The “Super-Abile” Garden in Salussola farms well-being
Ten years ago, in Salussola (BI), an oasis of well-being for disabled people was born: the Mario and Marie Gianinetto farm has recently conceived a project allowing wheelchair-bound people to experience farming thanks to the “Super-Abile” Garden.

“The day centre gives people with deambulatory problems the opportunity to find a new purpose”, told us Ivo Manavella, president of ANFASS (Biellese Cooperative for Social Integration), while travelling towards the Mario and Marie Gianinetto farm, managed by the association. Here is a typical day of an ANFFAS operator: every morning a minibus picks up the group of people with disabilities from our structure in Biella to take them to the day centre in Gaglianico, where they are organized according to the activities they follow. During the week they participate in workshops: artistic exercises, bookbinding, IT, sewing, personal hygiene; while at weekends we often organize day trips and picnics in the territory, also thanks to the collaboration with Biella’s ANA (Alpinos National Associations) and CASB (a hiking organization).

For some, the morning is dedicated to social agriculture, or farming therapy: this group is driven to the Mario and Marie Gianinetto farm in Salussola (BI), where they spend a few hours working the land with the assistance of Ilaria and Enrica, two passionate operators.

This farm is created on the site of an old abandoned farmstead donated to ANFFAS ten years ago. Thanks to the collaboration of Biella’s Alpinos Association, in 2002 Ivo had the idea to renovate the building and the greenhouse to start an agricultural activity somehow socially involved. As of today, the organization owns over 15.000 sqm of land, partly wooden partly farmed areas. It accommodates about 20 disabled people and 4/5 operators who have been taking care of them for over ten years.

“We started with a farmstead in ruins, and water was an issue: this area only has superficial springs, so if it doesn’t rain, there simply isn’t any available” explains Livia, a 85-year-old lady who has been collaborating with the centre two mornings a week for six years. She has established a wonderful relationship with the disabled guests, a healthy connection allowing the group to find an alternative way of communicating.

Farming has always been a factor bringing together men, women, elderlies and children. It would glue them together creating the first settled communities, an activity in which everybody had their role: this is the basic premise of Ilaria and Enrica’s jobs. “Our objective is to find the ideal task for each participant, the one closest to their needs”, says Ilaria in the course of our visit to the centre and its farmed plots.

On your arrival, you actually feel welcomed by a large family: it’s obvious how the passion and the enthusiasm with which the operators carry out their activities represent a huge opportunity for their guests.

Ilaria’s words convey the deep value of the daily commitment of the centre: social agriculture, like farming therapy, gives the youths the chance to feel gratified with their work. Nature is by definition the most embracing and friendliest environment. Caring for it requires time and conditions conforming to their needs: Ilaria tells us that – even if most of them are not actually consciously aware of it – their disabled visitors physically perceive the feeling of having done something useful for themselves and for the others. Ilaria explains, for instance, how satisfying it is for them to see their products for sale at the market in Gaglianico every Friday morning: it is a way to make them feel part of a society which often marginalizes them. This time of year they grow asparagus, peas, potatoes, salad, cicoria di catalogna, strawberries. There is who waters the plants, who cuts the grass, who shifts the manure, who picks the vegetables.

After chatting with the group a bit, Ilaria took us to see the “Super-Abile” Garden: “This project was born to give people with physical disability the opportunity to farm land”, she comments while showing us the three wooden structures specifically realized to allow wheelchair users to pick up herbs like parsley or basil, which are not too high for them to gather. Under the soil, which has been levelled, a net guarantees them more stability; along all the perimeter of the area a small step has been built instead, so that blind people can get their bearings.

“It is not only a farmed plot, but also a garden” specifies Ilaria, pointing out two benches for whoever wishes to relax and watch the others working; all around is a hedge of flowers like potentillas, hypericums and buddlejas, which attract butterflies.

“From cared to caring person” is the slogan with which Ilaria, Enrica and all the ANFFAS operators assist their guests. “Here at the centre we don’t farm plants but well-being”. An agriculture at the service of people, far from aiming at a financial return, determined to create a social capital and deep relationships between human beings, environment, nature and territory. A priceless achievement which, like a plant, needs to be farmed with passion.