On Shores of Lake Garda, Volunteers Harvest Abandoned Trees for Charity

Volunteers in Toscolano Maderno are demonstrating the economic and social value of abandoned olive trees.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Dec. 21, 2020 06:29 UTC

Abandoned olive groves in the hills that sur­round Lake Garda, in north­ern Italy, are being recov­ered by a group of vol­un­teers.

Isolated orchards and even scat­tered trees, many of which are sur­vivors of old olive groves that were destroyed to make way for con­struc­tion projects, are being har­vested by the vol­un­teers.

They are a rel­e­vant source of wealth, a source that is being neglected and for­got­ten.- Davide Boni, vol­un­teer, 2020ResetAll

Lake Garda is an area char­ac­ter­ized by breath­tak­ing views of the country’s largest lake and home to the Garda PDO. And it is where hun­dreds of trees have been for­got­ten, left with fruit on their branches year after year.

By har­vest­ing the olives and pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil, which is donated to fam­i­lies in need, the vol­un­teers hope to show local insti­tu­tions and res­i­dents the oppor­tu­nity the for­got­ten trees present for the com­mu­nity.

See Also:In Italy, Abandoned Olive Groves Find New Life

During the cur­rent pan­demic, when every­one is hit by its effects, with many peo­ple los­ing jobs and a spike in poverty among the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, we have these trees, full of fruits, sur­rounded by thorns and often left to their fate by their own­ers,” said Davide Boni, one of the vol­un­teers from 2020ResetAll, a col­lec­tive and mem­ber of the munic­i­pal coun­cil of Toscolano Maderno.


Still, they are a rel­e­vant source of wealth, a source that is being neglected and for­got­ten,” he told Olive Oil Times.

The trees revived recently lay inside a con­struc­tion site where work has been halted. Within an orange plas­tic fence around the site’s perime­ter, the trees are the rem­nants of an olive orchard that once dec­o­rated the hill.

The local pre­fec­ture had already warned in a pub­lic state­ment how aban­doned olive trees con­sti­tute, among other things, a hygienic risk. Their crowns full of fruits are the per­fect habi­tat for the olive fruit fly,” Boni said.

Given the high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced in the area and the state of neglect of the site, the vol­un­teers crossed the fences and took care of the trees, har­vest­ing sev­eral quin­tals of olives.

As we came down to our vil­lage with the olives, some elderly res­i­dents told us of other fields where trees were for­got­ten and needed har­vest­ing,” Boni said.



While the word of their work began to spread, the biggest hur­dle to over­come was bureau­cracy.

Since a new Covid-19 lock­down was declared in Lombardy, where the west­ern bank of the lake lies, the vol­un­teers could not move freely, just as the har­vest­ing sea­son was in full swing.

While estab­lished olive farm­ers were allowed to con­tinue their oper­a­tions dur­ing the lock­down, the work of the group’s vol­un­teers risked com­ing to a com­plete stop.

Local police wanted us to ask for a pre­ven­tive per­mit to get to the fields, or to carry the olives to the oil mill,” Boni said. So we had the idea to turn these exces­sive requests into fuel for our aware­ness cam­paign.”


We signed a pub­lic appeal in my munic­i­pal­ity, Toscolano Maderno, ask­ing author­i­ties to not tam­per with the work of the vol­un­teers, who were com­mit­ted to take care of neglected olive trees that often lay on dif­fi­cult ter­rain – rocky and steep,” he added.

The pleas were shared through social media and were boosted even fur­ther when the pre­fec­ture warned farm­ers about the risks posed to estab­lished busi­nesses by the aban­doned orchards.


It all hap­pened very fast since we got into that con­struc­tion site a few weeks ago,” Boni said. The word spread and dozens of peo­ple have joined us to work on the trees.”

While the vol­un­teers are com­mit­ted to take care of the trees, they empha­sized how many more orchards are still left uncared for in the area.



Many areas are vic­tims of the estate spec­u­la­tion that took place in the early 2000s on our hills,” Boni said. But many trees are left there because they are the prop­er­ties of elderly peo­ple who can­not man­age them any­more, or have been inher­ited by younger folks who do not find a rea­son to har­vest the olives or take care of the trees.”

The vol­un­teers did not want to do the work of those who own the prop­er­ties but instead explained that they hope their actions send a sig­nal to peo­ple and insti­tu­tions while they strug­gle against the pan­demic.”

Boni, who has also served as deputy mayor of Toscolano, empha­sized how the col­lec­tive hopes to push those who have to make deci­sions to go for­ward in the right direc­tion.”

We have no inter­est in becom­ing an offi­cial busi­ness. Our action is a polit­i­cal action to raise aware­ness,” he added. We are giv­ing the olive oil to the social ser­vices of the munic­i­pal­i­ties where the olives were har­vested so it can ben­e­fit fam­i­lies in need, while also help­ing to spread the word about the neglected and rel­e­vant resources avail­able in our area.”

Some small bot­tles of olive oil will be offered by the col­lec­tive to the may­ors of the munic­i­pal­i­ties involved and to sev­eral other pub­lic offi­cials, with a let­ter explain­ing the ori­gin of the olive oil and the mean­ing of the vol­un­teers’ work.

In the pan­demic sce­nario we live in, our work on the olives adheres to a logic of recon­nect­ing social activ­i­ties to insti­tu­tions, so as to finally work together for our com­mu­nity,” Boni said.


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