Nicola Gentile, the owner of the Il Casone del Sole, told FreshPlaza, “I started producing organic vegetables almost 15 years ago. During those years, as it happens nowadays too, the demand for organic produce did not meet an informed and aware consumer”.
“It was a hard yet profitable job. We have grown both in terms of volumes and quality through economic and human investments. We focused on experience and the promotion of a typical delicacy”.
Gentile continued, “The broccoli represents our core business. It is a premium product that I have been farming by promoting the quality and the high specialisation. These are the only ways through which we can stand out on the market”.
Nicola Gentile manages the family’s business. He expanded the fields that his grandfather bought in the 60's by buying new properties. Today, the company occupies 200 hectares.
“We grow many different vegetables with a broad marketing schedule. We farm especially broccoli and many tomato varieties which are destined to industrial processing. We market a fresh and organic produce from Puglia as our flagship product, especially for foreign markets. Depending on the period, we transplant seedlings of the Marathon, the Parthenon and Naxos varieties. If external factors did not affect the crop, the production could be of 15 tons/hectare per year.
“We carefully select the broccoli plants we buy from Prima Bio. This is an organic company which we have been collaborating with for a few years and to which we give part of our production. The transplanting usually starts in August and lasts until January. We never have any issues regarding the water supply, thanks to the clay soil that retains rainwater. Only during the summer, we stop the production not only because of the high production costs but also for sustainability reasons – an organic producer must always be careful of this”.
The Parthenon, Naxos and Marathon varieties
Nicola, “While the Parthenon and Naxos varieties allow for only one cut from the plant with a size of 500 gr, the Marathon variety is highly demanded by the market for one reason: this variety can sprout up to three times. The result is a niche product with excellent taste and organoleptic characteristics of 300-500 gr”.
The Parthenon is a broccoli variety of excellent quality for both the fresh market and the industry. It has a high-dome corymb, very compact, of a very attractive green with fine grain. The plant is resistant to the Peronospora, no tunnels get created within, and it is not vulnerable to thermal changes. Depending on the climate, the produce ripens in a 90-120 days time span. Also, this crop is suggested for winter farming.
Field of Docet variety tomatoes for the industry.
Markets, climate anomalies and phytosanitary situations
“In these last years, the difficulty to place the product on the market, the climate anomalies and phytosanitary situations, represented a very tough challenge for the whole sector, especially regarding the organic one”.
“With regard to the markets, we are in the middle of a ‘low-price war’ between countries producing according to different regulations than us – especially Spain and Greece”.
“Spanish conventional produce is of a lower quality than ours, but its price is significantly lower than ours because of Spain’s different regulations. Additionally, we should not underestimate the policies that support agricultural entrepreneurs in Spain”.
“Organic farming represents a very big challenge because there are only limited possibilities for phytosanitary interventions. For instance, we can only use palliative products to fight rottenness problems caused by rain, thus resulting in a lower quality product”.
The company’s produce is available for 90% on foreign markets. The entrepreneur concluded, “Through the Prima Bio cooperative and the MMR’s supply platforms, we export our produce to Germany, Denmark, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. As of now, we have no distribution problems or product surplus, thanks to the good demand. We will have some problems starting from May, when local produce will be available both in Germany and Poland”.