The story of a Nigerian migrant named Jeffery Eromosele Osoiwanlan and his new life in Italy begins with an escape from Boko Haram terrorists in 2015. He arrived in Italy on a migrant boat, passing through Libya after fleeing Nigeria. In Italy, Jeffery was granted political refugee status. In the town of Montecarotto, in the east-central Marche region, he met the Gasparini family. Enrico Gasparini, who Jeffery calls "babbo", which is Italian for daddy, and Enrico's wife Lucia, own a tobacconist. The couple are able to speak English and so were able to talk to Jeffery about his story when he first arrived in the town.
Bringing his dream to life
The couple offered Jeffery shelter whilst he built his dream. Jeffery turned an old farmhouse in an abandoned field into a teaching farm. The farmhouse and field, which once functioned as a hunting dog breeding farm, now have hundreds of indigenous farm animals and exotic breeds from all over the world; together they make up Jeffery's "Country Farm." With turkeys, pigs, bunnies, goats, ponies, alpacas, emus, ostriches, and African snails, the farm is a veritable Noah's ark.
Thousands of children visit the farm every year and in 2018 it was awarded a Green Oscar by farm association Coldiretti and its Young Entrepreneurs division for innovation in agriculture.
Jeffery, 33, graduated with a degree in political science in Nigeria. The Country Farm is a model of integration and hope.
'Italy offers big opportunities'
"Italy is a country that offers you big opportunities, if you have an idea," Jeffery said with a shy smile, rubber boots on his feet and his hands in a bucket of feed as he throws the grains to his beloved animals. "Nature is my passion. I decided to build on this love of mine, showing children the beauty of this beautiful countryside," he said. Today, however, not just children are visiting the Country Farm. There is also Marche Governor Luca Ceriscioli, Montecarotto Mayor Mirco Brega, the Carabinieri police marshal, and the heads of the Italian agricultural association and union, Coldiretti.
One of Jeffery's childhood friends, a 28-year-old asylum seeker named Good Luck, was also present and put on rubber boots to help out. Everyone in attendance was there to celebrate a new milestone that Jeffery has been preparing, the inauguration of a rural farming museum. The museum contains about a hundred antique relics, most of which were made available by a retired restorer from the town of Serra de' Conti named Mario Quagliani. Jeffery said he liked the idea of "letting children learn about, in addition to the animals, how people lived in the countryside in the past."
He said that's because "if you don't know where you come from, you can't know where you want to go." Maria Letizia Gardoni, president of Coldiretti Marche, said Jeffery's story sends an important message, that proves the "countryside knows how to welcome and knows how to integrate." She said his story also shows "how a young man, despite coming from a different culture, began feeling profoundly Italian and Marchigiano through this experience, and wanted to rediscover a part of our farming history."
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new museum, Jeffery continued to brim over with ideas to increase visitors. He already sends ostrich eggs abroad, but soon there will also be a breeding ground for African snails and a new truffle field. And starting next Monday, Jeffery will also don worker's overalls at a local automotive shop. He will continue to take care of hens, llamas and emus, and to meet thousands of children, but a salary will also make it easier for him to pay the loan needed to fix the fences.