“Our Italians” is a series of interviews conducted with local food artisans, experts and producers in some major Italian cities, but also those who practice their craft in smaller, rural, less visited parts of Italy. These passionate individuals are committed to sharing the best in Italian food, wine and traditional products, through family-owned businesses and small-scale enterprises. We’re here to introduce them to you.
Today we meet Luca Bianchini; his project “Spesa dal Contadino” originates from his love for farming and agronomy. Luca believes that the hard work of smallholders and artisans gives us two very important values: alimentary sustenance, and a deep cultural and economic legacy.
Luca’s newly inaugurated website www.spesadalcontadino.com is a terrific resource for consumers who wish to find farms and artisan food makers that sell their products directly, effectively neutralizing the supply chain.
Luca’s goal is creating a network that can provide consumers with an alternative method of purchasing food: straight from the source!
We found Spesa dal Contadino – which literally means, ‘shop at the farmstead’ – to be a formidable idea. We interviewed Luca to learn a little more about it.
Casa Mia: Luca, tell us more about the Spesa dal Contadino project.
Luca Bianchini: The driving force behind this idea is my passion for the simplicity of pastoral life and the poetry of agriculture. There is no profit in this for me. The farms and food producers don’t have to pay to be listed on the Spesa dal Contadino website.
When farms and food producers sign on to the platform, they create a web page where they can talk about their work, essentially advertising their business.
CM: What happens when I go on the Spesa dal Contradino website, as a user?
LB: Website users can filter their search by area and thus find small, family-owned farms and food producers near where they live. At these they can buy wholesome local products directly, in a more sustainable fashion. It’s a useful, fun and affordable way of urging folks to avoid big department stores and malls, instead inviting them to visit Italy’s abundance of farms and food producers that sell their goods directly. This way customers can also meet the people behind food, and see the work that goes into growing it.
CM: How does Spesa dal Contadino work?
LB: The website has an interactive map. Users can register an account and find farms in their area, where they can also leave a rating and a comment to each of the farms they visit. This will be useful to future users. Searches can also be filtered by product. It’s very user-friendly and easy to navigate. With time, we hope more and more farms will join the platform.
CM: How did you get the idea of Spesa del Contadino?
LB: One day I went to visit a small creamery and I discovered that the farm was making this amazing cheese, one unlike any I had ever tasted. I understood that everywhere in Italy, just around the corner from where we live, is a treasure of farms and food producers that often go unnoticed. That day I came back home and after searching online I was appalled to see that there was nothing indicating which small food artisans and producers were in the area. By the same token, there was nothing online that was organized to allow farmers and food producers to showcase their work. My girlfriend is a graphic designer, my best friend is a web developer, and so I asked both to help me in this new idea. It’s a simple concept, which originates from my love for food and wholesome, fresh and healthy products.
CM: Tell us a little about yourself, what’s your background?
LB: I’m 39 going on 19. I work in tourism, currently I’m developing this startup when I have time. I want to keep it free for the farms that sign onto the project. This keeps the endeavor pure, driven only by passion and not profit.
CM: You’re from Milan. How has the city changed over the last few years? Has EXPO 2015 changed it?
I’m originally a Milanese, born from Milanese parents, but I actually don’t nurture a deep love for Milan. I need to be in a natural environment. That’s why I moved out of the city to a small rural area in the woods halfway between Milan and Bergamo. In the summer months my family moves to Greece for three months out of the year.
CM: Do you think Spesa dal Contadino can become a useful resource for chefs and cooks, who are increasingly drawn to local and organic ingredients?
It can surely be an added value for dining professionals. I have plans to develop this aspect but not immediately. For now I’d like to focus on helping farmers get the word out that their sensational products are available for sale at their farms.
CM: What’s in your future?
LB: I’d love to inform consumers that buying food does not have to be restricted to grocery stores and supermarkets. Italy’s countryside is full of artisans and farmers that are waiting to be discovered.
CM: Is there anything you’d like to add?
LB: I have a dream of promoting a healthier, more sustainable way of shopping for food. I’d like to see less people in malls and instead see more families scampering in our Italian countryside, rediscovering the importance and the worth of Italian farmers.
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.