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Comune di Cupramontana

Telephone: +39 - 0731 - 786811

Email: comune@comune.cupramontana.an.it

SHARECROPPING

Farmers in front of the farmhouse

 

The landscape of the Marche region, like its wines and its cuisine, are derived from an important farming history.

In Cupramontana, as in all the Marche region, the rural world was the world of sharecropping.

Sharecropping was the agricultural agreement under which an owner or landlord (lessor) assigned to the partner/settler a farm suitable for agricultural production.

In Italy the first contract confirmed dates from the ninth century, but it was only in the twelfth century that sharecropping became the contractual form most prevalent in the Po Valley, Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and less so but also in the hilly areas of other central and northern regions.

After the war there was a rapid decline of sharecropping not only for the sudden push towards direct cultivation by the farms, which some thought to expropriate and assign to the sharecropper tenants, but also for the growing refusal of farmers to reside in old farmhouses, often without electricity and running water.

 

THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF SHARECROPPING

Farmers in the field

 

This harsh and archaic system of land management that affected almost all of the Marche territory, from the foot of the Apennines to the coastal city limits, was just ended in the 1970s by the law, 756/1964.

The last sharecropping contracts were transformed to rental contracts in the 1980s.

The farm was a closed economic system, autarchic. It produced all that was possible on-site, in particular that in regards to alimentation, limiting purchases to a minimum.

The fields were alternately planted with cereals and fodder to feed the family and livestock. In the fields, every 8-10 meters the forage or cereal crops were interspersed with a single row of vines supported often by fruit trees, as well as by scattered olive trees.

The alternation of fields and rows of vines supported by walnut, cherry, apple trees and other plants helped protect the land from the risks of landslides.

Next to the sharecropping house was always a vegetable garden from which to obtain seasonal vegetables.

In the stables there were 4-5 milk cows and/or oxen to pull the plow, 1 or 2 calves, a few pigs, some sheep for cheese, chickens, geese and ducks for eggs or for meat, rabbits fed by grass gathered in the meadows.

The manure was valuable and inexpensive fertilizer for the fields and for the garden. The environmental impact and pollution was near zero, perfectly sustainable.