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Vera’s Orchards in Vignagrande

September 17, 2012

 Tilia Europaea – Lime Tree

I arrived at Vera’s orchard after a long drive on a hot summer afternoon and as she greeted me, she ran to the kitchen to squeeze fresh orange juice!   I must say, it truly hit the spot and was greatly appreciated!  Vera moved to the countryside in 2008.  As a child, she had lived in many different places, even Germany from age three to ten.  Her parents were farmers and father, an agronomist, had a dream: to grow orchards and carry out a sustainable type of agriculture.  In the late 70’s, Vera’s father drew the plan for the orchards and planted all the trees on a land which was called Vignagrande, vigna meaning vineyard in Italian, a land which had been a vineyard up to the beginning of the 1900’s.  This land is on the eastern coast of Sicily, close to Fiumefreddo.

After high school, Vera moved to Florence to study architecture, but with the wish of returning to Sicily after completing her studies.  However, this did not happen right away.  Then at the time of father’s death, the desire to return to Sicily grew tremendously as did her wish to support her father’s project, which she felt was also her own.  She was not happy living in Tuscany, then Liguria, and knew she did not want to do what it would have taken to make a career in architecture. She was confused – she knew what she wanted, but did not know how to achieve it.  All she knew was that she wanted to make a living as a farmer and offering hospitality.

While living in Tuscany, Vera had learned about organic farming and GAS (the goods buyers’ coops) and, as a student, she had purchased her produce directly from the producers. She knew she wanted to return to Sicily with the knowledge she had acquired in Tuscany and Liguria. After Father’s death, taking care of the land had become a burden for Mother, making no money selling to the local businesses; Vera knew they needed to join the short pipeline, selling directly to the consumers.  At the time of Vera’s return to Sicily, Mother had already sold one orchard and Vera realized she needed to save the remaining ones.  She started slowly in 2008; at first, to earn a living, she worked on restoration of old country homes. Also, she lived with an old uncle and took care of him.

 Little by little, the farming brought results.  She grows Valencia oranges, which she described as the only oranges which have the flowers on the plant at the same time as the oranges are ripe, then tangerines, lemons, and avocado.  Up on the mountain town of S. Alfio she has hazelnuts. In support of the shorter pipeline, Vera has been very active in selling her produce at the Sbarchinpiazza events.  At these events, southern farmers are invited by local groups around Italy to bring their produce and sell directly to the consumers.  The objective is to bring awareness to folks around Italy in the added value of buying directly from the producers.  However, Vera decided to take things one step further.  This past May, she loaded a van, and drove directly to deliver to her customers and meet them in person.  She drove 23,000 kilometers, about 14,000 miles, between May and August 2012, delivering to her customers throughout Italy, those who purchase her goods through the GAS.  She explained the special sense of purpose her having a direct relationship with her customers gives her.  Also, as she doesn’t run a formal B & B, she does offer hospitality at her farmhouse to her customers who want to come and visit her in Sicily.  As we spoke and then gathered around her kitchen table for a superb dinner, I met her current guests, two of her customers from Perugia, Italy.  They had come to visit her after she met them this summer on her trip up north.





From → I Siquillyahni

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