Aprender a crear resiliencia comunitaria a través de la comunicación y la tecnología
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Santa Chiesa was founded in the twenties of the twentieth, when three young people and entrepreneurs associated with Azione Cattolica gave life to a mill and then to the first oil mill of the area of Monte Cammarata, limestone offshoot in the constituting Parco dei Monti Sicani, away from major sources of pollution. After the death of the co-founder and director cav. Luigi Lupo, the activity was continued by his wife, initially within the city and subsequently outside, as required by Community legislation. The current management company was founded in 2000 by Marisa Russotto, daughter-in-law of Cav. Lupo, making use of the skills acquired as an accountant in a local construction company. "Twenty years ago" - she says - "an opportunity which couldn’t be missed arised" and so, looking at the third generation of the company, a 32-year-old daughter and a 28-year-old son, she confesses: "to continue what my father-in-law started was a truly fulfilling wish."
Frantoio Oleario Santa Chiesa cares about environmental sustainability more than any other factor. In fact, it has been working organically since its foundation, being a substantial part of the agricultural land planted in the woods (50 hectares of Nigra): this is the result of an investment, thanks to a funding which came from the Community (2080/92). Secondly, the economic circularity is respected since the olive producers withdraw and reuse the pomace, the residual waters of any process are given to a company which takes care of its dispersion (avoiding the dispersion in the rivers and in the sea). The vetch and leavening waters are used as fertilizer, excluding chemical fertilizers. The ecological approach is prominent in the production phases: the company treats the olives using only and exclusively the cold process: this approach is fundamental in order to preserve the organoleptic properties and the integrity of the oil fragrance. Finally, by having its own oil mill, Santa Chiesa eliminates the carbon emissions that would be produced if the olives had to be transported by road, to be pressed elsewhere. As for social and economic sustainability, Marisa Russotto says: “we move forward thanks to the family-based structure of the company: this aspect keeps costs to a minimum. But we occasionally make use of a seasonal employee".
TRADITION AND INNOVATION
At the Frantoio Santa Chiesa, the tradition of a practice as old as the Homeric poems meets innovation several times:
1) technological, because the mill is the only one plant with presses and mixers in the area which, along with kneading machines and decanter, is able to provide a product that enhances the scent of the finest cultivars
2) process, through the anticipation of the harvest in October, instead of December-January, subverting a centuries-old tradition once dictated by the need of small landowners to take care of the olives only once the sowing was completed. The result is an oil with a very low acidity rate.
A further element of innovation is the result of a recovery.
Marisa Russotto had the idea of flavoring the oil thanks to the memory she keeps of her father-in-law: he used to degrease the mullers with lemon juice. The memory of the intense scent released in this process suggested to the current owner to use the lemon for aromatic purposes. That intuition paid off and in October 2020, Santa Chiesa was awarded the bronze medal among aromatic oils at the 18th Les Huiles du Monde AVPA international competition in Paris.
The oil mill is open to school visits with flows of 100-150 people per day, and looks with interest at the possibility to receive visits with smaller numbers, in detail by oil culture enthusiasts.
Consequently, Santa Chiesa Extra Virgin Olive Oil reaches all regional destinations and is, to date, distributed in Lombardy, Liguria and Tuscany.
Santa Chiesa has joined the Protected Geographical Indication, but – as Marisa Russotto says - the relationship between costs and benefits of the specification as for now lacks of benefits because the costs of processing and certification do not produce any added value yet, which should produce in turn a fair increase in the selling price.
However, Frantoio Santa Chiesa’s in-house disciplinary has already involved several customers, who have become more aware of the quality of organic oil than the commercial variants available on the shelves of large-scale distribution. The disciplinary influenced neighboring companies as well: they have adapted to the good practice of harvesting olives in early Autumn, rather than early winter.
SCALABILITY AND RESILIENCE
Santa Croce thinks of a qualitative, not quantitative, scalability, to be divided into three actions:
1. Replacing the Nigra wood with the native equivalent;
2. Planting new olive trees;
3. Avoiding to process olives on behalf of third parties in order to focus exclusively on their own production.
In terms of crisis and resilience, the one of 2007 was not felt by the company, while the one of 2020 is leaving deeper signs: "the only way ahead lies on the earth because, while everything in the other sectors tends to suffer a severe break, people must continue to eat and, where possible, with greater awareness" says Marisa Russotto.