Caudarella agricultural company
Michele Russo is a Farmer, Permaculturist, Agronomist.
For 15 years he has been managing the Caudarella company, monitoring the agroecosystem evolution; in this way he promotes and develops what wants to be a company capable of combining economic and environmental sustainability, enhancing marginal, spontaneous crops with minimal need for external inputs. The choice to run the company according to the principles of agroecology was born from the awareness that natural systems, whether anthropized or not, are extremely complex and linked to balances that are not always understandable, so the observation and search for balance between all the elements of the system is believed to be fundamental.
Company Description –
Caudarella is located in the Caltagirone countryside, 15 km from the S. Pietro forest. It covers an area of 5.5 hectares and hosts a large variety of crops both for income (mainly fruit-bearing, but also shrubby) and for agrosystemic impact. The main product is the prickly pear and its derivatives.
Company history –
The company was founded in 2011. Since then it has gone from a monoculture of prickly pears to a complex system of over 500 trees and shrubs. Today the company better tolerates climatic extremes, the risks due to loss of production of a product due to external agents and in short, it is decidedly more “beautiful”.
The corporate conversion –
From the beginning the approach was that of an “external observer”. Not coming from the agricultural world, my interaction with the place was discreet, slow and not dictated by preconceptions. Over time, the process of observation-interaction-acceptance of feedback and redesign has characterized all phases of the conversion, which is still ongoing. The company does not follow predefined models, although it does not use any synthetic products (organic agriculture) but in fact it has been following the principles of agroecology for about 10 years. The greatest difficulties were found in the management of some parasitic insects (e.g. Ceratitis capitata) and in the management of some spontaneous ones (e.g. Rubus ulmifolius)
The company uses perennial grassing, mulching, where soil cultivation is practiced, irrigation systems with reduced and controlled consumption. Part of the preparations for agricultural use are produced on the farm. There is always a tendency to integrate “new” elements so that they have more functions and positive interactions with the other elements already present.
Repercussions and advantages after company conversion –
The conversion of this company was already born with clear ideas, so the effects of this gradual process are already visible, being able to compare the health conditions of the company with neighboring companies; in particular the increase in organic substance over the years or the “non-loss” of soil due to run-off and processing.
Relationship between company and territory –
The company has gone from being a sink area for the dissemination of plants typical of the Mediterranean scrub to now being a source area, very rich and biodiverse (several examples and species involved). The company interacts with UNIPA for various research; participated in a LIFE (Desert Adapt) project and was invited to participate in a PRIMA (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area) for the testing of models and crops with very low water regime. Almost all of the production is distributed to GAS (Solidarity Purchasing Groups) through the Sicilian Le Galline Felici consortium (member since 2014) or locally with direct sales. The company has close and concrete links with local associations for the socio-cultural promotion and protection of the territory (Extopia a.p.s., il Ramarro, etc.)
Transfer of experience and practices –
Over the years the company has specialized in the management of prickly pear not only as a cash crop, but as an important element for the recovery of degraded soils, as a “nurse plant” in arid or non-irrigated areas and in its ability to “accelerate” renaturalization processes of highly degraded areas.
The company is home to numerous avian species that have long been considered sedentary. It is a place of reproduction for numerous inhabitants of the forest scrub, both animals and plants, and over time its seed bank of species typical of this habitat increases.
Future goals –
The main future objective is to experiment with sustainable models for cork cultivation, another important crop both in ecosystem and production terms for the territory.