Terre del Barone Farm
The Terre del Barone SRL agricultural farm (Fattoria Valle dei Templi brand) was founded in 2021 with the aim of recovering an ancient agricultural company left in a complete state of abandonment for over 40 years. The underlying business idea is to give new life to an agricultural organization that develops its activity with particular attention to the themes of ecology and rural landscape.
The company extends over 20 hectares within the Archaeological and Landscape Park of the Valley of the Temples, and was nominated in 2022 to be registered in the Register of Italian Historic Rural Landscapes.
The production system is mixed; approximately 5 hectares are occupied by Mediterranean scrub, 2 hectares are occupied by citrus fruits, among which there are approximately 60 specimens of ancient varieties, 1.5 hectares are occupied by an ancient pistachio grove, with 20 centenary plants and 110 new plants. In the remaining part of the property, 8 hectares have recently been planted with over 600 minor fruit trees, 600 almond trees and 300 olive trees; everything was created specifically without following a layout with the aim of regenerating the historic rural landscape; 4 hectares are occupied by the cultivation of vegetables that the company uses to produce organic seeds. The production activity is mainly intended for scientific research for the recovery and genetic improvement of horticultural varieties in danger of extinction. Part of the production is instead destined to be sold to some restaurants located near the farm, to a city market specialized in the sale of ORGANIC products and to an independent local chain made up of 5 nearby supermarkets.
Company history –
The company was founded in 2021 with the aim of recovering an agricultural reality which for thousands of years (within the company there are physical testimonies of human communities dedicated to agriculture dating back to the second Bronze Age) supported the food needs of the inhabitants of the surrounding area. Unfortunately, the company was abandoned in the 1960s and subjected to repeated fires preparatory to possible urban development. With the establishment of the Archaeological and Landscape Park of the Valley of the Temples, part of the present Mediterranean scrub is preserved. The company was purchased in 2004 by an investment fund which decided in 2010 to build a resort with an adjoining golf course but in 2011 Consob and the Bank of Italy for Insider Trading placed the fund under special administration and the property was liquidated through sale. Purchased by an industrial group from Bari, the property is entrusted to the Terre del Barone company with the aim of starting an organic agricultural company.
The corporate conversion –
The production system adopted complies with organic farming regulations. Added to this is that the catalog field – the part concerned with the cultivation of vegetables – is the subject of scientific research which mainly concerns the improvement of the nutritional value of crops. To achieve these objectives, growth-promoting microorganisms (PGPM) are used within the soil of bacteria and fungi, which are able to increase the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and water use efficiency beyond that improve plant disease resistance.
The entire farm is irrigated using spring water which is collected through an ancient Phaeacean aqueduct built 2600 years ago and still fully functional. The water is collected by gravity and introduced into three tanks of 10,000 liters each, the same is then used to irrigate the crops daily, under low pressure, the irrigation is carried out through a drip system and the use of three pumps solar.
Repercussions and Advantages after conversion –
An area subject to abandonment and degradation for over 40 years has been recovered for agricultural activity. The company returned to production and in 2022 it allowed staff to be employed for 636 agricultural days worked, to which is added an induced sector represented, also by a restaurant that produces 20% of its meals using the products of the farm . In 2022, 8 research studies carried out in the company were published in important scientific journals; the technical part of a Horizon 2020 project called BRESOV was developed from 2021 to 2023, and 3 international scientific conferences were held in the company which saw the participation of over 100 researchers from all over the world. Furthermore, 5 researchers from the University of Catania actively collaborate with the company. In 2023, 12 varieties of traditional Sicilian vegetables in danger of extinction were improved and reproduced organically.
Relationship between company and territory –
The company has various relationships with stakeholders; specifically, in 2021 it established a Temporary Association of Purpose with the Archaeological and Landscape Park Authority of the Valley of the Temples of Agrigento and the Italian Environment Fund. It is the leader of a business association established together with the CNR-IBE, Legambiente, and 8 other organic farms in the province of Agrigento. Since 2021 it has started a research agreement with UNICT DIA3 for the recovery of endangered horticultural germplasm and with Roma3 University, Architecture Department, aimed at the historicization of the rural landscape of the Valley of the Temples. Together with NaturaSì it has activated a form of product sales (extra virgin oil) through which the consumer is informed that the product purchased is used to finance a research activity of which he will always be updated through access to a reserved area dedicated to him. In the local area, the freshly grown products, when not used for seed recovery, are sold at local restaurants or distributors of 0 km organic fresh products. Visits by citizens and potential consumers are organized in the company.
Transfer of experience and practices –
One of the main objectives is to select and produce seeds of organic varieties that are transferred to other local organic producers. To this end, production sheets for each variety are being created in order to transfer cultivation experiences with greater credibility. For the above reasons, the Fattoria Valle dei Templi agricultural company is already an ecosystem organism.
Future goals –
The objective is to create an educational farm whose size and potential (one of the most visited archaeological sites in the south) is capable of welcoming thousands of students on educational trips to whom they can transfer not only the concepts underlying agroecology but also make them understand that agriculture is the element on which we have built our civilization and the future of agriculture is in its past. Furthermore, new technologies, together with genetic research, will be the main elements on which sustainable agriculture will be developed. The objective is to create within such a fragile and exclusive container, a place where we simultaneously talk about rural landscape, research and scientific dissemination.