I developed the passion for food at a young age as I became aware of my interests and the pleasure it gave me. My Italian heritage made this even more pronounced as we use food to show love and friendship and bring family together. Growing up it became clear to me that food was the main agricultural output and this resulted to a discovery of my passion for agriculture.
It was this curiosity and interest in food that led me to pursue a career in biology. During my studies, I learned about the long history of food that average consumers are unaware of when shopping at their local markets. The experience not only made me care more about agriculture and the diverse ways to producing food but also turned me into a more conscious consumer.
My current role in the agricultural sector
Today I work on a number of projects at CREFIS (Centro di Ricerche Economiche sulle Filiere Suinicole), one of which focuses on implementing interbranch organizations (IBOs) in Italy. Essentially, IBOs are used by the European Union as a tool to empower food value chains. My part in the project is to create IBO models suitable for my country and various co-existing agri-food sectors by studying the IBOs situation in Europe. The idea is that by connecting farmers, suppliers and distributors, we have the potential to achieve higher product value and allow more efficient and environmentally sustainable production systems for products such as milk, fruits, meat and vegetables.
I also double up as a YPARD Europe country representative for Italy where I volunteer as an agricultural professional and create opportunities in agriculture for young fellow Italians. I try to be the voice of young people in YPARD Italy through organising events that improve young people's perception of agriculture and help young professionals reach their full potential in agricultural development.
Challenges and obstacles as a young professional
Becoming a young professional is a hard enough task on its own. With today’s lack of job opportunities within agricultural research sector, positions tailored for experienced candidates and non-competitive salaries, it is easy to become disheartened. My approach to dealing with such harsh realities involves lots of determination and patience, belief in my abilities as a young professional and also finding a meaning in my everyday work.
As I wasn’t ready to settle for just a job, I looked for a workplace where people shared my opinions and valued my work. The quest led me to YPARD and made me a full time researcher at CREFIS. In retrospect, the most important element of success was in building lasting relationships within the agricultural community as this tends to opens doors to new possibilities. To give you an example, once I completed my Master’s studies I stayed in touch with my former professors, which in a way led me to my current job.
On a macro level, one of the most pressing issues young professionals in agriculture face is the representation at governmental and non-governmental levels and consequently lack of avenues to express opinions and have impact on country policies. A sure way to moderate the issue is to have young people more united and better informed about their role in agriculture. We should therefore grasp the opportunities that organizations like YPARD offer, get more involved and let our voices be heard as young professionals.
Aspirations for young professionals’ future in agricultural sector
Following my own advice, I try to be an active member of Italian agricultural community, an active participant in Italian government affairs concerning agricultural sector and a person representing the rural sector. Likewise, my aspiration for young professionals is to be involved in agricultural affairs, be active with government and work on creating their own opportunities. I am convinced that young people like myself are the present and the future of the agricultural sector, and are capable of improving farming systems through innovation and hence make agriculture more sustainable. In the end, what truly matters is the love for agriculture that drives young people to grow their own food and maintain continuous production in spite of financial difficulties and initial obstacles. I would therefore like to see this generation as the one that changed the reality of agriculture for better, one garden at a time.
Testimonial by Virginia Cravero, the YPARD Italy representative.