Fastuchera farm is located in the heart of central-western Sicily, between Agrigento and Palermo, in the territory of the municipalities of Cammarata and San Giovanni Gemini.
This region, inhabited since prehistoric times, was considered by the Romans as the 'granary of the empire' and is now considered one of Europe's most disadvantaged socio-economic areas.
I have been running the company since 2010, when I decided to return to work on my grandparents' lands, which had been abandoned for years. These lands have always been cultivated with wheat, so I decided to continue this tradition using ancient Sicilian grains.
Unlike other companies, Fastuchera is not made up of a single large plot of land but composed of different plots, all falling within the same territory but distant from each other. It covers 18 hectares, most of which is dedicated to the cultivation of ancient grains (Maiorca, Russulidda and Tumminìa) in rotation with legumes (chickpeas and lentils). In the remaining plots we keep more than 400 Sicilian fruit trees (including prickly pear trees, olive trees and pear trees), all belonging to varieties that are at risk of extinction. The aim is to promote their protection and conservation, to support their diffusion and reintroduction, and to create paths of knowledge and education in this sector for future generations.
Certain parts of the company are deliberately left over to natural flora in order to support and increase biodiversity. Very few interventions are carried out on these areas, mainly aimed at protecting against fires. The natural flora is monitored, and wherever possible rarer species are allowed to go to seed. Some wild plants (such as inula viscosa or arboreal mugwort) are intentionally cultivated in the olive grove both for their attractiveness to beneficial insects (in particular antagonists of the oil fly) and for their repellent capacities against others (like aphids).
The varieties of ancient grains that we grow have been selected by generations of Sicilian farmers who came before us, and tell the history and identity of my land. They are grown naturally, without any phytosanitary treatment and without the need for irrigation. The Fastuchera farm obtained its Organic Agriculture certification in 2011.
A symbolic element of the Fastuchera company's work is the 'Germplasm conservation field', created with funds from the PSR (Rural Development Programme of Sicily 2007), an exceptional genetic resource that promotes biodiversity, and protected by the Natura 2000 network. It involves recovering Sicilian trees and agricultural cultivars such as pears and plums. The careful study of indigenous varieties and the habit of cleaning the earth by hand have led me to play the role of custodian of the region, not only from an agricultural point of view, but also a naturalistic one. Through this intervention, some species of flora (white asphodel) and fauna (mainly arachnids) have been able to repopulate these fields, increasing the site's environmental value.
Our fields of ancient grains and legumes are irrigated with rainwater only. The only plot of ours where we use water to irrigate (for a few months and also thanks to crowdfarmers) is the field for the conservation of ancient fruits. The plant we use is equipped with an accumulation tank and the saplings are drip-irrigated.
At harvest time, during the hottest months, I store the grain, and from September I go to a stone mill to grind the grain around once a week. Each of the wheat varieties has different organoleptic characteristics and I start from these to choose how to grind each one in order to obtain the type of flour that suits it best. Some flours obtained are more suitable for baking, while others are better suited to pasta. A part of the flour obtained is put into bags and prepared for shipping while the remaining (more consistent) part is packaged in larger bags and delivered to an artisan laboratory that I have been collaborating with for about ten years, where it is drawn, dried, and made into the different pasta varieties.
Wheat or flour production waste (sorting waste, bran) are sold to other companies and individuals for animal feed. Some of the residue from the cultivation of cereals and legumes is buried, and some of it preserved as straw. Finally, the remains of the pruning are mainly used for our wood-burning oven, and principally to power the biomass boiler that keeps us warm during the winter. There are also several small composting areas on the farm