Social Farming Initiatives in Italy Focus on Environment, Inclusion

Italy leads the way in social olive farming with projects in Tuscany and Molise that focus on quality, protecting biodiversity and social inclusion of marginalized groups.

Harvest at Frantoio del Parco
By Ylenia Granitto
Nov. 22, 2021 11:15 UTC
Harvest at Frantoio del Parco

Social farm­ing in Italy is a grow­ing trend, both in terms of the num­ber of oper­a­tors and ter­ri­to­ries involved. It has become so pop­u­lar that the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) has included it in their General Census of Agriculture for the first time this year.

The last few years have seen the launch of sev­eral projects that com­bine inclu­siv­ity, local devel­op­ment and sus­tain­abil­ity. Many of the projects focus on high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion.

The Aspem project was so suc­cess­ful that it has been iden­ti­fied as a best prac­tice by impor­tant asso­ci­a­tions through which we shall sup­port other dis­ad­van­taged cat­e­gories.- Nicola Malorni, pres­i­dent, Kairos social coop­er­a­tive

Among these is Antico Frantoio del Parco (Ancient Mill of the Park), a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Chico Mendes and Legambiente, two of the first Italian orga­ni­za­tions in the fair trade and envi­ron­men­tal sec­tors, along with the recently founded agri­cul­tural coop­er­a­tive Frantoio del Parco.

See Also:Quality EVOO Production at the Heart of Italy’s Social Farming

They were granted a con­ces­sion [by the Tuscan author­i­ties] to man­age the olive groves and the mill located in Maremma Regional Park, in the province of Grosseto, to take care of the trees and give new life to the pro­duc­tion facil­ity,” Antonio Luccisano, the direc­tor of the coop­er­a­tive, told Olive Oil Times.

Working on the fair trade and sus­tain­abil­ity pro­gram, Calabria Solidale, our asso­ci­a­tions met, and we were asked to join the project,” he added. We headed to Tuscany, and in 2018, we car­ried out the first har­vest and pro­duced the Antico Frantoio del Parco extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Since then, the coop­er­a­tive has been com­mit­ted to sus­tain­ably man­ag­ing the olive trees while enhanc­ing bio­di­ver­sity on what used to be the land of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

We have found his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences of the sea-fac­ing olive grove in the area of Collelungo from 1787,” Luccisano said. The Grand Duke des­ig­nated these areas as an exper­i­men­tal field, and thus we have found old plants of Maurino.”

From these, we obtain a mono­va­ri­etal. Also, we found other ancient vari­eties, which are still unknown, includ­ing many wild olive trees located on the hill adja­cent to the ducal reserve,” he added. A large share of them con­sti­tute eco­types of their own, which we are try­ing to iden­tify with the help of researchers.”

Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino and Moraiolo can also be found in the vast grove of about 30,000 trees scat­tered over 228 hectares of pro­tected land between Rispescia and Alberese. To date, 83 hectares have been restored and appro­pri­ately pruned for pro­duc­tive pur­poses.


Most of the plots have been cleaned up from the veg­e­ta­tion to facil­i­tate the har­vest­ing oper­a­tions,” Luccisano said. Some more rugged areas will be grad­u­ally recov­ered, and prob­a­bly more plants will emerge. They will all be appro­pri­ately trimmed to enhance their pro­duc­tion capac­ity, respect­ing the ter­ri­to­r­ial iden­tity of this beau­ti­ful park.”

The extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced is organic and pri­mar­ily intended for the Toscano PGI cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. To meet the high stan­dards required, the mill of the park has been updated with the lat­est machin­ery.

The pro­duc­tion of pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oil, mainly sold through the fair trade chan­nels, allows our project to sus­tain itself and cover all the logis­tic costs,” Luccisano said.

It is there­fore fun­da­men­tal that our plan is suc­cess­ful, to sell the prod­uct at a fair price and obtain income to be rein­vested in the cycle of social econ­omy,” he added. That is why it is so impor­tant for us to pur­sue high stan­dards of qual­ity.”

Along with olive oil, the project also cre­ates job oppor­tu­ni­ties with local peo­ple cur­rently employed in the ven­ture.


Furthermore, the coop­er­a­tive is set­ting up a pro­gram with the asso­ci­a­tion Spartacus to cre­ate train­ing courses for dis­ad­van­taged and frag­ile peo­ple in the cooperative’s work envi­ron­ment, par­tic­u­larly migrants and unem­ployed.

The project is car­ried out with the low­est envi­ron­men­tal impact,” Luccisano added. I can tell that the issues of inclu­sion and hos­pi­tal­ity can hardly be sep­a­rated from the value of sus­tain­abil­ity. We believe that envi­ron­men­tal and social jus­tice are strictly con­nected.”


In Molise, high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion is at the heart of the project Aspem — La Terra delle Donne (Aspem — The Land of Women). Aspem is an Italian acronym stand­ing for social agri­cul­ture for the pro­mo­tion of empow­er­ment of women vic­tims of vio­lence and their chil­dren.”

In 2019, we par­tic­i­pated in a regional call for social inno­va­tion,” Nicola Malorni, the pres­i­dent of the Kairos social coop­er­a­tive, told Olive Oil Times.

Now, along with the Rome-based social coop­er­a­tive BeFree, which runs a cen­ter against domes­tic vio­lence in Molise, we recover aban­doned and semi-aban­doned olive groves, while enhanc­ing the social and pro­fes­sional inclu­sion of the women guests of the cen­ter,” he added. They are vic­tims of vio­lence and human traf­fick­ing com­ing from Italy and other coun­tries, like Nigeria and Morocco.”

Many of the women inter­ested in join­ing the project attended the­o­ret­i­cal and field train­ing courses. Then, they helped recover the groves and har­vested more than 400 Gentile di Larino, Leccino and Frantoio trees located in Guardialfiera.


They attended all the phases of pro­duc­tion,” Malorni said. They also sup­ported the millers at the facil­ity sit­u­ated in the ham­let of Lucito and helped dur­ing bot­tling, pro­mo­tion and sale of our organic extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Moreover, they par­tic­i­pated in olive oil tourism activ­i­ties, includ­ing hik­ing, guided tast­ings and oil-themed din­ners. They were also part of the pop­u­lar jury of the regional com­pe­ti­tion La Goccia d’Oro (the Golden Drop).

Everything that revolves around the high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil helped them to rein­te­grate back into soci­ety,” Malorni said.

As a psy­chol­o­gist, I can say that, in addi­tion to the nec­es­sary inter­ven­tions to treat trau­mas, such as psy­chother­apy and coun­sel­ing, the Aspem project has proved to be extremely impor­tant for the self-esteem of these women,” he added. Not only are they reg­u­larly employed and paid, but also they feel wel­comed by a com­mu­nity.”

Indeed, it is wor­thy to say that one of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of vio­lent dynam­ics is social iso­la­tion,” Malorni con­tin­ued. The abus­ing part­ner sends com­mu­ni­ca­tion like Without me, you can do noth­ing, you are finan­cially depen­dent on me, you have no skills, you have no chance.’ Aspem, instead, tells them: You are worth it, you can develop new skills, and there is a com­mu­nity that wel­comes you and can make you expe­ri­ence new healthy rela­tion­ships.”


As a result of the project, most of the par­tic­i­pants have suc­ceeded in leav­ing the pro­tec­tion cir­cuit. They all found new jobs, and some of them have new part­ners. The pro­ceeds from sell­ing the olive oils also have been rein­vested to recover fur­ther olive groves.

The Aspem project was so suc­cess­ful that it has been iden­ti­fied as a best prac­tice by impor­tant asso­ci­a­tions through which we shall sup­port other dis­ad­van­taged cat­e­gories,” Malorni said. Cittadinanzattiva involved us in the national project Circular Solidarity Economy.”

Kairos also recently pro­duced a short movie, Gocce’ (Drops). Inspired by real events, the main char­ac­ter is a cen­turies-old olive tree in Guardialfiera, called Fausto. The tree was struck by light­ning dur­ing a strong storm and was dis­cov­ered by a woman dur­ing the recov­ery oper­a­tions.

Despite the dam­age, Fausto flour­ished again,” Malorni said. This is just what hap­pened to Eva, the female pro­tag­o­nist of the movie. Now, it is regen­er­at­ing, and we are help­ing it heal,’ she said, embody­ing all the women of the project.”

Fausto shows us that even after a great trauma, one can man­age to react pos­i­tively,” he added. It is born again and gives fruits thanks to its extra­or­di­nary abil­ity of resilience. It is a liv­ing sym­bol, and, dur­ing the launch event of the film, the National Association Olive Oil Cities used it as an exam­ple to define the con­cept of social olive grow­ing and its value.”

Share this article


Related Articles