Our farm is called ‘La Sallentina’. Choosing a name was not easy, we were a young company that did not identify with a specific product, so we looked at the history, not only our own but also the “past” history of the territory we live in. A few kilometres from our fields you can still catch a glimpse of the roads of the Via Sallentina, which were traversed in the Messapian age by wagons and travellers even before the arrival of the Romans. The Via Sallentina, which connected Taranto to Santa Maria di Leuca and Otranto, is in fact an extension of the more famous Via Appia. Moreover, our land falls in the jurisdiction of Nardò, in the land of Arneo, the cradle of peasant struggles in the 1950s.
We are based in Salento, known for its beautiful Ionian Sea. Our land is just a few kilometres from the renowned beaches of Porto Cesareo. The Salento countryside is dotted with acres and acres of olive trees and small evergreen shrubs typical of the Mediterranean: maquis (myrtle, arbutus), figs and prickly pears, carobs, almonds and other fruit trees or tall trees (eucalyptus, oak). There are also many wild herbs and flowers (that are also edible) and wild vegetables that are gathered in the fields (especially from autumn to spring) and are still eaten today in a typical Salento meal (broad beans and chicory, mixed wild leaves, paparinas, wild asparagus, etc).
Around us we have olive groves (some are better off and some worse off) and land that for decades has been owned by shepherds who graze their flocks of sheep and goats. We own about 6 hectares of olive groves with local olives varieties (such as Cellina di Nardò and Ogliarola Leccese) whose trees, however, are in an obvious state of distress (due to Xylella). We also have a small mixed orchard of figs, apricots, plums and almonds, and a mixed seasonal vegetable garden. We foster biodiversity and beneficial insects by leaving uncultivated areas (even close to our drywalls) so that wild grasses can continue to exist and reproduce as well as provide food and shelter for insects (and other small animals such as lizards, toads, snakes, foxes, hawks, hoopoe, etc.). We focus on local horticultural varieties of vegetables that are well adapted to our climate and terrain, such as black-eyed green beans, cornetto peppers, long keeper yellow baby plum tomatoes, turnip greens and Galatina chicory depending on the season, saving their seeds from year to year. Many of the varieties in the fields are from non-hybrid seed, and each year we experiment to figure out which varieties to focus on and from there start saving their seeds.
The water we use to irrigate our fields comes from an underground aquifer accessible through an artesian well that is licensed and therefore subject to periodic analysis. We also have a small rainwater storage tank above the roof of an agricultural premises. In the fields we use the drip irrigation system to try to minimise water consumption without compromising plant welfare. Consumption varies greatly depending on the crop, but ranges from about 130 L in horticulture to a few thousand in tree crops. We plan to build a new agricultural shed and a new storage tank to recover rainwater that would also be collected from the roof of the future shed. We do not have a solar energy system yet, but its implementation is part of our multi-functional farm project.
Since the establishment of our farm in 2016, we have taken part in the organic control system certified by ICEA. In addition, we have adopted some good practices that come from regenerative and biodynamic agriculture.
Grass, as well as sown essences, are chopped and then buried using a subsoiler that aerates the soil. In the case of weeds, we use mulch cloth made of compostable material on the rows and practice manual or mechanical harrowing. For soil fertilisation, we have produced and experimented with some "homemade" organic preparations and fertilisers with the use of forest litter, yeast, manure, ash and bran etc. This is, for all intents and purposes, self-production of preparations according to the Bokashi method (hot fermentation).
Three of us work in the farm on a permanent basis. I, as the owner of the farm, am involved full time. For the past few months Ludovica and Paola, two young women from two neighbouring small towns are also working with me in the fields. Every year so far, I have had a new team working with me during the busy periods. It is not easy to collaborate in the long run with casual or seasonal workers due to their different plans and family commitments etc. All my employees, both permanent and seasonal, have an employment contract that complies with current regulations.
Every year we turn some of our fresh raw materials into preserves. The datterino, fiaschetto and long-keeper yellow tomatoes we use for tomato puree, while the datterino is also semi-dried in the oven and then put in extra virgin olive oil.
Pruning remains can be mulched in the field, as well as at the end of a seasonal crop, and once the irrigation system is removed, we also mulch vegetable plants. We have a composting area where we store any scraps or fresh products that, for example, have been spoiled by magpies and deteriorated in the field.