We were here: March 2016
'A litre of olive oil for four Euros is a joke,' says Tiziana di Menichetti, annoyed. Alone the production costs of just one litre of pure olive oil reaches on average ten Euros. The low costing olive oils found in our supermarkets are therefore most often a result of mixing inferior oils together with a small portion of pure olive oil. ‘Analysis carried out on various olive oils have confirmed the presence of harmful substances, a fact that has been kept secret here in Italy,’ Tiziana, discloses.
A multi-award-winning oil
In the heart of Tuscany on their small farm, Forra’Pruno, Tiziana and her husband, Andreo, produce olive oil with great success. Their product has been repeatedly recognised as one of the best in Italy. Should you expect Forra’Pruno to be a large company then you will be mistaken. The business revolves around a plantation of 1,300 trees. As one single tree produces on average just one litre of oil, the overview is easy to maintain. This fact reveals the family’s success recipe. ‘For us it is very important to work sustainably, respecting plants and the earth,’ explains Tiziana.
Three ecological lawnmowers
Respect for nature is clearly evident in the business through the use of three alpacas instead of mower machines, an idea their son, Matteo, initiated during his agronomy studies. But what are the advantages of these four-legged creatures? Alpacas only have teeth in their lower jaw and because of this detail are unable to pull out grass roots surrounding the trees. This is a very important factor which helps prevent ground erosion during extremely dry times in summer. In addition, the animals do not sink far into the earth even in wet periods due to their camel like feet and so do not damage this protective earth around the base of the tree roots.
A wide variety
The alpacas have proven to add an additional benefit to the business. ‘We make clothing such as hats and scarfs out of their wool.’ These products belong to a small selection which Tiziana sells at local weekly markets. ‘We also offer among other things, home-made jams, sauces and cosmetics made from purely plant basis,’ says Tiziana. A further side-business which Tiziana offers at the markets is her street food that she makes from all her own produce. Tiziana, together with a colleague, cooks for clients using regional products, whereby socialising and cooking with others is the primary focus.
Life quality is more important than profit
The product variety of the Forra’Pruno business is amazing if it is considered that neither Andrea nor Tiziana had any husbandry experience when they took over the neglected farm business roughly 30 years ago. ‘When we moved in here, most of the olive trees were overgrown with brambles,’ recalls Tiziana. In the beginning the married couple not only had to make the land arable again, but they also had to learn how to care for the olive trees, harvest the fruit and further develop them into a high-quality product. What helped them were besides tips from a knowledgeable neighbour, their wish to live and work in harmony with nature. ‘It was never our aim to make as much profit as possible. The quality of life this way of living creates is much more important to us,’ says Tiziana.
An unknown future
Unfortunately this way of earning a living does not provide a secure future. In the last few years the olive fruit fly has destroyed the harvest all over Italy. In addition to this the lease agreement for the business runs out shortly. ‘We don’t know if we can extend this’, Tiziana notes, worriedly. In any case the family plans to buy a piece of land on which a small house stands close by in the region. Until then Forra’Pruno will continue carefully producing regional products, under the motto, quality instead of quantity.
Further information: Azienda Agricola Forra' Pruno