With the aim of continuing to form convictions about the sectors, in September 2021, Julien and Quentin, the two founders of The Barn, as well as Tom, our fruit and vegetable range manager, went to Sicily to meet our producers.
After visiting many Belgian projects, it is also important for us to meet our partners across Europe. The maturity of the project has therefore allowed us to make a second trip beyond our borders. The idea is to get a feel for the realities encountered on site as well as the different agricultural models used and the values shared with our partners. It also allowed us to see the history and evolution of organic farming in Sicily. In practical terms, for the organisation of this trip, we worked with two of our partners. In order to facilitate our logistics for supplying our shops, we need to work with distributors to import our products. These distributors create the link between the local producers and our shops. We therefore spent three days with Francis, the founder ofEcodalwith whom we went to see about ten producers. We ended the week accompanied by Carlo, producers' agent and co-manager of Te lo porto bio and local contact ofInterbio.
Friday 17 September: Landing in Palermo.
Saturday 18 September: Acclimatisation day: visit to Palermo and surrounding towns.
Sunday 19 September: We head for the south-east of Sicily where most of our producers are located. We meet up with Francis, our partner from Ecodal, to start the visits together on Monday morning.
Monday 20 September: First day of visits: we get straight into the swing of things by visiting the first farms. We start by meeting Massimo, who runs Ferrera, in Marina di Ragusa.
We then moved on to meet Agro Viva in Marina di Acate.
We were particularly impressed by the meeting with Gian Franco, producer and active member of the cooperative, who himself started organic in 2001. We had the opportunity to share a meal with him and he shared with us his experience on the interest for producers to work in cooperatives.
One of the things we learned was that the majority of Sicilian producers need to form a cooperative in order to be able to sell their products under the best possible conditions. The cooperative provides technical assistance that accompanies the farmers in the field and logistical assistance that groups and centralises the preparation of orders and deliveries. For logistical, financial and technical reasons and to face a competitive market, as well as to enable them to sell their products under the best conditions.
We ended the day in Saro at Bio Natura, one of the pioneers of organic farming in Sicily.
We end the day rich in these first meetings and motivated for the rest of the week.
Tuesday 21 September :
During this day, we had the opportunity to meet two other important actors: Natura Iblea and Agrinova.
We felt that respect is at the heart of their approach. Respect for the land, for its employees and for its customers. Several projects caught our attention directly. For example:
In short, a very nice meeting.
We ended our first part of the trip by meeting Andrea Capello, a producer of carrots, fennels, artichokes, courgettes, onions and beans, among other things. We also had the opportunity to meet Francesco, an agricultural engineer working in the Agrinova cooperative, which has 60 producers on 400 hectares. They mainly produce citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, mandarins...) but have recently started to produce avocados.
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