Il viaggio inarrestabile dell'uliveto di Yanni

In che modo questa intraprendente coppia greca ha trasformato la propria attività in un uliveto in difficoltà in un premiato produttore di olio d'oliva in prima linea nella ricerca d'avanguardia nella battaglia contro l'Alzheimer.

Yannis Prodromou e Evi Psounou Prodromou (R. Elston)
Agosto 8, 2017
Di R. Elston
Yannis Prodromou e Evi Psounou Prodromou (R. Elston)

Notizie recenti

In the last five years, the hus­band-and-wife team of Yan­nis Pro­dro­mou and Evi Psounou Pro­dro­mou have weath­ered the Greek eco­nomic cri­sis by rebrand­ing their olive tree and olive fruit com­pany, Yan­ni’s Olive Grove, into an award-win­ning pro­ducer of extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO).

Non smettere di credere in te stesso e nei tuoi prodotti. Continua sempre a provare, indipendentemente dagli ostacoli.- Evi Psounou Pro­dro­mou

Located in north­ern Greece and spe­cial­iz­ing in early har­vest extra vir­gin olive oil, they are now work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Thes­sa­loniki Uni­ver­sity and Alzheimer Hel­las on the first clin­i­cal trial in humans to eval­u­ate the effects of high-phe­no­lic olive oil in pre­vent­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

I had the plea­sure to visit Yan­ni’s Olive Grove in Nea Potidaia, Chalkidiki (north­ern Greece), where I toured their beau­ti­ful water­front estate and spent the after­noon with the Pro­dro­mous and their fam­ily. We were joined by Athana­sios Gert­sis and his col­league Kostas Zoukidis, who were con­duct­ing research in the groves. Gert­sis is the direc­tor of the Kri­nos Olive Cen­ter of the Amer­i­can Farm School, Thes­sa­loniki.

The story of Yan­ni’s Olive Grove began in 2012, at the height of the Greek eco­nomic cri­sis. "We were olive tree farm­ers all our lives and we were sell­ing our olives as fresh fruits to the big com­pa­nies,” Yan­nis informed me. "Because of the eco­nomic cri­sis, we were forced to inno­vate. There is some­thing that we say in Greece: Every­thing that makes me ache makes me stronger.”

"The cri­sis was, in this case, a moti­va­tion to move for­ward,” explained Gert­sis. "There’s only one way to sur­vive: Inno­va­tion. Some peo­ple con­fuse inno­va­tion with 'tecnologia allo stato dell'arte, ma l'innovazione può essere qualcosa di molto semplice. Come dicevano gli antichi greci, la saggezza viene dalla semplicità. "


Mentre attraversavamo i rigogliosi uliveti, Evi mi raccontò la genesi della loro avventura. "Yan­nis had a sim­ple idea. The olive trees are pro­duc­ing not only olives, but many dif­fer­ent other prod­ucts such as olive oil. But there was an imme­di­ate dif­fi­culty. The Chalkidiki region is known world­wide for its famous green table olives and we knew noth­ing about the pro­duc­tion of qual­ity EVOO. So we decided to go to school and to learn as much as we could. Our unstop­pable thirst for knowl­edge and progress drove us to a unique insti­tu­tion — the Amer­i­can Farm School.”

Il Amer­i­can Farm School (AFS) is a non-profit agri­cul­tural school in Thes­sa­loniki founded in 1904 by Amer­i­can mis­sion­ary John Henry House to serve the rural pop­u­la­tion of Greece.

The Kri­nos Olive Cen­ter of the AFS con­ducts a rig­or­ous sci­en­tific analy­sis of the more than 6,000 olive trees that make up the estate. Evi pointed to a metered device installed at the foot of an olive tree. "Misurano tutto. Ogni boschetto ha bisogno di cose diverse. "

"Ci stanno anche aiutando con fertilizzanti sperimentali che rispettano l'ambiente. È come un bambino. Se dai da mangiare al bambino cibo sano, diventerà un bambino sano. È lo stesso con gli ulivi. Se ci preoccupiamo degli ulivi, ci daranno delle buone olive ”.

A pio­neer in Intel­li­gent Agri­cul­ture and Inte­grated Sys­tems Man­age­ment, Yan­ni’s green inno­va­tions have helped them min­i­mize their costs in numer­ous areas, from irri­ga­tion to fer­til­izer to pack­ag­ing. They are even imple­ment­ing the use of a large, low-fly­ing drone to spray fer­til­izer on their trees. With a recharge­able elec­tric bat­tery, the drone will replace a gas-oper­ated trac­tor, sav­ing on their fuel costs as well as their car­bon foot­print. "And Yan­nis will now have a pilot’s license!” Evi told me with glee.

Yan­ni’s also recently launched a unique prod­uct for the North Amer­i­can mar­ket — Yan­ni’s Sun Dried Olive Snacks. Based on the dieta mediterranea, the healthy snacks are vegan, gluten-free, all nat­ural and low in salt con­tent with no added sugar. Com­bin­ing sun-dried green and black caramelized Chalkidiki olives with Kala­mata raisins and sun dried cran­ber­ries, pouches of these sweet and savory treats are already on the shelves in select loca­tions in Cal­i­for­nia and Texas, and will be avail­able for pur­chase across the U.S. and Canada in Octo­ber.

In the remark­able time frame of just of five years pro­duc­ing olive oil, Yan­ni’s has now won 35 awards for their high-qual­ity EVOOS, includ­ing a Gold Award at the 2016 Concorso internazionale di olio d'oliva di New York for Yan­ni’s Finest Chalkidiki and a Sil­ver Award for Yan­ni’s Lim­ited Chon­troelia Chalkidikis.

"Qual­ity is our only weapon,” Evi empha­sized, regard­ing the pres­sures of their small, fam­ily-owned busi­ness to com­pete against the big indus­trial com­pa­nies. "It was not an easy path. And the road was not full of flow­ers.” But the Pro­drou­mous per­sisted, and Yan­ni’s recently signed a dis­tri­b­u­tion deal with Kri­nos Foods (the largest importer of Greek and Mediter­ranean spe­cialty foods in North Amer­ica). "Abbiamo fatto un passo alla volta, iniziando inizialmente ad esportare solo un cartone di prodotti. Ora stiamo esportando pallet dei nostri prodotti. "

"Quando abbiamo iniziato questa attività, entrambi abbiamo deciso che questa attività era per i nostri figli, non per noi. Nostra figlia Sophia sta studiando per diventare un chimico agricolo. Nostro figlio Nikos sogna di diventare un economista agricolo. Il nostro nipote Demetrios è un ingegnere ambientale e si occuperà della gestione dei rifiuti. "

Kostas Zoukidis, Yannis Prodromou, Evi Psounou Prodromou, Athanasios Gertsis

At this point, Dr. Gert­sis chimed in, "Il problema principale della crisi greca (secondo me come educatore) è il cosiddetto 'brain drain.’ There are more than 600,000 of the best Greek stu­dents and grad­u­ates who are going abroad. I don’t know how many of them will ever come back, and I doubt they will. But another side effect of what Yan­nis and Evi are doing is that they will keep their sons, their daugh­ters, in Greece.”

Another con­tri­bu­tion that Yan­ni’s is mak­ing to the future is their col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Greek Asso­ci­a­tion of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and Related Dis­or­ders (Alzheimer Hel­las). Under the direc­tion of Magda Tso­laki, who is also a pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy at the Med­ical School at Thes­sa­loniki Uni­ver­sity, Alzheimer Hel­las is con­duct­ing the first clin­i­cal trial in humans to eval­u­ate the effects of dif­fer­ent kinds of olive oil on amnesic patients diag­nosed with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment, which leads to Il morbo di Alzheimer.

Stud­ies have shown that oli d'oliva ad alto contenuto fenolico può offrire protezione contro l'ossidazione dei lipidi nel sangue, oltre alle loro proprietà antinfiammatorie, antiossidanti, cardioprotettive e neuroprotettive.


Early-har­vest extra vir­gin olive oils have an extremely high con­cen­tra­tion of polyphe­nols com­pared to other olive oils, and Yan­ni’s Olive Grove was the first com­pany in Greece to be cer­ti­fied to pro­duce P.D.O. Chalkidiki early-har­vest EVOO (Agoureleo in Greek), which is the only Greek early-har­vest EVOO cer­ti­fied as P.D.O. in Greece. Chalkidiki is the ear­li­est region in Greece to har­vest olives each year, and all of Yan­ni’s har­vest is done man­u­ally from around mid-Sep­tem­ber until mid-Octo­ber.

Yan­ni’s donated a stag­ger­ing four tons of their high-phe­no­lic olive oil to this impor­tant study, which amounts to about one-fifth of their total olive oil pro­duc­tion. "Il motivo principale è che volevamo aiutare. Mio padre è morto di Alzheimer ”, ha riferito Evi. "We all lived through this awful ill­ness. So we wanted to do what­ever we could to help pre­vent this dis­ease.” The two-year clin­i­cal trial, named MICOIL, is cur­rently under way in Thes­sa­loniki, with pre­lim­i­nary results expected by the end of the year.

Mentre concludevamo la nostra intervista durante un fantastico pranzo di mezze nella loro taverna preferita, Evi ha riassunto il viaggio della loro azienda con un pizzico della sua filosofia: "Non smettere di credere in te stesso e nei tuoi prodotti. Continua sempre a provare, indipendentemente dagli ostacoli. "

For those liv­ing in the U.S. and Canada, Yan­ni’s Grove extra vir­gin olive oil and sun-dried olive snacks are imported and dis­trib­uted via Kri­nos Foods. And Yan­ni’s early har­vest extra vir­gin olive oil is also avail­able for pur­chase on Ama­zon.

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