Italy: Fennel and leafy vegetable losses at Orto Bio due to frost

"When I arrived in Lucca, nobody knew me, but I loved the area and started growing vegetables. This business does not run in the family, but I have always been passionate about agriculture," explains Roberto Dones (in the photo), a 42-year-old from Milan who, after a trip around Italy and another to Senegal (where he took part in a project for sustainable agriculture), arrived in Lucca and established Orto Bio within the San Rossore Regional Park.




The family business gained the organic certification in 2012. Crops cover 4 hectares of open fields and the soil is very fertile because it is peaty and therefore rich in nitrogen and organic matter.

The company produces mainly vegetables, with a focus on all cauliflower varieties, fennel, potatoes and mixed salad. Peanut test crops were introduced three years ago.

Crop rotations are carried out to preserve the fertility of the soil - a mixed cycle with at least one crop a year of pulses such as peanuts is essential to regenerate the soil.



"With this land, the best results are obtained with potatoes, which are harvested from May onward. Cauliflowers and cabbage are available between October and March. Chard and chicory are available all year round and we have fennel between October and May."

Orto Bio mainly sells its produce directly, to ethical purchasing groups, local farmer's markets, and, since 2016, to school canteens.



Significant losses in production
"2016 wasn't a good year climate-wise, we suffered a lot due to drought. Unfortunately, 2017 started badly too due to the cold front. 70% of fennel and leafy vegetables have been severely damaged. I remain optimistic though, as my products grow in a particularly suitable area. I am confident the next sowing will be excellent."

OrtoBio closed the year with a turnover increased by 20% though prices did not increase with respect to 2015. The objective is not only to produce and sell organic vegetables cultivated respecting the land, but to create a business that can welcome local voluntary and non-voluntary associations for the reintegration of people in distress.



"I have a few projects in mind. For example, I would like to improve the relationship with the territory and invest in training. I would also like to focus on nutritional education to make pupils understand the importance of wholesome foods and add a solidarity aspect to my project to combine the values of the land with reception. For example, in the past few months, various cooperatives from the Lucca province have been welcoming refugees and trying to create the ideal conditions to train them and help them find a job."



"I do have a project in mind, where my commitment to growing wholesome products is combined with a spirit of solidarity. I have been on a couple of trips to Senegal to take part in international cooperation projects during which we helped local people with agriculture. Many of them have come to Italy to escape starvation. I see a future with jobs in my company for those who had to flee their country."

Contacts:
Azienda Agricola Orto Bio
di Roberto Tommaso Dones
Via Pietra a Padule
55054 Massarosa (LU) - Italy
Cell.: (+39) 393 9892012
Email: info@ortobio.org
Web: www.ortobio.org

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