Rural Interest Group



Volume 51 Number 1 
Winter 2018

Rural Interest Group

Casa Rurale: Harmony & Justice toward Agrarian Wellbeing

Written by Susana Helm, Rural.IG@scra27.orgUniversity of Hawai`i at Mānoa

In summer 2016 I had the pleasure of hiking several weeks and many kilometers along the Camino de Santiago with my youngest niece, which took us ambling through the rural countryside of Northern Spain (see TCP 2017, issue 50-1). As an extended family encore, summer 2017 was organized by a set of rural treks starting in May on Molokai with my older nephew who served as a note-taker and observer in rural health forums, and continued into June with another of my adventuresome nieces while we walked the trail that circumnavigates the glaciers of Mont Blanc, and later in August with my younger nephew as we camped along the Massachusetts stretch of the Appalachia Trail to its peak at Mt Greylock, and concluding in September da sola along La Via dei Monti Lariani, which straddles the pre-alpine ridge above Lago di Como along the Swiss-Italian border. The VDM is a set of interconnected mule tracks between hillside villages that range in altitude from about 600 to 1800 meters or so, primarily passing through steeply sloped grazing pastures and dense forests veiling both active and abandoned farmsteads Helm_Photo_1.jpgThe VDM also intersects with and follows a number of former military tracks with defensive positions established during WWI. Furthermore, the trail passes through and nearby several villages where partigiani were instrumental in the surrender of Mussolini, and his assassination two days prior to Hitler’s death in 1945.  

Aside from its WWI and WWII geopolitical significance, what interested me about the VDM beyond the astonishing vistas, was being able to meander through rural areas with ease and quiet meditations Helm_Photo_2.jpgI encountered very few people in the ten days it took to traverse the 125 Km, though I enjoyed conversing with dairy farmers and cheese makers, hunters for birds and wild boar, foragers of porcini and chestnuts, and other caretakers of the land, water, and animals. It is quite evident that the health of the people is in the health of the land. Backpacking this part of rural Italy reminded me of an olelo no`eau (saying) that has become our State of Hawai`i motto: Ua mau ke ea o ka `āina i ka pono, which generally is taken to mean the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. It may also be translated as the sovereignty of the life of the land is perpetuated through harmony and justice (e.g. Hoʻokahua Staff, 2014; see also Aluli & McGregor 2016). Yet, rural communities often are at the mercy of contemporary urban global demands (e.g. consumerism, industrialism, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions). In this rural-urban dichotomy, there continues to be a need for vigilance, else a faltered harmony and revived injustices, whether in the middle of the Pacific, the mountains of Europe, or rural havens in between.

Proponents of agrarian life may applaud counterpointed efforts such as the Museo Casa Rurale di Carcente, which I visited by appointment, as the VDM passes through the village of Carcente. The museum’s mission is to, “Creare un filo tra le generazioni passate e future affinché il patrimonio di tradizioni locali non vada perso,” or to create a connection between past generations and future so that the heritage of local traditions is not forgotten. In addition to guided tours of the home, which has been restored and maintained to reflect the character and daily living of the family who had donated it for this mission, nowadays the museum also hosts events of local and global value, highlighting the continuity of agrarian wellbeing ( It is a typical rural residence constructed of stones quarried locally, with a log beam and slate roof designed to adjust to heavy snowfall, Helm_Photo_3.jpgand includes the attached La Graa or “fuoco” where chestnuts would have been roasted, dried, then milled for flour.Helm_Photo_4.jpg I am indebted to my local guide, who volunteered to share his afternoon with me. In patient Italian, because I am far from fluent, he described the family who had lived in the home, and the extraordinary assiduity of the sisters who managed their family economics (farming, building and restoration, etc.) while husbands were away during wartime or employed in small factories beyond the village.

As the co-editors of TCP Rural IG column, we are interested to publish examples of how rural communities strive for harmony and justice as a counterpoint to urban industrial globalization threats to agrarian wellbeing. Essays such as this and brief research reports accompanied by your photos may be submitted for consideration for publication in this column ( For example, what are the common themes in balancing agrarian wellbeing despite or because of external pressures? Who are the residents leading these efforts? What are the dominant and alternative narratives? In what ways are community psychology and community psychologists serving as resources in our collective rural journey? We look forward to hearing from you.


Aluli, N. E., & McGregor, D.P. (n.d.). ʻAina: Ke Ola O Na Kanaka ʻOiwi. Land: The Health of Native Hawaiians. Retrieved from

Hoʻokahua Staff. (2014). Hoʻokahua examines other interpretations of State motto. Retrieved from