Calabria is a region rich in resources and ideas, but poor in concrete initiatives in the field of agricultural production and product marketing. This does not give the producer (often small farmers or agricultural entrepreneurs) the opportunity to receive proper remuneration for their product, and causes the exploitation of farm workers, who are all too often denied their rights.
It was in this context that the Cooperative 'I Frutti del Sole' was founded in 2005, in a restricted area with a purely agricultural vocation, straddling the provinces of Reggio Calabria and Vibo Valentia. The desire for change of a group of producers gave rise to this new reality, which aims to give the right value to their work, agricultural products and the right recognition to the workers who work daily in the field. To date, our group has 37 members for a total cultivated area of 91 hectares. Each of the cooperative's members cultivates their own farm and all farms are certified organic. Thanks to the application of the organic method, the products maintain their organoleptic and nutritional characteristics, also protecting the health of the producers and farm workers who work in the field, since no synthetic products are used.
Our area is purely agricultural, producing mainly citrus fruits, kiwis and oil. We also respect traditions, growing the same products. For some years now, however, we have also started to try tropical fruit and, specifically, avocados. Clementines are our flagship product. They are in fact the product we produce in the largest quantity and are also certified PGI - Clementine di Calabria. In addition to the production of typical local products, the cooperative also promotes fair trade farming projects. In particular, we carry out socio-cultural integration activities for the non-EU employees of our cooperative and collaborate with the socio-economic projects carried out by the GOEL group, Associazione SOS Rosarno and Associazione NO CAP.
We use drip irrigation systems. In this way, irrigation water is only released at the points where it is needed by the plant, thus greatly reducing the amount used. We also use probes to monitor the humidity of the soil near the roots of the plants. These two techniques allow us to save a lot of water because we only irrigate when it is necessary (thanks to the probes), in the right quantity for each plant and in the area closest to the roots.
Apart from water, soil is also a fundamental resource in agricultural production. In order to safeguard its functionality and avoid the loss of nutrients, the only processing we do is chopping. This also allows us to safeguard the environment for beneficial insects and not interfere with the natural balance.
Our plots all have Organic Certification as well as Global Gap Certification, which guarantees good agricultural practices, traceability and respect for the environment, including GRASP certification to support our social commitment to workers. One of the requirements for this certificate is that all our employees have a regular employment contract and receive a salary in line with the national legal wage scale. In total, we employ around 50 people. Most of them have been with us since the beginning of the cooperative and have a fixed-term contract for the busiest periods of the year, from October to March. Some have a permanent contract throughout the year, and also help us with pruning, grass control and other work on the farm.
Fruit that is unsuitable for marketing is sold to the processing industry for the production of juices and jams. Pruning residues are mulched on the ground and decompose naturally.