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Master of Agribusiness

The Economics of Bagoss Cheese Production in Bagolino, Italy

Piercarlo Marletta of Cinisello Balsamo, Milano, Italy, defended his thesis, “The Economics of Bagoss Cheese Production in Bagolino, Italy,” Thursday, December 10, 2009. Marletta is an Agronomist Officer of South Milan Agricultural Park, Province of Milan, Milano, Italy. He graduated from Kansas State University in December with a Master’s in Agribusiness (MAB). He also authored a paper on the topic that won the Best Local Solution to a Global Challenge Award at the International Food & Agribusiness Management Association (IAMA) 2009 Symposium in Budapest, Hungary.

Communities in the Alpine region of Europe are struggling to establish and maintain sustainable economic development due to production costs and greater distance to markets while trying to maintain tradition and protect natural resources and the environment. In Bagolino, Italy, a small town in the Italian Alps, the production of Bagoss cheese has contributed greatly to the town’s economic success and growing tourism industry.

“Bagolino has a long and interesting history with production of Bagoss cheese dating back to the 16th century,” Marletta said. “Unlike many neighboring towns in the Italian Alpine countryside, it has not seen declines in population or economic activities, due in large part to the Bagoss cheese industry.”

Bagoss is a semi-cooked cheese produced under methods that have been used for centuries. Strict production specifications demand all milk used in the production of the cheese be produced from cows in the Bagolino territory and be fed mostly with local hay. Marletta was interested in determining what factors influence the production of the Bagoss cheese and affect the economic success of producers.

After extensive interviews with 26 of the 28 producers of Bagoss cheese, he gained a better understanding and knowledge of the industry. Farm efficiency is dependent on the farmer’s experience and education, the percentage of cheese sold after aging, the percentage of cheese sold by direct sale to consumers, and the size of the herd. He also found that labor productivity depends on the percentage of cheese Bagoss sold after aging, and on the percentage of Bagoss sold to restaurants and hotels, and total milk production. Small farms tend to be less efficient in their use of resources, and also less efficient in the use of labor.

Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Marletta’s thesis advisor, said, “What Piercarlo has done is begin to provide better understanding of the factors supporting small mountain-area producers of local agricultural food products. Hopefully his work will help sustain their economic performance of these families and their communities.”

K-State’s Master of Agribusiness is an award-winning, distance-education degree program that focuses on food and agribusiness management. Students and alumni work in every sector of the food and agribusiness sector and are located in more than 35 states within the United States and in 25 countries.

“The K-State Master of Agribusiness program has been very helpful to me. My research on Bagoss cheese deepened my interest in mountain agriculture and has encouraged me to continue learning how to apply knowledge gained to urban agriculture,” Marletta said.

The full thesis publication can be found online on K-State’s Research Exchange at  http://hdl.handle.net/2097/2335.