FIRST STEP – PREPARATION OF THE SOIL:
THE GREAT RECLAMATIONS
This agricultural area, like much of the Po Valley, was covered by woods and marshes. The Romans began the great reclamations followed in the 12th century by the Cistercian monks and benedictines: wetlands were transformed into orderly and productive lands thanks to the patience and the manual work of the men that canalized the waters and made the land arable. During this process channels and irrigation ditches were formed and were used in the following centuries to irrigate, supply mills and transport the goods. It’s thanks to this ingenious pattern that the water from Lake Maggiore, which goes via the Ticino river and then Naviglio Grande, arrives in our rice paddies.
TWO GREAT RESOURCES: WATER AND CLAY
This new agricultural landscape owes its good fortune to the richness of the water of our territory, which is located within the range of spring waters and clayey soil, composed of fine sediments transported by the currents of rivers over thousands of years. It is generally waterproof and allows to keep the water and the nutrients, thus promoting the cultivation of rice. The clay makes the soil of Park of Rice suitable also for the creation of bricks, and for this reason in the post-war period the surface layer of the land of the park was removed and worked in numerous kilns to produce bricks useful for reconstruction of the city after bombing. Today, we can still notice the differences that arise from this action; it is clearly observed among the rice paddies and the Church of San Marco, which is the original countryside, and therefore, slightly elevated when comparing with the surrounding rice fields. Unfortunately, the land that had been used to pull out the clay and to build bricks for years was not fertile because it was filled with the rubble of Milan, and the water could not drain anymore. Older farmers still remember an old popular saying: Quando la terra l’è scavada per 100 anni le malada.
PATIENCE AND POSITIVITY
The agricultural work “forces’ everyone to have great patience and humility, because the results do not depend on the commitment dedicated nor one’s own ability. To get to know and follow the rhythms of nature, preserve the fertility of the earth through precise agronomic choices, accept often unpredictable weather conditions, wait with patience for the outcome, requires a great respect for “what we have in our hands”.
Peasants’ wisdom speaks about the ability to wait and hope, which is only possible by recognizing a wealth that already exists. We need to start thinking positively and accept the fact that the results of one’s work do not depend only on one’s hands.
Find out more about other stages of the Rice Road: