture, but also other artisanal products. 
  • Coop La Lucerna. This cooperative mainly works online, offering a big amount of products depending on your needs. They have a certification of organic products recognised by the European Union. 
  • Cooperativa Agricola Palazzetti. In this case the cooperative is based in Bergamo, although they offer products from all over Italy depending on the needs and the production seasons.

As an alternative, there is also the option of contacting small local producers nearby or even growing your own vegetables and fruits on somebody else’s farm. There are many social projects like Anima Franca, started by HRYO, that offer this possibility.