The company I run today has been in my family for generations. My great-grandfather bought it and since then, generation after generation, we have been doing our best to cultivate it with care and respect for the environment. Opera Terrae is a story that is linked to Calabria. The name derives from Latin, it refers to all the fruits that the territory gives us, which put together make up a work of art. In fact, it means "Work of the Earth". It starts from here: the idea of giving life to a scenario of coexistence between plants and crops. A picture where the fruits, colours and scents of Southern Italy intertwine with an exotic imagery. Opera Terrae carries on with commitment, energy and dedication, an idea of organic farming, sustainable, ethical, innovative and safe.
The farm is spread over a vast lush plain overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The territory has always been suitable for the cultivation of citrus and other fruit trees, thanks to the mild and not very rigid climate. In the last twenty years, because of the increase of temperatures, many areas have become tropical, leaving space for the cultivation of tropical and subtropical fruits, including kiwi and avocado. It is precisely the kiwi that has experienced an enormous expansion in the last decade thanks to the many investments made in the area. We also grow other citrus fruits, including bergamots. The producers in the area, as well as workers, in the last twenty years have suffered the crisis of citrus fruits, a sector in difficulty due to constant unfair competition in the market. This situation has generated the abandonment of many lands, for those farmers who have not reconverted them to different crops. We had the courage to do so many years ago and this now allows us to give stability to our workers and certainty about the future of their job. We are constantly committed to promoting the integration of young Africans who arrive from their own countries in search of hope for a different future for their families. The story of Boubakar Kasama, our collaborator who arrived in Italy at the age of 16 and has now become "one of the family", is an example of how our values combine work, ethics and integration.
The whole family is involved in the project, as well as our employees. We have been working together since 2015, when I took over the company after my studies to develop it on a global level. All our collaborators are paid a salary that respects the collective agreement. We also provide assistance to all the Africans who live here, far away from their families, for any personal problems related to integration. There is an annual bonus system for each employee that is calculated at the end of the season, based on the results of the individual and the company. We do not have a disabled person on the team to date.
The water is obtained from a well that serves the entire farm. An adult kiwi plant, in the period between May and September, needs an average of 50 to 90 liters of water per day on soils with a high percentage of sand, just like ours. The need for water also depends on the temperature levels reached during the summer period. The irrigation method is completely automated, thanks to the presence of solenoid valves that start and stop the system according to the needs of the plants. One of the key points of our philosophy is the digitization of processes for greater environmental sustainability. In fact, for several years we have installed a system of soil moisture probes and two air detectors, fully integrated with the solenoid valves. This system allows us to determine the exact moment when the plants need water, and also to define the precise amount, in the irrigation cycle. The system is a drip irrigation one, so the water is distributed only where the roots are present, without wasting it elsewhere. By using this standard, we have found a mixed water and energy saving of about 40% compared to traditional methods.
We are an organic farm. We consider organic as a form of responsibility, a stance, an ethical commitment. We want to redesign a new culture of the environment and a scenario of sustainability and biodiversity. We believe that our work is the social promotion of the territory, the one in which we grew up and in which we have chosen to stay and operate. We want to build an authentic relationship with conscious consumers and dialogue with people who recognize themselves in our values and in the quality of our products. The wellbeing of people and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is at the heart of the values that inspire our work. We have chosen to use techniques of soil regeneration, we use organic substances, natural fertilizers, cow manure, and we regenerate our land through the practice of green manure, which consists in sowing beans before planting, so that after grinding it, it naturally enriches the soil with nitrogen. We have recently made an agreement with a livestock company to start the process of Demeter certification. This will allow us to have a flock of sheep grazing on our land, which will help us promote a natural regeneration of the soil. Until now, we have always chopped and scattered the grass in the ground to generate organic matter, we hope that the support of the flocks will also alleviate the problem of grassing. We promote biodiversity by growing other species of fruit trees around the kiwi crops, in order to allow them to develop a coexistence beneficial for both the farm and the environment. We produce renewable energy that is used to power the system of probes for irrigation and we are planning to install a photovoltaic system that can power all the systems with the sole energy of the sun.
Excess fruit is never discarded or lost. In order to go against the logic widespread in the world, in 2018 we decided to create a processing laboratory to recover all the fruit that is too small or deformed and transform it into products preserved in jars/bottles. Through the processing lab, Opera Terrae has chosen to keep on writing about its family and business history. Innovation and research, which have always characterized our approach to agricultural work, are characteristics that also distinguish our commitment to fruit processing. We produce preserves, jams and marmalades with no added sugar, honey, tomato puree, creams and products in oil following artisan methods and ensuring high levels of safety. Our products are marketed under the brand Opera Terrae on other websites. Before harvesting, we check the brix degree of the fruit, i.e. the degree of sugar present. We wait for the fruits to reach a brix degree between 6 or 7, in order to give our customers the opportunity to get the right ripeness and enjoy them at their maximum sweetness. The remains of pruning and other practices are chopped and left scattered on the ground to promote the generation of humus.