The project Passo Ladro was born in 2020, in Val di Noto. It was created by Giuseppe Caviglia and his son Anthony, who were the first to reclaim land that had been abandoned for so many years. Between Noto and Syracuse, there is the Passo Ladro district (in dialect 'Passu Latru'), which gave the project its name. The district has been called this way since the 19th century because the bandits targeted those lands, plundering everything they could find. Today, the ethical bandits are those who fight there to save those same lands, steeped in history and tradition, from abandonment and pollution, giving life to 100% organic, healthy and genuine products.
In our fields there are spontaneous plants of capers, asparagus, aromatic plants such as sage, thyme and rosemary. We are starting to enhance horsetail in the form of a decoction that is used for natural treatments. There are ancient trees such as oak and a small undergrowth as well as fruit trees such as pomegranate, peaches, cherries, apples, pears, apricots, plums and berries. We also cultivate vegetables such as tomato, courgette, aubergine and pepper. A fundamental part of tomato cultivation for example is the leaf removal, that is the elimination of the lateral jets that forms at the foot of the leaves; this operation is very useful to allow the plant to produce excellent quality tomatoes.
A peculiarity is that the Manghisi, a river that crosses the province of Syracuse and flows into the Ionian Sea, separates two of our cultivated areas and produces the region's famous Cava Iblea. In the 1930s, Mascagni, the conductor of Verga's opera Cavalleria Rusticana, often walked along our river. The whole area is surrounded by greenery, with an old farmhouse that stands in the middle of the land, renovated to accommodate some tourists who want to get in touch with nature.
We have decided to undertake a new entrepreneurial activity, upsetting a series of negative factors: uncultivated lands and unemployment. Starting from a plot of land, we involved other farmers, revived these spaces and multiplied the production of fruit and vegetables. Moreover, from traditional sales we have also moved on to online, to reach a wider range of consumers. Thus, after several reclamation operations, we brought to light 27 hectares of land that had been abandoned.
The area in which we are located is fortunately very rich in underground water: We have several underground springs from which we can get the necessary water with a good degree of purity. We improve it thanks to two filters: one with quartzite, with the sand that blocks the passage of silt, and another automatic disc filter that eliminates the remaining impurities. We have recently invested in an irrigation system that helps manage the water dosage, limiting waste. The system is also fully automated to ensure that the guys who work in the field do not have to manually irrigate each sector. We use drip irrigation. In addition, we will soon install a weather station and sensors for electrical conduction and soil moisture with the aim of starting fertilization and irrigation only when really necessary. Each plant receives an average of 0.33 ml of water per day, i.e. 650 drops come out of our dripline. Some days the tomato is left dry to favor a dense and tasty pulp.
The cultivation method is completely organic. One of the cornerstones of our cultivation is attention to the fertility of the soil. This is maintained through various processes and fertilizations. For fertilizations we use manure and organic fertilizers such as compost. We produce the compost ourselves in a small compost bin, which we would like to expand in the coming years. Besides, for a few months we have been putting bumblebee hives in our garden which are used to increase the pollination of the flowers which will then give rise to the fruits. To combat harmful insects we use decoctions based on the garlic and nettle we produce. In addition, we periodically launch useful insects such as ladybugs, which already exist in the ecosystem. They have the ability to contain and control the action of parasitic insects in crops in a completely natural way. We are also very attentive to crop rotation, which consists in making one species or variety follow another species, preferably belonging to a different botanical family, in such a way as not to excessively impoverish the soil of natural elements.
We are very young but we are moving with great strength and desire towards an increasingly ethical and sustainable agriculture. Passo Ladro includes a team of 14 people: 6 take care of the cultivation of the fields, 4 of the transformation of the harvest in the laboratory and 4 of the administrative management and marketing including Anthony, son and co-founder. Our employees receive slightly higher wages than the collective agreement, as we try to protect the farmers with a fair price for their work. We also reserve room and board for our employees at our headquarters. We work a lot on team building in order to create cohesion and inclusion among all the members of the company by periodically organizing internal events. Ours is a corporate form established with the aim of integrating more and more those who embrace the project: our mission is to include and spread our ethical and sustainable vision in the world of food. Company employees are encouraged to reach and exceed their goals with the incentive to make them shareholders of the company with minority stakes.
Our production includes both fresh vegetables and a wide range of processed products, which we make in our laboratories located within the farm. In fact, thanks to the construction of a state-of-the-art kitchen and the inclusion of two chefs within our team, we handcraft an exclusive line of products with excess harvest from our fields. In this way we are able to offer a product of excellence, without wasting resources.
We have full control of the production chain, we take care of our products from the seed, during growth, up to their transformation into preserves in our laboratory. The expert hands of the farmers harvest fruit and vegetables respecting nature and biological life cycles. A team that includes an agronomist and two technologists carry out the quality control of the products we send. As an organic company, we only sell fruit or vegetables according to their seasonality. As for the by-products of our company, part of the waste is buried; especially when it comes to legumes because, being nitrogen-fixing, they allow us to have nutrients in the soil useful for subsequent crops.
Our challenge is the total respect for the environment, the rapprochement of man with nature and above all we want to offer a future to local young people. Our intent is to teach the new generations the value of agriculture and restore a future to the beautiful Sicilian lands. We defend farmers from multinationals who try to take away their products at lower prices that do not reflect the effort and care of their work. More and more often the new generations, in fact, reject the work in the fields, due to the little consideration that this profession has. We want to make people understand how important it is to take care of the land and give the right compensation to all farmers who are committed to keeping the tradition of agriculture alive: for this very reason, we like defining Passo Ladro a social project. We want to give an ever-modern dream: the value of the soil, an ancient art of the peasants, who, with their skilled hands fertilize, hoe, and take care of the soil, caress what is about to blossom and then collect it. A style of work, but also of life, with times shaped exclusively by nature.