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Ex Officine Agrarie Ridolfi [Former Ridolfi Agrarian Workshop]

In 1827, president of the Accademia dei Georgofili Cosimo Ridolfi wrote in the «Giornale Agrario Toscano» that Tuscan farmers «quite often spend their sweat and efforts uselessly, because they are not always guided by the right criteria in their work». It was therefore necessary to train a class of technically qualified farmers capable of employing the new methods and new instruments to rationalise the production processes. One of the most significant initiatives in this direction was the creation of an institute of agricultural science at Ridolfi’s Meleto farm. Opened in 1834 and approvingly supported by the Georgofili, the school had a workshop for the construction of farming equipment and an experimental farm for practical-rural instruction. The study programme students had to follow was divided into three phases. The subjects of the first phase were drawing, geography, geology and botany; successively they studied geometry, mechanics and chemistry; finally, they followed courses of veterinary science, sheep-farming, the treatment of farm products and farm administration. The school initially registered eighteen students which soon rose to thirty.

From 1837 to 1853, the villa of Cosimo Ridolfi periodically hosted the famous "agrarian days". These were meetings between large, medium and small landowners. The delegations of numerous academies (Georgofili of Florence, Fisiocritici of Siena, Labronici of Livorno, etc.) took part in the meetings. New farm machines were presented, memorandums were read on the topics under discussion and shows were organised for the exchange of products. The meetings as well as the Meleto Institute itself were certainly the instrument for favouring innovation in agriculture, but they also had a "social" value, as they sought to maintain cohesion between Tuscan landowners, so as to guarantee the established order.

After nine years, the Institute ceased its activity with a positive balance. The experience continued at an agrarian science institute adjoining the University of Pisa, and in other schools inspired by the model Ridolfi proposed at his farm.


Texts by Graziano Magrini

English translation by Victor Beard

Last update 10/gen/2008