The Farmstay Sustainability Manifesto
Earlier this fall, I finally met Antonella Notari – the cofounder of an agriturismo in Italy, Podere Trafonti – in person. A mutual friend connected us, and was spot on when she said we had a lot in common. Regardless of the age difference between us, with years of “corporate life” behind us, we have both opted to shift to a simpler life. A life closer to nature, on a farm, and hosting guests.
In our first conversation, over coffee and a hot chocolate (piled with whipped cream, my Achilles’ heel – well, one of them), Antonella told me she had drafted a Sustainability Manifesto for her Podere Trafonti, and would Casa Beatrix be interested in signing on or contributing?
So, here’s our work in progress. Thoughts and input welcome, and if you’re up for signing on as an ecotourism project, farmstay, agriturismo, treehouse community, glamping, or whatever else – get in touch! Let’s shake things up and do it in a collaborative, win-win, love the planet kind of way.
It is a challenge to host friends and visitors, without straining the environment and disrupting the life of the community.
On the other hand, exploring new terrains, meeting people who have different life-styles, discovering the artistic and architectural treasures of a territory, indulging in the artisanal and culinary talents of its population and in the delicious produce of its land are enjoyable ways to widen our horizon and build ties with others. When we travel with curiosity and candidness, we learn about the world, its people and ourselves. Moreover, personally knowing sites that have a high natural and cultural value is an important prerequisite for preserving and protecting them.
That is why as cofounders of agriturismo / farmstay / eco-friendly B&Bs, we are determined to practice hospitality and agriculture in an ethical and virtuous manner, with interest and respect for the natural environment, the territory, its animals and wildlife, its inhabitants and their culture. We are striving to use resources responsibly and efficiently, regenerate and enrich the land and be of value to the local community. We wish to create an environment, where we, our guests, the people who work here and around us, and our natural surroundings can enjoy each other’s company and be enriched by shared experiences.
Henry Miller said: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” We believe this may lead to a new and better way of being and doing things. It’s a journey, and we are far from having reached the goal. We invite you to travel with us and to let us benefit from your knowledge and experience.
As part of the process, these are some of the ways we pledge to engage responsibly and respectfully with our environment:
We privilege local, organic products for the food and drink we serve to our guests, because love goes through the stomach, as they say, and also because we wish to encourage the indigenous economy built around good quality, healthy and sustainable production – including our own modest organic harvests, e.g. from the vegetable garden, the olive grove, the apiary.
We encourage a lower or at least more mindful carbon footprint. Although it is not easy to reach us by public transportation and the use of a car for exploring the area is almost unavoidable, we propose that guests arrive to a nearby city by bus or train and then rent a car. We can also easily arrange for rental bicycles or e-bikes and are happy to advise on walks and hikes, including with experienced environmental guides, and on other activities that do not require a motorized vehicle, such as truffle hunting or foraging for wild herbs.
We strive to be energy-efficient and save water, in every possible way. We have installed solar panels to feed into the electrical supply system and have invested in insolating the buildings against excessive heat and cold. We harvest rain and drainage water to irrigate our garden which has been planned for minimal water consumption. Bedlinens and towels are changed only when necessary or requested by our guests.
We recycle anything that can be recycled and compost what can be composted, while aspiring to zero waste. We privilege glass bottles for drinks and are minimizing the use of plastic, including for courtesy sets for guests. We use mostly environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Our pools are natural swimming pools or calibrated to make the most efficient use of chemicals, within legal norms.
We have planted our vegetable garden according to organic permaculture principles which requires less human intervention and requires little watering. Similarly, we grow a mix of flowers in the olive grove that provide green fertilization to the soil, and is bee-friendly.
We greatly value biodiversity and respect our domestic animals and the wildlife around us, treating them with care and appreciation. For those who have bees, we encourage a bee-friendly and organic approach to beekeeping and to use only strictly indispensable amounts of insect repellents and other potentially harmful substances. Overall, we integrate animals and do so holistically given how important they are to the ecosystem and the role they can play in regenerating the soil if managed properly. We try to keep chickens, goats, and other animals free-ranging or as close to that as feasible, and aim to keep them healthy by natural means while abiding the law in terms of required vaccination and using modern veterinary medicine to avoid unnecessary pain or suffering.
We support the local economy by calling on local artisans, professionals and service-providers, and buying from family-run businesses and small shops. We have found that many local professionals will go out of their way to provide quality services, to understand what we require and to follow up with friendly and generous post-sale services. When possible, we introduce bartering in our easier transactions.
With keen interest, we explore the territory, its history, culture, artistic and architectural treasures, its natural beauties and the talents of its artisans and producers. We actively participate in the local cultural and social life, for example by sponsoring cultural events or volunteering in community activities. We are happy, of course, to share our knowledge and insights with our guests to enrich their experience.
This is not an exhaustive list, but we hope it gives you a sense of how we try to live and work in harmony with our environment.
Call to Action
Feel free to ask questions and make creative suggestions that will help us further improve our way of being and doing things. We promise to give them our full attention.
Here’s to creating a gang of like-minded ecorganic agrientrepreneurs or farmtrepreneurs that enjoy hosting guests who long to be in nature and to discover our wonderful cultural environments!
Email info[AT]casabeatrix.pt or look us up on Facebook to connect, sign on, and work together for a better, more sustainable future.
This is great, dear Shahnaz! May I add a few more ideas here, especially around the sort of relations we wish to cultivate with the local community and also – this is very important to my art-loving husband – the essential role of culture and art in a sustainable lifestyle:
– With keen interest, we explore the territory, its history, culture, artistic and architectural treasures, its natural beauties and the talents of its artisans and producers. We actively participate in the local cultural and social life, for example by sponsoring cultural events or volunteering in community activities. We are happy, of course, to share our knowledge and insights with our guests to enrich their experience.
– (This is a variation on your last paragraph) We support the local economy by calling on local artisans, professionals and service-providers, and buying from family-run businesses and small shops. We have found that many local professionals will go out of their way to provide quality services, to understand what we require and to follow up with friendly and generous post-sale services. When possible, we introduce bartering in our easier transactions
– Though it is not always easy to reach rural destinations (such as farmstays) by public transportation, and while the use of a car for exploring rural areas is nearly unavoidable, we propose that guests arrive by train to a nearby city and then rent a car. The hosts can also arrange for rental bicycles or e-bikes and are happy to advise on walks and hikes, including with experienced environmental guides, and on other activities that do not require a motorized vehicle, such as truffle hunting or foraging for wild herbs.
Thanks Antonella, I have updated the text – it will continue to be a living, evolving Manifesto, but this is a great start!