Aprender a crear resiliencia comunitaria a través de la comunicación y la tecnología
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Tonino Rizzico is a rare farmer, one of those who look far beyond the crests of the Leonardo Sciascia's sealess Sicily , where his company is based.
In 2006, with a degree in Agronomy (University of Palermo) in his pocket, he went off to London together with his friend and brother-in-law, who also just graduated in Economics (Bocconi University-Milan). In the British capital, Tonino ended up holding the reins of the kitchen at a small restaurant in South Kensington's Fulham Road, The Aglio e Olio.
When asked what he recalls abouth the United Kingdom he says the bad food on the one hand, and “honesty in the workplace and the praise given to competence and merit, instead of name or origin. As Italians - he holds – we have a lot to learn from the British in terms of work ethics and management. And then there's the language, which is essential if you want to seriously grow internationally ".
This is perhaps the first stepping stone upon which Tonino built his own professional training path.
On returning to his Sican Peaks, he spent a decade managing relations with tour operators on behalf of Villa Giatra Hotel and restaurant.
In 2015, he went back to his roots, taking over the company founded by his great-grandfather a century ago, which today is a family-run business assisted by 2 seasonal collaborators. Social sustainability at Agricola Rizzico e Giambrone - he says – is guaranteed by "providing employees working conditions and sharing with them the company know-how. There are no business secrets here because we believe in the story of the farmer and his award-winning corn. Asked by a reporter: 'How can you afford to share your best corn seeds with your neighbours, if they compete with yours every year?', The farmer replied: 'the wind collects pollen from the ripening corn and it swirls it from field to field. If my neighbours grow lesser corn, cross-pollination will constantly degrade the quality of all corn, including mine.' ”
Therefore, a fair approach to doing business pays both a social and an economic dividend. And it is by sharing his method that Rizzico has guaranteed not only his own economic sustainability, but also that of 43 other companies, who joining his in the Sicilian Sheep Farmers' network (2016), which - by networking and creating critical mass - finds customers and target markets for its members, elevates the producers' bargaining power, leads intermediaries and consumers to acknowledge the product value, and therefore, assigns it its fair price.
TRADITION AND INNOVATION
Starting from the thounsands year old tradition of sheep farming, Rizzico retrieved and continues the traditional cheese making, in the form of pecorino di masso (literally rock sheep cheese), aged in Cammarata's bare-rock faced cellars. To such tradition he added some elements of process and technological innovation. At individual farm level, a biologist takes samples and analyses them.
At network level, shepherds and breeders share their good practices via Whatsapp, thus creating an internal quality standard. While at a higher level of the value chain, they took up the block chain tracking system, which makes it possible to inform the consumer about all the nutritional, geographical and zootechnical data gathered of dairy products gathered by the biologist, shepherds and breeders. All through a simple QR code. If this were not enough, Rizzico and Giambrone Farm has recently been identified as the regional representative of one of the 5 supply chains (lamb) of the Guaranteed Safe Quality (GSQ) project, by which the Sicilian regional government entrusts independent control bodies with the quality monitoring in line with the ISO17065 standard and with such indicators as animal health and welfare, protection of agrobiodiversity and genetic resources, environmental protection and produce wholesomeness, produce intrinsic features, ethno-social and economic quality.
Particular attention is paid to the protection and integrity of the landscape surrounding the farm and to economic circularity, which – Rizzico holds - "are mostly taken care of by our sheep that live in the wild and graze for 10 months a year and which supplement their diet with animal feed. based on cereals produced in the part intended for the purpose, always in the company. It follows that the fertilisers are organic because the manure remains on the ground when the animals are grazing and it is scattered around by the farm staff when the sheep take shelter in the stables during the coldest months.”
VALUES AND STANDARDS
In addition to GSQ Sicilia, Agricola Rizzico e Giambrone is also a member of other quality standards being a member of Slow Food's Monti Sicani Convivium. which he represented at Terra Madre - Salone del Gusto, the yearly Internation Food Fair in Turin.
His efforts over the last five years are bearing fruit. Indeed, Pegaso University listed the Sicilian Sheep Farmers' Network as Italy's only case of business aggregation in the field, being all the more welcome considering it originates from the last province in terms of GDP and average per capita income. In November 2020, his initiative received the SMAU innovation award in Milan. On January 19th 2021, the Network will hold a conference at the Chinese Board of Trade in Italy.
SCALABILITY AND RESILIENCE
Looking ahead, Rizzico is interested in the scalability of just one company dimension: that of value, profit being its consequence, not its cause. And it is precisely value that he points to when he advises the young beneficiaries of the Bucolico project on how to start a business in times of crisis or to resist a crisis by having recently started a company:
“We resist” - he argues - “by getting together, and creating an amplified marketing system. And we also resist thanks to the internet and the value it generates (Internet value), making it possible - for those who want to understand it - to return to those small rural communities, which have until recently been the point of origin of the emigration wave, and may become the new destinations. If you produce value, you can achieve your goals, regardless of where you live. This is my reason for living.” says Rizzico.