This summer has been wet and cold, nothing like what you would expect in Italy. Meteorologists say that for some regions it was the wettest July since the 19th century! Rain and little sunshine are never good for agriculture, and Italian farmers have been hit hard. The production of honey is at its historic low with a 70% drop, some wine and olive oil producers are down to only 30% of their normal yield. Entire tomato and lattice fields have been destroyed by persistent torrential rains.
I went to stock up on freshly picked yellow peaches directly from a fruit farm near Sulmona in Abruzzo a week ago. Feliciano, who has been growing fruit for many years, told me that this year has been a total disaster. Because of the constant rain his peaches were attacked by various diseases and parasites. Add to that the usual suspects like a fruit-eating moth and hungry crows and very few peaches are left to sell.
We walked between the fruit trees and Feliciano showed me ingenious insect traps made from plastic bottles. Thick white string tied around three branches keeps the cheeky crows away (yes, so simple and bizarre!), who seem especially partial to pears and apples. It was sad to see that a lot of peaches and apples fell off the branches before they ripened this year.
If you are traveling in Italy this year, remember that farmers here need your support. How can you help?
- Find a local market near you and buy your fruit and veg there
- Don’t be picky: the fruit don’t look pretty this year due to the bad weather but they still taste better than any supermarket variety.
- Make sure you buy from local producers. At Italian markets, small farmers normally have a sign with the name of their Azienda Agricola. They will have smaller amounts of fruit and veg than big re-sellers that buy everything at wholesale prices in the South and sell it at lower prices.
- In small greengrocers’ look for signs that say “locale” or “nostrani”, which means that the fruit and veg were grown locally.