Europe

Bona Furtuna: From a Journey of Hope to a Vision for Development

The amazing story of an extra virgin olive oil from Sicily.

Bona Furtuna
Nov. 30, 2018
By Ylenia Granitto
Bona Furtuna

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There is a farm in Sicily that makes high-qual­ity extra virgin olive oil, and beside that, it pro­motes research in a vari­ety of sec­tors, imple­ment­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and pre­serv­ing the envi­ron­ment; it aims to boost the local econ­omy and wel­fare ser­vices, encour­ag­ing job cre­ation and social activ­i­ties for adults, chil­dren, and people with dis­abil­i­ties; and it has the forth­com­ing objec­tive to give all prof­its to char­i­ties in Sicily and USA. Bona Furtuna is a vision, more than a com­pany.

Sicily is a mag­i­cal place with a way of life that should be hon­ored.- Stephen Luczo

We can’t talk about this far-reach­ing project with­out telling you about when, at the begin­ning of the last cen­tury, little Rosalia moved with her mother and two sis­ters from Italy to the United States. In 1901, after a long jour­ney on a big ship, she landed in a new place whose inhab­i­tants spoke a lan­guage she never heard before, and she had no other choice but to start work­ing hard, despite her young age, to help her family make a new start.

Picking straw­ber­ries in the fields of Louisiana, she kept Sicily in her heart with nos­tal­gia while, on the other side of the pond, the coun­try house where she was born was given away. But even­tu­ally, the ener­gies spent on rebuild­ing her life in the new coun­try were paid off when America gave her a love called Cosimo, loving chil­dren and nephews, among whom is Stephen Luczo.

“When I was quite young my grand­mother used to tell me how beau­ti­ful her home­land was, and how deeply she missed it…,” revealed Luczo, the former CEO and cur­rent chair­man of Seagate Technology, one of the largest tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies in the world. “I made a pledge to myself then, when I was 10 years old, that one day I would find the land and buy it back for nonna Rosa and our family.”

If per­se­ver­ance is a thread in olive oil affairs, Luczo fully embod­ied this atti­tude when, 35 years later, he was able to find the prop­erty with the help of his great friend, the botanist Pasquale Marino (aka Mimmo), and he retrieved the much-cov­eted land, which he now man­ages with his wife Agatha, an inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized model.

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Steve Luczo and his wife, Agatha

“The com­pany was called Bona Furtuna because my grand­fa­ther would always say this to us when­ever we said good­bye after our meet­ings, while he was kiss­ing us on both cheeks,” Luczo pointed out. “He explained it meant ‘all good things in life’ — more than just ‘good for­tune.’”

Over the years, much land was added to the orig­i­nal plot, as part of their effort to create a bio­di­verse organic farm and to gen­er­ate employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties in the ter­ri­tory of Corleone. Now, 12,000 olive trees give life to three organic extra virgin olive oils: the NYIOOC-win­ning mono­va­ri­etal Biancolilla Centinara, the Heritage Blend, and the Riserva di Nonna Rosa, a trib­ute to the beloved grand­mother.

“We have plants belong­ing to the Sicilian her­itage like Cerasuola, Moresca, Nocellara del Belice, Nocellara Etnea, Passulunara, Tonda Iblea, Biancolilla and Biancolilla Centinara,” said Mimmo Marino, who is now the chief sci­en­tist of the farm. “The latter is part of a research project for the con­ser­va­tion of regional germplasm. As it was almost extinct, we have cloned trees through graft­ing from a few sec­u­lar plants, which have been repro­duced in a nurs­ery and put back on the market. We also have some Murtiddara, which in Sicilian means ‘small blue­berry’ as it bears tiny fruits, and a small amount of Leccino, Frantoio and Moraiolo.”

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Bona Furtuna

The botanist revealed that the prop­erty includes sig­nif­i­cant nat­ural resources, as 70 per­cent of the 350 hectares (865 acres) fall into a spe­cial pro­tec­tion area which is part of the Natura 2000 net­work. “Alongside the institution’s research, our com­pany on its own sur­veyed over 600 plant species of vas­cu­lar flora and ana­lyzed the myco­log­i­cal com­po­nents, find­ing truf­fle, which is rare in Sicily, and other edible species,” he pointed out.

They are also imple­ment­ing archae­o­log­i­cal research since a Bronze-Age vil­lage has been dis­cov­ered, for which they entered into a part­ner­ship with researchers of the Universities of Palermo and Konstanz, in Germany, and they are start­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tion with a Spanish uni­ver­sity.

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At Bona Fortuna, the nat­ural wealth of the land, which com­pre­hends sev­eral pris­tine springs, sup­ports the pres­ence of chem­i­cal-free crops. “All the sur­round­ing farms are organic, and we are far from sources of pol­lu­tion, in a heav­enly sce­nario for modern agri­cul­ture,” Marino affirmed. “The farm is located in a dif­fi­cult ter­ri­tory, where the unem­ploy­ment rate is high, so Steve’s idea is to create a ref­er­ence pro­duc­tion model that can set in motion many other activ­i­ties and sup­port the com­mu­nity.”

Pasquale “Mimmo” Marino accepting an award at the 2018 NYIOOC

To date, the com­pany is still in the startup phase, and it is absorb­ing the sub­stan­tial invest­ments made in the land, infra­struc­ture and people. “As we are now ramp­ing our pro­duc­tion and gain­ing inter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for our high-qual­ity extra virgin olive oils, we believe we can achieve prof­itabil­ity in the next few years, in order to honor our com­mit­ment and promise to give all excess prof­its to char­i­ties that share our sup­port of Sicily and its people, as well as in the USA,” Luczo pointed out.

“However, we have already sup­ported a vari­ety of causes through the Zimbardo-Luczo Foundation, which pro­vides schol­ar­ships for high school stu­dents in Corleone and Cammarata,” he said. “We have pro­vided tech­nol­ogy and musi­cal instru­ments in the local schools, we have help fund a center for men­tally and phys­i­cally chal­lenged adults in Cammarata, we have pro­moted arts and cul­tural fes­ti­vals, and we have spon­sored a local soccer team. In the USA, we have sup­ported No Kid Hungry.”

At the heart of their mis­sion is the wel­fare of the ter­ri­tory through employ­ment cre­ation. “It’s been an amaz­ing jour­ney,” Luczo revealed. “It’s really some­thing to see the love that the work­ers have for what they are doing. To have a solid job brings such an impor­tant ele­ment to one’s life. The work­ers are proud to be work­ing the land. And, most impor­tantly, what we are pro­duc­ing for the world is impor­tant and unique.”

“I believe that Sicily’s best chance for eco­nomic growth is related to tourism and organic farm­ing,” Luczo con­cluded. “We are trying to pro­vide a roadmap to build a sus­tain­able busi­ness with these ele­ments. Sicily is a mag­i­cal place with a way of life that should be hon­ored.”