Cultivating an idea to give back to the earth what the earth gives us: life.
It is the agricultural Renaissance of the Marches. And the foundation of organic which here had the first trigger. If Italy has 15.6% of the area under natural management, in the Marche the share exceeds 22%. This true green revolution took shape in the fields that were the domain of Federico da Montefeltro, the leader who made Urbino one of the capitals of genius and beauty. These are the horizons of Raphael, whose five hundredth anniversary has just passed, which must be encountered here in his cradle of genius. All around is countryside garden green, golden with ears, silvered with olive trees, hilarious with sunflowers, crunchy corn, abundant with peaches and apples, animated by sheep and cows, turgid with grapes that give the supremacy of organic wine production. So much so that the Marches today are candidates for the first organic district in Europe with 2100 agricultural businesses networked.
Long live the organic
That idea that today has become a common heritage – turning around you will encounter signs painted by children with the words "Long live the organic"- it was difficult in the 70s, when people ran away from the fields to go to the factory. It was launched by Gino Girolomoni, who at 24 became Mayor of Isola del Piano, where he was born a farmer. He is a sort of new lay Benedictine: his ora et labora becomes "produce according to nature giving the right income to those who cultivate". And it is no coincidence that Gino Grolomoni's green revolution starts from an ancestral convent: the monastery of Montebello. He restores it and with Tullia (his wife) and his son goes to live there in a single room to begin his adventure, which today has become a European green deal. Beautiful mountain becomes a very important cultural center, but 20 years will pass from when Girolomoni produces the first organic pasta, tomato puree and first fruit juice until finally, in 1996, the law governing the cultivation and production according to nature arrives. The brand he invents with Tullia becomes a point of reference. But Tullia leaves too soon. Gino sells the brand, feels lost and follows it shortly thereafter, at the age of 65. It seems that Montebello is destined to remain silent, but the mayor-peasant has sown fertile ideas and examples between the Musone river and the Cesana mountains. Like this the Gino Girolomoni cooperative is reborn and becomes a production center to combat false organic, to offer an alternative to conventional agri-food production. Today it boasts a hyper-technological mill where it grinds its own cereals, has an avant-garde pasta factory where drying is entrusted to time and wind and where the energy that moves the machines and millstones is the recycling of forest waste. Legumes are grown and hospitality is offered in the (delightful) Locanda and in the farmhouse, in the Convent which was the cradle of Italian organic farming. Gino still smiles from the packaging of pasta – awarded for the effectiveness and sustainability of the packaging at the latest Sana in Bologna (the organic fair) – framed by a logo that reads: "Peasant civilization, a lifestyle for us".
It is the spirit that animates Giovanni Battista Girolomoni, Gino's son, who carries on his father's ideas, shared by the 80 members and 35 young people who work in the cooperative: it produces 5,000 tons of pasta a year, 90% of which is sold abroad. All around is wheat and holm oak, pasture and forest. It was the Popes who decreed that the Marches were the granary of Italy; and Nazzareno Strampelli from Marche, with his wife Carlotta (Napoleon's nephew), created the grains that feed the world today: starting with the very famous and excellent Cappelli durum wheat which has unique gastronomic characteristics. In the Marche region – from Isola del Piano passing through Piticchio, Camerino, Osimo, Monte San Pietrangeli up to Campofilone – there is a pasta district that is on a par with Gragnano and Fara San Martino, with a particularity: here there is also a lot of egg pasta, but with semolina, according to the recipe of the “vergare”, the farmers' wives, authors of a sublime local cuisine.
The second chapter of the novel with nature
Under Arcevia, surrounded by its castles (nine within ten kilometers), between Loretello (magnificent) and Piticchio (the castle of Love), the second chapter of this novel of nature opens. Before arriving there, however, it is advisable to make a detour to Pergola to admire some absolute masterpieces; are the gilded bronzes. Four statues that tell the glory of Rome: they are 2100 years old and testify like here the beautiful and the good are root. They know this at La Terra e il Cielo, another cooperative that is the banner of organic farming. Bruno Sebastianelli, historic president, recalls: "We started with the bio when there were no laws yet. I remember that they denounced us because we (we and Gino Girolomoni) produced wholemeal pasta, which could not be called that. The Earth and the Sky started with 32 hectares rented from the municipality of Senigallia in 1978 and the Marche was the first region, in the 1990s, to make its own natural agriculture law. Today we, Girolomoni and the Montebello coop have set up the "Consortium Marche Bio". The Earth and the Sky was the first in Europe to charge the "right price" to remunerate farmers well. “So we defend ourselves from speculation, ensure the highest quality and give those who cultivate the right income. And young people are returning to the countryside, multifunctional companies are reborn and we can do research. " La Terra e il Cielo brings together 106 members throughout Italy and produces pasta from ancient grains and from Cappelli, spelled pasta, millet, legumes, rice, tomato, coffee and toasted barley. It has its own plants, but it is also the engine of the local economy. A example is that of Samuele Spoletini who at 29 returned to being a miller inheriting from his uncle the ancient stone mill that originated at the end of the 16th century. "Being a miller is enhancing what the earth produces", explains Samuele, " I have a relationship with the Earth and the Sky and with many small farmers based on quality and genuineness. The difference when you really stone grind at a slow pace is perceived in the flavor and nutritional value. " Thus was born for example the pasta made from 700 grains; it seems crazy, but it is the new frontier. "If we do not look for new horizons", adds Bruno Sebastianelli, "there is no more income in agriculture, there is not even in organic farming that has higher costs; the global market mechanism is crushing us, which is why we want to make a direct alliance with the consumer ". AND a pact based on quality. It is the quality of the Marche.
by Carlo Cambri, photos by Francesca Moscheni