Agriculture is a powerful matrix-tool able to bring together–with a common focus on the quality of plant and animal life–the reasoning behind and creation of social, economic, and above all cultural projects that place Man at the center of truly sustainable development. From this outlook we move toward the creation of new alliances between vision and mission, values and possible practices, and Man and the environment.

The CfGC has a role in many projects in this area, ranging from communication in support of agricultural policy and within institutions, to sustainability of automation systems, the creation of new models of technology transfer, and definition of the use of new media.

The CfGC believes that agricultural activities, if well communicated, can be a powerful tool for systemic intervention in a territory, which we define as an expression of infinite forms of activity: social, economic, and cultural. Indeed, agriculture presents characteristics which–for as undervalued as they may be starting from the growers themselves–can today be especially key in redrawing the future of our nation, the European Union, our planet.

And yet, despite its fundamental strategic value, agriculture struggles to express itself effectively to those many other realities that in any case derive, or could derive, immense advantage precisely from its development.

An “uncommunicative agriculture”

We find ourselves faced with an “uncommunicative agriculture” that’s in trouble: it’s unable to present itself as an environment where it’s socially, economically and culturally convenient to bring together the experiences, expertise, information, and know-how of the stakeholders who are directly or indirectly involved. It is an unsustainable situation from all points of view.

The CfGC’s effectiveness derives from the support that generative communication can offer agriculture.  Inter-sectorial development strategies support innovation development appropriate for agriculture and agri-food activities: generative communication targets involvement of the entire socio-economic and cultural/cultural heritage systems to which these activities belong, or could belong.

People at the center

This means working on several issues. For example, the potential of technological innovation–from social media strategy to analysis of the socio-economic impact of precision agriculture–with an eye toward the indisputable importance of public health (i.e. organic systems and certification), quality of life (i.e. relationships between small farming communities and large cities), and the value of intergenerational collaboration as exemplified by the renewed interest in agriculture on the part of young people.

Thus, agriculture becomes a true powerhouse. With its core value of quality of life for plants and animals, it embodies the driving forces and motivations behind projects–social, economic, and cultural–that place Man at the center of sustainable development. The aim is to move beyond catchy slogans about the world we dream of but from which we move farther away on a daily basis, and focus on the perspective of rediscovered alliances between vision and mission, values and possible practices, and Man and the environment.

The CfGC approach to “Agriculture and Rural Development”

Agricultural policy, institutional interventions, promotion of communities

With regard to agricultural policy, the CfGC has had the opportunity to work alongside decision makers governing public resources [see the Generative Communication project for the 2014-2020 Rural Development Program of the Tuscany Region]. Our activities have made it possible to collect knowledge from operators and various stakeholders about the real conditions in which they work. This information has become very useful in improving communication between those having the authority to govern and those working, or who would like to work, in the field.

What are the real conditions of people involved in agriculture, forestry, agri-food and fishing? What problems do they face? What is the relationship between public administration, politics, and the daily life of those working in various economic activities? And especially, what communication strategies are needed for public administration and small, medium and large, private and public enterprises to reinforce the community that is often proclaimed loudly but not practiced? How can economic and social development be reinforced if there is no life-giving communication that strengthens the community?

Agriculture and sustainability

The CfGC has embarked on a line of research that focuses on the sustainable scope of the agricultural sector. This research has brought to the surface scientific evidence regarding the fact that agriculture places itself in the driver’s seat for sustainability only when it’s able to create networks between the many players that give it life and benefit from its existence.

Again, it’s a problem of communication. Agricultural sustainability depends on the sector’s ability to construct around the various activities a dynamic and collaborative community of interests and expertise able to succeed on the economic and social plane, whether it’s at a local, regional, national or European level.

Therefore system sustainability, with communication lending an irreplaceable contribution to its creation: from health to tourism, from manufacturing 4.0 to artisanal production and craftsmanship, from service industries to cultural heritage and landscapes, and to every spin-off that derives from them.

The media’s portrayal of agriculture

A third area of research concerns the way agriculture is portrayed in the media. There’s no doubt that the future of the sector, as well as its potential, is deeply entrenched in the knowledge it disseminates in the social fabric. Our researchers have intervened with regard to information systems, providing food for thought and collecting the most suitable contents to attract attention and involvement.

In other words, bringing stakeholders together in an active community that can build a support network able to not only deal with crises but also take action before they happen. In a knowledge-based society, information can represent the most precious asset but it’s necessary to nurture it by engaging the world of research.

The Third Mission: communication and research

As part of a university research unit, CfGC researchers ask themselves about the most appropriate interpretation of the university’s Third Mission with regard to agriculture. CfGC’s objective is to put researchers in a position to give value to that which agriculture represents for the reference territory.

For this reason, the CfGC is developing, in collaboration with important players and various agricultural associations, a specific model of innovation transfer.