The farm is called Societá Agricola Rondini Roberto e Bennati Guido s.s. and is located in the province of Reggio Emilia. We’ve been producing milk for Parmigiano Reggiano for two generations now. My father started working on the farm in 1954, initially as a sharecropper, and in 1968 became the owner. In 1984, I started running it with my brother-in-law Guido. On our eighty hectares, we produce alfalfa and forage wheat to feed our cows. Around our farm there are many other alfalfa fields and cattle grazing pastures, as well as some vineyards and cereal fields. Raising the cows directly employs four people, while our dairy for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano employs twelve people.
The water we use is taken from a well on the farm and is used to give water to the animals and wash the milking systems. The daily consumption is approximately 100 litres for each adult cow and 30-40 litres for young animals. As for the cultivated land, alfalfa and forage wheat do not generally need irrigation and this is only ever done in particularly dry years, using sprinkler irrigation systems.
The farm has no organic certification, but we try to be as sustainable as possible in our production, growing mainly alfalfa on the sixty-five hectares, ploughing the soil once every four years and using livestock waste instead of chemical fertilisers.
Forage wheat is produced on the other fifteen hectares. The soil tillage is light. Pesticide treatments are very scarce (generally once every four years), with herbicides before planting the alfalfa. They are only used in extreme and specific cases or if all other methods fail to prevent damage to the cultivated plants. In all cases, we always respect the legally established times before harvest.
The alfalfa is planted every four years and enriches the soil with nitrogen. In the fifth year, the forage wheat is planted, which benefits from the nitrogen provided by the alfalfa, so it doesn't require the use of fertilisers.
We try to respect animal welfare as far as possible when raising the cows. We don't carry out routine antibiotic treatments, unless strictly necessary and unavoidable, while we use vaccines to prevent our cows from catching diseases. What's more, the internal regulations of the cheese factory to which we deliver the milk force us to carry out analyses to check compliance with the parameters required by Parmigiano Reggiano regulations (acidity, somatic cells, etc.)
Cheese production is a very complex process and involves many steps. The evening milk is placed into tanks where the cream is naturally separated from the milk overnight. In the morning, 50% of the naturally skimmed milk overnight is used and 50% of morning-fresh whole milk is added. It is warmed for half an hour at 42-43 °C, adding 30-35 litres of whey from the previous day and the rennet. The rennet used is of animal origin, as established by Parmigiano Reggiano production guidelines. After warming, the curd is broken manually and within twenty minutes the fragments of curd precipitate and knit together. With a wooden shovel, the product formed at the bottom of the tank is extracted and divided into two pieces. These pieces are put in a room where they are turned eleven times for three days and then salted in brine for twenty days. After the process is finished, the cheese pieces are transferred to the warehouse for ageing.
By giving all the milk we produce to the cooperative for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano and using the entire harvest of alfalfa and forage wheat to feed our cows, the only waste we produce is the cattle manure that we use to fertilise our land.