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Grains of Connection

Cross-disciplinary collaboration is my favorite subject to "preach" on. And apparently I'm not alone. As I sit here at Officina Lieve coworking space in Borgo San Lorenzo, north of Florence, I'm sharing emails with people back home in Buffalo about across-the-ocean collaborations.

I've seen many threads of connection between the work here (co-work, skill sharing, cooperatives, sustainable agriculture) and what's happening in Western New York. And while Italians have access to fresh, locally grown produce all year long, many of them don't have direct access to organic (biologiche) produce. Officina's "Cucina Lieve" program with 12 monthly dinners seeks to reconnect residents of the Mugello Valley (original home of the Medici and "Florence's Granary" in Renaissance times) to local, seasonal agriculture and the skilled cooks who know how to navigate it.

Farro (FAHR-oh) is one of those local products, a whole, nutty grain that once fed Roman armies, and Florence's ruling families. The precursor to spelt and emmer wheat (each slightly different than farro), it is a heritage plant that has experienced a resurgence in the last fifteen years. It has been exported to the United States, and farms that grow it specialize in agritourism, offering bed and breakfast stays with the opportunity to learn about traditional farming methods. It is one of the grains milled for pasta, breads and more, and has a different gluten structure from modern wheat. With a hard husk, the plants in the field are passed over by cinghiale (wild boar). For human consumption, they are partially husked for production purposes.

My take on this regional specialty:

With organizations in Buffalo working on food access and sustainability issues, I am excited to return home and learn how we may collaborate. There is a great deal of potential here, and I intend to explore it fully.

And now for something completely different! Here's some of my photographs of the paese di Borgo San Lorenzo, this time with a focus on "Details". Windows, balconies, little alleys, beautiful wooden doors, door knockers. :) Enjoy!


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