European rural areas are populated with small farms. They contribute to the production of food that is, later on, self-consumed or acquired by consumers in both rural and (peri)urban areas. For the mere fact that they operate in rural areas, small farms are part of rural dynamics (e.g. economic, social, environmental) that influence rural transition. In other words, in Europe rural transition goes along to issues related to agriculture and food production and consumption, many rural areas and businesses operating there contributing to food provisioning and acquisition.

The Summer School explores if and how small farms impact on sustainable rural transition while contributing to food provisioning and acquisition. In particular, the programme walks students along the investigation of four themes. These themes fall into the four above mentioned factors influencing the sustainability of rural transition and keep a focus on small farming. The themes can be synthesized as it follows:1. Small farms, sustainable tourism, and territorial valorization. This theme explores how small farms contribute to creating opportunities for a sustainable, experiential and multi-seasonal quality tourism sector. This theme includes analysis of rural tourism supply systems with particular reference to local production and agro-food supply chains and other traditional local products; multi-functionality and diversification of agriculture, agro-tourism, social agriculture, analysis of short supply chains2. Small farms and political agenda. This theme focusses on if, and which, policy acts support directly (e.g. subsidies) or indirectly (e.g. by mentioning small farming as part of broader political strategies) small farms.3. Small farms, economic viability, and socio-cultural suitability.

This theme explores how small farms are organized and work. It focusses on their dimensions with respect to production, income generation, employment capacity, market capacity. Moreover, the theme investigates the ability of small farms to produce services (e.g. employment opportunities) and goods (e.g. food products) that are adequate to the local expectations and needs as they are influenced by the socio-cultural and demographic features (e.g. jobs and products for which there is demand of; practices of food provisioning and acquisition that are in line with food traditions).4. Small farms and the environment. This theme focusses on the impact of small farms on the environment. Namely, on the way small farms activities impact on the use and reproduction of genetic resources, agroecosystem services, and abiotic factors. Work planThe Summer Course is organized into 3 learning sections:1. Literature review2. Research Methodologies 3. Food and Innovation in Rural Transition (case-study).

Some of the main concepts that students will elaborate and debate during the Programme as listed as followings:

  • Transition and sustainable development in rural areas and in agriculture
  • Rural-urban divide and bridge
  • Policies for rural areas and small farms
  • Small farming, concepts and (economic, social, environmental) implications
  • Multifunctional agriculture: concepts and implications;
  • Social learning approach to innovation.

Discussing selected case studies in Tuscany, students will be stimulated to reflect on the issues emerging from the theoretical framework. The part of “Research Methodologies” uses a participatory learning approach, where students will be actively involved in observing and understanding the empirical reality, engaged in reflection, discussion and reporting – elaborating concepts individually as well as in groups. This part of the course is articulated into a series of workshops that will introduce and reflect on the methodology for fact-finding activity, analysis and reporting (i.e. individuation of focus and specific objectives, specific methods, etc.)


  • Interviewing methodologies;
  • Visual monitoring activities;
  • Group work facilitation;
  • Data elaboration;
  • Reporting methods.

Visual methods will be integrated into this framework, is very useful to build, elaborate, exchange and communicate new knowledge.“Food and Innovation in Rural transition” case study introduces students to the application of the theoretical and methodological background to the empirical cases. A guided tour of field visits to the Tuscan northern territory, together with meetings and interviews with special informants and stakeholders, will be organized in order to expose students to the specific issues of the course. Within this section of the course, main tasks for the students will be to collect, elaborate and report data and information, according to with the theoretical background received and by implementing research methodologies".


The course aims to increase awareness and competencies about food issues and transition in agriculture and rural areas and to prepare students in order to design future sustainable transitions pathways able to meet medium and long-term societal and consumer demands. The Course would provide students engaged with agricultural and rural studies an immersive experience on the Tuscan territory

Who can apply

EU and Non-EU students (University degree or Bachelor degree, Master degree) as well as Ph.D. students



Program Intensity

Full time

Admission Requirements

Bachelor degree or Master degree; high level of English




1600 ( 1000 Fees; 600 Accommodation)


Prof. Francesco Di Iacovo

e-mail: francesco.diiacovo@unipi.it

e-mail: paola.scarpellini@unipi.it


29 June- 27 July 2019


30 April 2019

Program taught in:
  • English
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Last updated October 11, 2019
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