Building Community Resilience through Communication & Technology
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At the source of the Platani River, there is a place wedged within the innermost reliefs where the last specimens of the oldest endemic Sicilian cattle continue to be raised, the Modican, characteristically red-coated cows, vinous to black shaded bulls. The warden of such biodiversity treasure is Domenico Mangiapane, CEO of Mangiapane Farm.
Post-war mechanization of agriculture, poor milk (3000 litres/year), low meat yield (less than 55%) and the thinning out of milk-to-cheese processing farms have jointly led to a decline in livestock from 25,000 to just 2,000 in just half a century and to a simultaneous increase in the Friesian breed, despite the Modican being considered one of best triple-aptitude cattle breeds and its rusticity allowing it to tolerate the torrid Mediterranean summers, feeding mainly on a mixture of pasture and stable hay.
These cows are reared in the a semi-wild state, providing the milk the very quality and aromas that lie at the base of one of the most representative traditional cheeses in Sicilian history, Caciocavallo, the descendant of the Kashkaval, which the Ottoman Turks absorbed from the Hebrew Kasher (pure) in the 15th century, when Jews were expelled from the Kingdom of Spain.
The company secures its social sustainability by relying on a predominantly family management model in which 4 collaborators are associated (2 of which work full-time), who are the end-receivers of the socio-economic and symbolic value of what is produced.
The cows graze on an area of about 100 hectares, thus reducing slurry, which is used as a natural fertilizer instead of chemical equivalents, as prescribed by the circular agriculture and natural breeding. Environmental sustainability and animal welfare are guaranteed by keeping the cows roaming all year round and by milking with the calf by their side. The result is an extraordinary milk, a little fatter, but much richer in beta-carotene which - during processing - takes the form of an ingot with an intensely golden crust after the cheesemaker forces the sphere of spun dough obtained from natural acidification of the curd with the help onto a wooden table on which the cheese is placed, modelled and then laid into a case. The production period is from October to May and the minimum maturing period is four months.
The Mangiapanes convert the milk into fresh, semi-matured, smoked Caciocavallo and Guastedda del Nonno.
TRADITION AND INNOVATION
If the photographic documentation of the great-grandfather's commitment to cows dates to the 1930s, the family oral tradition traces the beginning of the activities to at least 5 generations behind, making Domenico Panepinto and his collaborators the sixth without interruptions.
Tradition and innovation are difficult to distinguish in agriculture, and it would be more appropriate to speak of retrieval. In fact, although it is bred only by 3 companies in Sicily, Modican cows are experiencing a renaissance and the population has more than doubled from 2,000 to 5,000 in the course of a few years. Mangiapane has re-instated milking with the calf alongside the cow and convinced other farmers to imitate him; milk is collected in metal vats just like 200 years ago, with no additives or ferment.
An element of process innovation authentic innovation is the Adopt a Modican cow scheme by which Mangiapane intends to stimulate the repopulation of this endemic breed through the participation of mindful consumers.
VALUES AND DISCIPLINARIES
Mangiapane’s Caciocavallo is a Slow Food Presidium, and - together with 40 other dairies – the company is a member of QGSS – Sicilian Guaranteed and Safe Quality.
SCALABILITY AND RESILIENCE
Domenico Mangiapane is open to expansive perspectives, but believes that - especially when addressing niche segments - one can resist crises by constantly raising quality and drawing on passion: "when I was younger and my friends kept up late until 5 in the morning , I was home by midnight because my alarm would go off at 4.00. It never weighed on me because I made a modelled my passion into a job. "