Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pazzi Americani...Italian-Americans Hosting Restoration Ag Workshop!

Linda and I Checking Out the Field Clearing
So what are a bunch of Americans doing in a little, rural village in far northern Italy? Veglio is a world away from Orange County or Chicago, but every summer you will find us working, laughing, eating and sharing here.

My wife and I have a passion for healthy food, restoration of the land, family and Italy. My grandfather was born in the ancient house that hosts the workshop, and we have been reconnecting with the important root that has existed in this soil for over 500 years.

Our Clan Making Fresh Pasta
From our first steps on this land eight years ago, we are now joined by our children, brothers, sisters, cousins, old friends and new. Our dreams and sweat are flowing to help breathe vitality once again to this perfect example of a sustainable village. 

For the Restoration Agriculture workshop, my wife Linda, our oldest daughter Alexandra and I will be sharing our home, cooking and experiences in living a Vita Mista….a life split between the modern urban life and one grounded  in the land and traditions from past centuries.

We will be joined by our local Italian family as well as various “collaborators” from across Europe and Italy.  Linda is a passionate coach and student of holistic health and nutrition. Alex is a writer and marketing professional from Chicago who is a leader in helping the non-profit and corporate community service efforts. I am involved in various business and technology ventures in addition to helping young food and ag entrepreneurs. 

Looking forward to seeing you on the mountain. Salute!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Walk with Papa

My biological father left before I formed any memories of him.  He was replaced by an abusive stepfather who only much later mellowed into a sweet, but broken old man. My mother struggled with her own demons of anger and mental illness. 

Growing up, encouragement and guidance were in short supply.  Fear and criticism were the primary themes.

My maternal grandfather “Papa Tuna”, with roots in this gritty but beautiful village of Veglio, was a legend in my mind.  He named me for himself after a long, unproductive debate amongst my parents. He took me fishing, showed me the cows, pigs, rabbits and chickens that provided for our extended family. He introduced me to the wonders of coffee and dark chocolate and those awful candy cigarettes that were mandatory for any child of the 60’s. 

He died when I was seven, the result of too much free time in retirement that was occupied by drinking.  He was a pioneer with a kind and generous spirit.

I sought acceptance and praise in many forms.  Sports, sometimes school but most of all in work. It was fleeting and I put way too much of my identity into the work of the moment.

Later in life, I have been blessed with great friends and  mentors.  People who are there for the good and the bad.  Who help each other most when the chips are down.   I felt the power of an “atta boy” and really honest acceptance.  And in advice and perspective even when I didn’t want to hear it. 
I took a walk with Papa this week. Our hands were clasped behind our backs just like he did and I do. We looked at the new roof, the kitchen the fields that we are clearing.  We sat in the church and looked up at the white dove and the blue and fading ceiling.  I asked him if I have done ok.  He smiled and winked but I could not hear him. 

So for now, we will keep at it.  And I will do my best to encourage and guide and help the young people in my life. 

Ultimately, we are helping to build something for this next generation who are being called back to the land and a deeper spirit of community.