Investing in Community and The Environment Through Olive Farming

Paolo Miceli and Sergio Sensat’s farm in western Sicily is a forward-looking investment in the region and community.

Sergio Sensat (left) and Paolo Miceli are the co-founders of Minceli & Sensat, an award-winning Sicilian olive oil producer.
By Ylenia Granitto
Sep. 13, 2023 13:54 UTC
Sergio Sensat (left) and Paolo Miceli are the co-founders of Minceli & Sensat, an award-winning Sicilian olive oil producer.

The heart of west­ern Sicily is home to the organic olive groves of Miceli & Sensat.

Co-founders Paolo Miceli and Sergio Sensat told Olive Oil Times that the award-win­ning young com­pany is more than a farm­ing oper­a­tion with a for­ward-look­ing phi­los­o­phy regard­ing the envi­ron­ment and local com­mu­nity.

Our idea was to leave an imprint and plant olive trees that would be strong and flour­ish­ing for a very long time. We have land­scaped a vast area with trees that will remain there after 500 years or more.- Paolo Miceli, co-founder, Miceli & Sensat

Miceli & Sensat earned two Gold Awards at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for its Delicato brand, a blend of Biancolilla, Cerasuola and Arbequina olives, and a mono­va­ri­etal Nocellara del Belice.

Our com­pany is the fruit of the love for the land that our fam­i­lies have trans­mit­ted to us,” Miceli said. With one based in Monreale, Italy, and the other in Barcelona, Spain, they have been linked to the pro­duc­tion of olive oil for gen­er­a­tions.”

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Indeed, Sergio still retains an oil tin with his fam­ily logo that dates back to 1860,” he added. As we grew up in dif­fer­ent coun­tries and con­texts, dur­ing our child­hoods, we were both immersed in the beau­ti­ful things and sound val­ues that revolve around olive oil.”

When the time came, they started work­ing in com­mu­ni­ca­tion in their respec­tive homes. At the end of the 1990s, they met in Spain, where, shortly after, Miceli moved from Sicily. In Barcelona, he and Sensat founded a com­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pany that became one of the most respected in the sec­tor.

In 2009, the owner of the olive oil com­pany Finca La Gramanosa, one of our clients, asked me if, besides our com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­sul­tancy, we could also sup­port him in the man­age­ment of the busi­ness since he had to find a new chief exec­u­tive,” Miceli said. The lure of olive oil, which was still lying some­where deep inside my heart, led me to accept.”

He was tasked with man­ag­ing the com­pany for a short period. Still, his tenure was long enough to achieve a few chal­leng­ing busi­ness goals, includ­ing mak­ing an extra vir­gin olive oil of the high­est qual­ity and open­ing new mar­kets.

To achieve this goal, Miceli assem­bled a team of lead­ing inter­na­tional experts, mostly Italian, with whom he had worked for sev­eral years to make top-class prod­ucts.

With them, I delved deep into what it really means to pro­duce excel­lence, and it indeed was like pur­su­ing a 10-year Master’s degree in high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion,” he said.

Eventually, I had been the man­ag­ing direc­tor of the com­pany until the end of 2020,” Miceli added. That is why we can say that a long prepara­tory process has pre­ceded the found­ing of our farm. It is a brand new project with a long story behind it.”

Sensat said that Miceli became very pas­sion­ate and almost obsessed with qual­ity.

It was 2015 when I started think­ing that, with his enthu­si­as­tic atti­tude and all the expe­ri­ence he had acquired, we could eas­ily set up a com­pany of our own,” he said.

This would allow us to get back in touch with nature, but most impor­tantly, at that point in life, we felt the desire to do some­thing truly ben­e­fi­cial for soci­ety,” Sensat added. For exam­ple, with our farm, we could pro­vide jobs while con­cretely pro­mot­ing sus­tain­abil­ity.”

Miceli and Sensat were look­ing for land to pur­chase when Miceli’s mother and her sis­ters offered them their prop­er­ties in Monreale, near Palermo on Sicily.

It is such a beau­ti­ful and unspoiled place, with thriv­ing woods cov­er­ing rolling hills sur­round­ing Lake Garcia,” Miceli said. We bought the shares of my aunts, and in the end, we recre­ated the estate that belonged to my mater­nal grand­fa­ther.”


Near Palermo in northwestern Sicily, Miceli and Sensat said their groves are blessed with stunning views.

The pair started prepar­ing the land to plant olive trees and make improve­ments, which took a long time to com­plete since they con­tin­ued to work in Barcelona in the mean­time.

Every Thursday, we got on a plane, and on Monday, we hopped on another plane,” Miceli said. They have been tough, intense years.”


The orig­i­nal plan was to set up a 50-hectare estate, but even­tu­ally, they pur­chased more land – now the farm stretches over 260 hectares, of which 115 hectares are devoted to olive grow­ing.

We started plant­ing in 2016, and the first exper­i­men­tal pro­duc­tion was car­ried out in 2020,” Miceli said. The first extra vir­gin olive oil put on the mar­ket was made in the 2021/22 crop year when we first par­tic­i­pated in the NYIOOC.”

Today, in a hilly area between 200 and 400 meters above sea level, the two man­age 48,000 trees of five vari­eties – Nocellara del Belice, Biancolilla, Cerasuola, Arbequina and Picual – planted tra­di­tion­ally.

It was huge, tremen­dous work, espe­cially since we made a par­tic­u­lar agro­nomic choice,” Miceli said. We grafted the two Spanish vari­eties, Arbequina and Picual, on wild Sicilian olive trees.”

To assem­ble those 15,000 trees, since this process must be done very quickly, we rented a pri­vate plane that car­ried the scions from Spain to a nurs­ery in Sicily where they have been grafted on the wild plants,” he added.


Miceli & Sensat grafted two Spanish olive varieties onto wild Sicilian olive trees to cultivate a new landscape amid fields of wheat.

We aimed at obtain­ing long-lived trees,” Miceli con­tin­ued. Our idea was to leave an imprint and plant olive trees that would be strong and flour­ish­ing for a very long time. We have land­scaped a vast area with trees that will remain there after 500 years or more. Now, these olive trees are like chil­dren to us.”

He under­lined that sam­ples of the mono­va­ri­etals obtained from the trees had been sub­mit­ted for the judg­ment of pro­fes­sional sen­sory pan­els, which expressed highly pos­i­tive opin­ions about their organolep­tic pro­files.

For us, this project goes beyond the pro­duc­tion of pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oil,” Sensat said. We have recov­ered the entire area, and now we man­age it accord­ing to the organic guide­lines in a sus­tain­able way.”

We are regen­er­at­ing and pro­tect­ing bio­di­ver­sity,” he added. Indeed, we think that the well­be­ing of the envi­ron­ment and the well­be­ing of the peo­ple who live in this envi­ron­ment are strictly con­nected.”

Sensat said they were able to employ sev­eral local young peo­ple. Moreover, they con­tacted elderly farm­ers in the area, with whom they shared infor­ma­tion and best prac­tices.

We are hum­bled by the recep­tion from the local com­mu­nity,” Sensat said. I remem­ber that at the begin­ning, they dis­cretely approached to see what we were doing.”

Now, they share views and updates with us,” he added. This area is mainly cul­ti­vated with wheat, but some of them fol­lowed us and started plant­ing olive trees, and now they are sat­is­fied with the results, espe­cially in terms of income. Also, it makes us happy that we could employ many young peo­ple who now have a reward­ing job.”

Sometimes I wish Sicilians could see Sicily through my eyes because I adore this region,” Sensat con­tin­ued. And these human rela­tions are so pre­cious to me.”

Such fond­ness has resulted in a sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ment and care toward the area’s nat­ural resources.

Among var­i­ous improve­ments, the pair built two arti­fi­cial basins next to the main nat­ural lake, sav­ing an addi­tional 500,000 cubic meters of water for emer­gency irri­ga­tion.

We made this choice in light of the extreme tem­per­a­tures reached in recent years,” Miceli said.

With an Israeli com­pany, we have devised a com­plex irri­ga­tion project that allows a sig­nif­i­cant energy sav­ing,” he added. It also includes in-ground driplines that pre­vent water from evap­o­rat­ing, which greatly opti­mizes this invalu­able resource.”

The next planned sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment is the instal­la­tion of float­ing solar pan­els on the sur­face of the arti­fi­cial lakes to achieve bet­ter cool­ing and improved per­for­mance besides sav­ing ground space.

There is also a plan to intro­duce bees to enhance the estate’s bio­di­ver­sity – the com­pany will soon launch a line of honey.


Miceli & Sensat help enrich the soil of their olive groves using cover crops.

In this healthy ecosys­tem, the soil is no excep­tion,” Miceli said. We ana­lyzed it, and it proved to have excel­lent fea­tures for the good devel­op­ment of the olive trees, which enjoy an opti­mal expo­si­tion.”

All these ele­ments con­tribute to the qual­ity of the extra vir­gin olive oils, whose pro­duc­tion process is com­pleted by the lat­est gen­er­a­tion mill.

At our age, we entered a new chap­ter of life,” Miceli said.

It took a lit­tle mad­ness to do this,” Sensat added. We can call it a project of our matu­rity since, in our thir­ties, it would have been com­pletely dif­fer­ent.”

We started it in our late fifties, with a wealth of expe­ri­ence and all the bag­gage of our life,” he added. That is why it is a very mature choice, with all that it implies, start­ing from the vision behind it.”

The farm­ers remarked that all this took a con­sid­er­able invest­ment in terms of eco­nomic and human effort, but it paid off.

We have put a lot of work into this project, but it was worth it because we cre­ated some­thing beau­ti­ful, long-last­ing and valu­able not only for us but also for oth­ers,” Miceli con­cluded. And we have done it stay­ing true to the val­ues that guide our lives.”

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