Study Abroad in Northern Italy 2018
Visit to Armanini Fish Farm and Darzo Mines
On this rainy day, I was able to visit the Darzo Mines just north of where we are staying. As a class we trekked up the mountain to visit the old miner station and mine openings from 1901. The hike was full of fifty foot plus conifers along with several other thousand-year-old trees. It was amazing to see these huge trees along with the man made developments high up in the mountain range because I saw first-hand how humans have coexisted with nature in the past centuries. The mines were very extensive and deep; and when our tour guide made us shut off our lamps to grasp how the workers would spend some of their days, it made the whole experience surreal. I cannot even imagine having to follow the compressed air pipes to find my way back to the opening of the mine. These men had unequivocal courage to find the huge deposits of Barite sulfate in order to sell it for a profit. I cannot even imagine how these workers also were able to transport the three meter blocks down the hill. Just another lesson to demonstrate to me how nothing is impossible once full determination is in place.
As we walked around the little village of Darzo, I started wondering what made places like this and Trentino so very different from San Diego or LA. Without a doubt, their overall impact on the planet is substantially smaller than either of these major southern California cities, but why exactly is that? One of the most obvious differences is the overall size of the cities/villages as well as the number of people living in them. In Darzo, the population is less than 1000, while LA’s population is close to four million. I feel like this “decrease in population” would then make it so there was less of an impact on the earth. I also have heard that it is generally healthier, mentally and physically, for the individual to live in smaller cities. So then if it’s better for the environment and better for your physical self, why do we still choose to live in big cities? I guess a fascination for always feeling connected makes us want to live in these places that destroy the environment and, generally speaking, make us sick.
I still have one question, however. Is there a way to bring the good from the small cities and place them in the “connected” large cities and/or “connect” the small cities without them losing all their positive benefits? That is a question that would need to be answered by someone much smarter than me.
Today we visited Armanini fish farm. They can farm different types of fish there but they mostly talked to us about their trout. The fish that they farm at Armanini are in high demand because you cannot go out to find them easily in the rivers and lakes. The 1st step in their farming system so to fertilize or breed the fish they have. The eggs that hatch and are born have a critical period of 8-10 days where they are self-sufficient, meaning they survive using the nutrients they can find in the coating of their egg (or their placenta). If they survive this critical period, they are moved to different tanks as they grow.
Once the fish are fully grown, Armanini sells them to clients. They used to sell directly to restaurants and hotels but now they focus more on selling to larger distributors. At Armanini they recycle their water. The water is kept at 9-10 degrees Celsius and it takes about 2 years to get to a normal sized trout. This is a logistical issue of being in the mountainous area because in the valley the water is warmer and it will only take about 1 year to get good sized trout. This logistical issue is true of many things in the mountainous area (farming and raising animals) This leads to the mountain area losing a large portion of their population because they are so isolated and cannot produce product as fast as most of the market prefers. Something positive about Armanini fish farm being located in Trentino is that they do not have many competitors in the area so they are able to thrive.
This mornings visit to the Armanini fish farm was a very interesting experience. For starters, I had no idea fish breeding was such an established enterprise. The amount of fish that were being bred at the site was a bit overwhelming, but I appreciated the fact that the fish were bred naturally and not manipulated. The only aspect that turned my stomach was the rate at which they were being bred. The Armanini fish farm that we learned about today was smaller in size compared to larger companies and separated from a city that would attract tourists to the site. This being said, their ability to only sell to restaurants reduces their opportunity to make money. As a result of this, the fish farm has to set themselves apart from the rest. They do this by providing fish that are fed natural algae and other nutrients that other breeding sites do not do. This allows the fish farm to set a higher price on their product. This site was especially relevant to our class topic because the water that is used to hold the fish at each stage of life is cleaned, recycled and reused again on site. By doing this, the company is acknowledging their location in the alps and is using sustainability to practically fuel their business; this fuel being water.
Today we had the opportunity to visit a fish farm as well as an old abandoned mine, both of which were unique and relative to our course work. We also were able to visit an Agro-tourism farm where we had an authentic northern Italian meal. At the fish farm we learned that there are a lot of laws and regulations surrounding the fish farming business. Some of these include strict regulations about the water that they source to the farm, regulations stating that they can only keep a certain amount of water at the farm at one time, regulations involving the need to make sure that the water that comes out of the farm is clean and safe for the surrounding environment and regulations that restrict the types of fish that are allowed to be farmed. The owner of the farm emphasized that most regulations clash and contradict each other so it makes for a confusing operation. Since regulations come from all areas of the government such as national, regional, and the providences she said that it would be much easier for her if they were all streamlined. One of the things I found interesting is that there is a law/regulation that states that you have to provide consumers with the exact origins of where meat and fish comes from. I believe that is a great law to have but I understand that it could be flawed as people could lie about where they get their meat from in order to satisfy the customer and benefit from their patronage. After the fish farm we had a lovely walk to the agro-tourism farm. I learned that in agro-tourism there are requirements in order to be considered one. These include certain regulations that you have to first be a farm and second you have to then serve a certain percentage of your own food. I thought that was really cool to learn because I knew exactly where my food was coming from the whole lunch. I wish it was more like that in America! After lunch we hiked to the mines in Darzo. It was a beautiful hike filled with trees and flowers that I had never seen before. We got lucky and rain didn’t come until we got to the top of the mountain. While we were there we learned about barite which is a very valuable natural mineral made up of barium. The surprising thing to learn was that barite was considered a waste product of the mines before the industrial revolution. Since then miners and consumers realized how valuable and useful it is. We learned that barite is used in hospitals to detect diseases, for food packaging, for photography paper, and mixed with animal fat to create a cream that covers Gorgonzola so that it will be preserved. This mine didn’t impact the greater environment really because they didn’t use chemicals to mine; they only used water since the barite is so pure. It did however, have a big impact on the landscape. They closed the mine in 1964 because a pilar was made out of barite to keep the mountain from collapsing but when they ran out of barite to mine in the mountain they kept chipping away at it to get more material so at some point it became too dangerous. Now there are holes and canyons forming in the mountain which causes a lot of environmental impacts within the immediate area. I was really intrigued by every place that we visited today and I’m so glad that I get to see so many beautiful areas while learning about environmental science!
Today we started our rainy day at a fish farm. This fish farm housed typical fish of the alpine lake including trout and unique kind of alpine trout found in the lakes in the surrounding areas. The owners have 4 different farms in different areas with fish that live in different types of water temperature. In the farm we went to, the fish live in spring water and stay in 50 degree Fahrenheit waters at all time. The farm process starts by “Milking” or harvesting the fish. Then they collect the eggs of the fish and put them all together in a kind of net where the eggs stay until the fish are born for about one month. A lot are born but a lot die throughout this process. As the survivors continue to grow, they ease their way into adult type of feeding and are transferred into different types of tanks depending on what state they are in in the growing process. They don’t just grow full sized fish, some stock sold smaller sizes depending on demand. After that we hiked to the town of Darzo where we saw the center of the town and the church and many murals on the walls on the buildings. Then we had a traditional Italian meal where I tried rabbit for the first time. I thought it was good but I probably wouldn’t order it again for myself. Then we hiked more to the abandoned mine that was opened in 1894 where they first discovered the first deposit of the kind of rock they mine. It’s main characteristic is that it’s white. Since the second industrial revolution it has had a lot of value, being used in the chemical, medical, and building industries. They didn’t harm the earth because they don’t use chemicals, only water to extract it. They closed the mine in 2009 because there was no more material, it was becoming too dangerous, and it was not economically convenient to get a profit off of.
Our adventures today first consisted of going to the Armanini fish farm. This fish farm, although not completely sustainable, was most definitely more sustainable than any fish farm I have seen or read about in North America. A factor that could play into this fish farm being more sustainable is because it is smaller than normal corporations. The other interesting part about this fish farm is that they can actually put the fish that they breed into the lake when the population begins to decrease. The fish farm also does not use antibiotics, but their fish food is not completely natural. Another sustainable aspect about this fish farm is that they recycle their water. In regards to the packaging aspect of their products they do not use preservatives, but instead apple cider vinegar and sun flower oil.
The second and final stop was the Darzo Mines. In the mines they didn’t use any technology and it was purely manual work. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that they found the mineral barite, it was so pure that they didn’t need to use any chemicals with it, just water. One way that barite was put to use was by putting it on meats ad cheese as a preservative so that they could send it to the United States to grow the industry. Since there were more uses for this mineral the value grew and the mining was expanding. There weren’t that many environmental impacts as there were landscaping impacts. The mines after they were exploited to the max or too dangerous would just be left. After being left huge chambers and canals would for or be exposed from previous mining. I learned a lot more about this area and I cant wait for tomorrow to learn more.
My favorite part of today was definitely the Darzo mines. The fish farms were also very interesting but the mines were more interesting to me. We learned about how the mines were open for over a century and they closed somewhat recently in 2009. That fact in particular really caught my attention because usually we learned about functioning mines in history class and how they happened a long time ago but to know that they were still working in the mines just nine years ago is truly mind blowing.
Barite was and is put to good use. Once the barite was extracted from the Earth it was put to use in the oil and medical industry. For the medical industry they would have the patients eat/ drink the powder before their cat scans or x rays so it could fill into peoples organs and they could find where the issue was quicker with the barite in their system, which is very intriguing for me since I am studying how the body works and functions.
On the the enviromental side of the mineral and the process of removing the treasure the mines itself with the carts and the chambers that were created were not environmentally conscious because they started to collapse which created unnecessary holes in the side of the mountain which made it very dangerous. But, the mineral itself is very organic and does not damage the environment in any way. I can not wait to have more hands on experiences like today!
Today was a rainy day. We got the opportunity to learn about things none of us knew before, such as fish farming and mining in the Alps. We also got to learn about the logistical struggle of living in the Alps. Our kind tour guide told us that in his small village, they have no movie theater or hospital so if they want anything they have to go to Trento. Learning about the fish farm was extremely different than anything I had ever learned before. It was cool to know that they re use some of their water and they help keep the trout population up. This proved the farm to be sustainable. Hiking in the Alps to the mining house was quite the adventure. While we were in the house, it kinda felt as if we were living in history. It felt so real, which was extremely cool. Unfortunately I was too afraid to go into the mine itself because of spiders, I heard it was very cool. Tomorrow I will be bringing as extra jacket and some snacks.
For today’s activity, the importance of sustainable harvesting was understood. We first visited a fishery that produced fish on a more sustainable level than neighboring fisheries. The goal of the fishery was to produce fish in order to reduce the impact of fishing on the neighboring lakes and streams by meeting the local demand of fish consumption. They also are great at helping to re-stock fish inventories within the neighboring lakes and streams. It was a really admirable field in which the owners were a part of because there are many logistical problems associated with the area in which the fish are grown due to its location within the mountains. The owners also don’t use unsavory practices to sell their fish and are very transparent in what they feed their fish. Next activity we did was looking into the old mines of Darzo. These mines were mined as sustainable as possible because they were mined for Barium sulfate. The area was very rich in this substance and was extremely pure making them a valuable substance and economic driver for the region. It was a great communal effort digging out all of the substance from the mines and the mine was well excavated to fully exploit the material within the mine. The excavation was all done without any chemicals or processing to finalize the product. These are all cases of harvesting in a way in which makes sense and is economically great for the community and their lifestyles.
Today I had the fantastic opportunity to visit the Armanini Fish Farm and learn more about the ideology behind sustainably providing fish to the surrounding area without negatively impacting the surrounding ecosystems. This main concept that was dictated during the discussion of the Farm’s model was what I found particularly compelling; there is a particularly high demand for fish within the various business of Trentino (such as hotels and restaurants) and if it was to be met organically, the lakes and rivers would be fished until nothing remains of them. The main aim of the Armanini Fish Farm is to provide a better path to meet the present demand without driving the fish to extinction. Another part of the farm’s sustainability plan that I found to be important was the fact that instead of continuing to syphon water from the surrounding lakes and rivers, the Armanini Farm recycles it’s current water supply and uses it for all of it’s worth to keep their overall consumption lower than it would have been. The goals of Armanini were consistent with the main analysis of the course in terms of providing a sustainable product at a lower environmental cost and was an excellent opportunity to see it in action.
After the fish farm our guide, Tomás, took us back to his home town of Darzo and into the abandoned Barite mines. Even though it was rainy, cold, and my feet looked like prunes at the end of it, I still held the visit in high esteem in terms of educational value. The mines themselves were dark, damp, and full of spiders but as Tomás walked us through he explained the conditions the miners had to work with and how strenuous the job really must have been. It really provided me with a deeper perspective of the constructs of traditional methods of mining and how, even though what they were doing wasn’t technically “bad” for the environment, it still had negative impacts on the mountains themselves as the mines were susceptible to collapsing if they were dug too large and too deep. The experience was incredible and made it difficult to imagine that people actually worked (and still work) under those conditions.
Today we were guided through a small mining town named Darzo, and later the Darzo mines. In the town of Darzo, historically, they collected and distributed rocks, specifically Baryte. This rock was collected from the end of the 19th century all the way to the end of the twentieth. The mines were an early form of sustainability, as the rock required no chemical cleaning, but instead could be washed with water. However as the mining grew more intense, and the mined-out areas within the mountains grew larger they became unstable. Even though it was not initially damaging, on nearby mountains there is permanent damage due to the mountain collapsing inward. In the specific mine we went into, it was also abandoned but it had not degraded the mountain to the same degree. The locals were attempting to open up the mine as a tourist attraction, but for now the only residents were the spiders.
Today we began our journey by taking public transportation to a fish hatchery where we got to walk through some of the hatchery and speak with the owner of the fish hatchery, who was able to answer some interesting questions regarding how the hatchery works and also what some of the major challenges that they face on a regular basis. Nurturing fish to grow to the level where they can be sold on the local market is a time consuming process, as it can take around two years for a egg to change from the fertilization stage to becoming ready for consumers. After the initial phase of harvesting eggs and hatching, the fish spend the first 8-10 days of their lives surviving off of the nutrients from their egg, where at that point they are moved into different tanks depending on the size of the fish. The hatchery, located in a mountainous region where there is not as much ample land suitable to have a large hatchery, competes against many larger hatcheries which are located south in the valleys of Italy, not located in the Trentino province. These larger hatcheries, which are able to produce more fish than the one we visited, are not nearly as sustainable as the hatchery we visited today, which recycles all the water it uses. The product from the larger hatchery’s is usually inferior to the one that comes out of the hatchery we visited, however, consumers tastes and preferences may side with having a similar but lower quality product for a lower price compared to the higher quality and sustainably grown product which comes out of the hatchery we saw. The hatchery also helps supplement the local fish population in surrounding rivers by slowly reintroducing some of their fish, which is important because the local populations in some rivers and lakes has been depleted so much by overuse, and this in turn helps keep local rivers healthier because of the ecological life living there. After our tour of the fish farm, we took a short walk to the nearby town of Darzo, where we had a quick tour by our guide Tommaso.
After lunch, we headed up to the old mines located up the mountain parallel to Darzo, where after a winding drive up a narrow road, we started the trek up to the old mining house near the top of the mountain. From here, we learned more about the history of the mining in Darzo from our guide, and learned about the impact that the discovery of barite, a material which could be used for many uses, was found. In terms of the environmental impact that mining had on the local area, it was not clear from our tour of any major harmful effects, aside from some of the land above the shafts of some of the old mines collapsing in and creating a canyon. So all in all, it does seem that there was a little bit of environmental impact after all, but upon further discussion of the history of the mine, it seemed as if the economic opportunity the mine brought the town was much more important to the people who lived there around the time of the mine, as it brought jobs to many in the surrounding area, which disappeared upon the closure of the mine. It was Tommaso’s hope that one day there would be a museum up at the old mining house, so that the mine and its history could be shared with visitors, as well as bring back some of the positive economic impact the mine had previously by providing jobs at the museum.
Today we visited both the fishery and town of Darzo. I thought the fishery was not that exciting on its own, but it was very interesting listening to how they manage the regulations and promote sustainability in many ways, including not even using preservations in their products. It seems that all of the people we have visited with are very concerned about the affect they and their businesses have on the environment in this region, but it still surprised me that such a seemingly large fishery operation followed suit.
The town of Darzo itself was beautiful, like all of the towns in this region, but hiking up to the mine was definitely the most interesting part of the day. I really enjoyed getting to step into the mine and get a glimpse of the shafts the miners would climb in and out of each day, because it put into perspective how different lifestyles can be in different parts of the world, and what factors can make up these communities.
I am curious to know how different the community of Darzo was when the mine was open, and would also be interested in seeing the mine while it was still being utilized. It seems that Darzo is a fairly industrial town now, with the fishery and quarry, and I wonder how the people who live there feel about the impact these both have on the surrounding area and beyond.
Today’s visit included a trip to a fish farm, sustainable restaurant and old mining sight. My least favorite part of the day was the fish farm, because it was unsustainable in many aspects. For example, the farm bred the fish I’m close quarters, making the living conditions unhealthy. Additionally , the fish were kept in large bats of water, all of which have to be kept at around fifty degrees, and the water must be filtered, contributing to the unsustainability. Even though the farm releases some fish into nearby lakes and streams, this habit encourages over fishing, making it more difficult to limit the exploitation of fish in lakes and rivers. Overall, this experience helped me to gain a better understanding about the harsh treatment of fish and the unsustainability of fish farming.
Today we visited the fish farm- which was very eye opening. We were explained how the fish are breed to mass produce, which was alarming as the treatment of the fish was horrible. The breeder explained how their waste would be collected and then used as fertilizer for farming. The fish were separated into cement tubs- different ones for those at different stages. After reaching a certain point, they would then be moved into the water outside. We saw dead fish floating in certain tubs, which a woman was removing with a metal-like ladle. While the treatment of the fish themselves were horrible, it’s more environmentally sustainable as they are not depleting nature’s natural resources.
Visiting the Fish Hatchery was SO COOL. I learned so many fun facts… Fish can live in different types of water. They have 4 farms with different types of water for the fish. At the facility we were at, the river water that they used varied in temperature depending on the season. They put different types of fish in different containers based on the water and where they can survive. Temperature is very important for these creatures. Coldness is needed! In addition, they had to follow lots of regulations! There are strict regulations about the water coming in. They can keep only a certain quantity and they have to pay attention to the water coming out. Exportation wise, in this area they have a lot of problem with connection because of the road. They used to mostly sell to restaurants nearby. Logistical issue exist AND since mountains are remote and isolated, that’s a big reason why many people don’t live here. It’s admirable that they’re able to keep their business running! Now, they only sell to big distributers because it’s easier for them. Prior to this visit, I hadn’t really thought about where my fish was coming from. Now, I am going to try to be more cognizant of where my food is coming from, especially when eating fish!
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