The Italian Almanac

a heap of manure

Italian News - September 29

The central Italian region of Emilia has set up a prize for the most nutritious and best-smelling manure to help its cows produce that Italian culinary glory, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. "You can usually tell from the smell what kind of manure is the best food for your fields," said jury chief Ettore Tibaldi, an emeritus zoology professor at Milan University. "Farmers have been doing just that for thousands of years. But we'll also be looking, obviously, for nutrients like the nitrogen compounds that give you the juiciest grass".

Tibaldi will head a scientific commission which will judge the best offerings from the pastures around the central Emilian city of Modena, just up the road from Parma. The manure contest will be an eagerly awaited sideshow at this weekend's celebration of Parmigiano-Reggiano at the Apennine town of Lama Mocugno.

Children will be kept away from the manure but given free tastings of Parmigiano in a cheese-themed round of entertainment organised by the Koine theatre troupe. Koine will also be bringing the steaming mounds of competing manure on stage for Sunday's final, wearing traditional farmer's smocks and "sniffing away like mad".

The contest also has a very serious side. "We want to find the best natural fertiliser for farming at a time when the whole world has been inundated by synthetic products," said Modena Agriculture Councillor Graziano Poggioli, one of the organisers.